Thursday, March 20, 2014

Against All Odds.

My beautiful sister Rosie.

It was a very cold, winters day on the 15 January 1996. I was sitting in my living room planning my 30th Birthday party when I received a phone call from my Father. My sister Rosie and her husband Andrew were involved in a very serious car accident. Rosie had died at the scene, but was revived by the paramedics. She was on life support and in a coma and I was to get back to South Africa as soon as possible. My Mother and oldest sister were in Hawaii so the scramble for flights to get back home was intense.

The flight back to South Africa felt like it was by far the longest trip I had ever taken in my life. Sitting on the plane I made bargains with God if He could keep Rosie alive for us to see her and probably get to say goodbye. Trevor's pediatrician's concern was that ICU is not a place for a child to be in, as it is nothing like they portray on television. I geared myself up for the worst and that if I saw Trevor in distress I would take him from the room.

My Father picked us up from the airport and we were taken to the hospital immediately. Walking through the stark hospital passage was surreal. My feet felt as though they were made of lead and my stomach was a sailor's knot. I held Trevor tightly and we walked into the room. I didn't recognize my sister. The only way I can describe the way her head looked is to compare her to an alien. You know those cartoon alien head drawings where the chin is small and the brain is large? That was how she looked. Trevor was in my arms and he wanted to give Aunty Losie (he couldn't pronounce his r's yet) a kiss. When I held him towards her his eyes got big and he had a look of fear on his face. It was then that I remembered what the pediatrician had said. The machines frightened him and it was at the point that my brother took him out of the room. I sat and held my sisters hand and begged her to open her eyes.

The days crawled by and after a while Rosie woke up. The paramedics who saved her life went to visit her as they couldn't believe she had survived. I remember one paramedic said that seeing this miracle is why he does his job. It was very touching to see grown men tear up when they saw her.

Rosie was awake, she was talking, laughing and it was amazing to see. What we all didn't see was the traumatic injury she had to her brain. Her memory was gone. She recognized her immediate family, but couldn't remember anything beyond that. Rosie's frustration became very evident after a while when she would constantly remind us "I don't remember that." When she ate an orange she couldn't believe the taste and exclaimed how incredibly delicious this fruit was. I told her that she ate them all the time to which she responded "I don't remember that."

It was time for Trevor and I to head back to the States and it was hard to say goodbye, but the relief that my sister was going to live was an intense calm. Living with a person who has TBI is difficult not only for the family, but for the person with the injury. When you look at Rosie you see an amazing woman, but what you don't see is the bandage around her brain. My Mother and older sister went through a lot at that time and everyone was learning how to deal with the new Rosie.

So in honor of World Brain Injury Day I honor my sister. Rosie there are not enough words in the dictionary to describe how grateful, blessed and honored I am to have you as my sister. You rock. We take for granted every day that we have our memories of our childhood, friends, experiences, travels, but when that is suddenly taken away from you I cannot even begin to fathom what that must be like. My sister has had many surgeries since the accident, enough that would discourage anyone, but not my beautiful sister. She is the most amazing person I know. Her attitude about life and her inner calm is an inspiration to me. She is very logical, too logical sometimes. I believe that there is a reason why she was given a second chance and I would selfishly like to think it was to help me through so many of my dark days. Rosie and Andy have an amazing son who is the light of their life and has his mother's sass.

My favorite part of conversations with Rosie are when she points out my fault in handling a certain situation, but when I remind her that she would do the same, her sassy, true to form, eye rolling response is "I don't remember that."




10 comments:

  1. Beautiful post. Consider me inspired.

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  2. I'm also inspired. So many of us go through life making our minor inconveniences seem like the end of the world. Then there are those who go through real ordeals & persevere. I think I'll feel guilty when I start complaining about stuff now... At least for a few days anyway.

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    1. And I will be there to remind you... (if you remind me too)

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  3. Consider me another inspired reader! You have such a gift for introducing us to the wonderful people in your life. I was a bit surprised, however, when I read that Andy and Rosie's amazing son has his mother's ass. Not that that might necessarily be a bad thing, but I was surprised you'd TELL us. (But then I got it.)

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    1. It's all about the ass in our family. We are blessed with the Portuguese booty.

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  4. So beautiful to see the responses as I struggle to learn for my learners licence and hell has that been hard. Thank you for inspiring me not to give up. Lots of love my beautiful Sister

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    1. You're going to be driving? Oh hell Cape Town better watch out. xox

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  5. Life changing events shake you up and somehow life is brighter, keener and sharper for all involved. You reset your compass and focus on the simpler things in life. Long may you enjoy your lives together.

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  6. About 6 years ago I had a stroke which damaged my long term memory, so I understand, to an extent, what your sister went through. In the end, I decided rather than lamenting too much, I would just use it as an opportunity to reinvent myself. But I often end up having those conversations where I have to admit that I do not remember the incidents from my past that people are talking about.

    It is good to hear that she has come through it all and you are lucky and blessed to still have her around.

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