If I can come back from near death, so can America
This week I took time to remember just how close to death I came on August 25th, 2005. It was apparently my ‘drama queen’ year because everything shattered and I was national news. So much for looks, career, health, walking, seeing, thinking or speaking…
I did a 3 hour special on August 25th, co hosted by commentator and friend, Sher Zieve. We forged through all the details, interviewed witnesses and walked through the reality of the wreck and long comeback. You can listen to the show for free at www.therothshow.com. Hit the archives and scroll down to August 25th.
It was a hot day and I was taking a ride on my motorcycle to relax before my show. I headed up to Mount Spokane to check out a potential date and dinner spot for my husband and I, Rich. My friend, Karen Nelli road her bike with me and it was a great day.
Mile marker 14 – Death came to collect and I said “I’m not giving”
I have no memory of the crash because it happened so fast, but according to Karen at the scene and other witnesses and first responders who showed up, it was life or death – mostly death and ugly. As I turned a corner, a deer in mid jump landed on me causing me to crash on my face on the road. When Karen didn’t see me behind her in the rear-view mirror she pulled over to the side of the road, then turned back to find out why I wasn’t following her.
Karen was horrified to find my mangled and twisted form lying in the middle of the road, unconscious, blood flowing out all over my head and mouth. My left eye was horribly mangled and swollen, protruding out of the socket. I was gasping and struggling for any air at all. Thankfully, Karen pulled out road rash and debris from my mouth with hopes I could get some air. That simple move saved my life as death circled its wagons around me.
Blood was flowing down the road according to Karen. I was gurgling and gasping desperately and was drowning in my own blood. An artery in the back of my throat had been severed along with other blood vessel tears all through my mouth. My lungs were rapidly filling with blood and I was dying. It was the ‘Golden Hour’ and the clock was ticking.
Karen started screaming for help when she found her cell phone didn’t work in the mountains. Miraculously, there were some construction workers building a house a few miles down the road who heard Karen’s screams for help. They also had trouble with phone reception up there so had just put in a landline the day before. They drove up and saw the worst, quickly calling Med Star — the Helicopter emergency response crew.
By the time 1st responders got to me all hell had broken lose…but Heaven had a plan
Peggy Hensley, the key first responder who arrived at the seen 45 minutes after the wreck told me later that if they had arrived even 2 minutes later I would have died. I was desperately gasping for any air and had nearly drowned in my blood. Peggy and her associate quickly starting suctioning blood out of my mouth, trying to intubate me but blood would fill back up immediately, making it almost impossible to get anything down my throat. Peggy said working with my face, jaw and mouth was like working with ‘rice crispies.’ Everything was shattered and broken. There was at least one artery that had burst in the back of my mouth and the roof of my mouth was also severed. My blood oxygen level was down to 80 and it should have been up in the middle to high 90s. By the time they were finally able to get a tube down my throat to stop the bleeding and get me air, my blood-oxygen level was down to 60, which is moments from death.
Barely hanging on I made it from the Helicopter to the hospital
Many at the hospital waited for me to die. Few expected me to get through the night but I did. I was in a coma for 2 weeks and in the hospital for 2 months and only have any real recall of my time in the second, recovery hospital. I came home having lost 25 pounds, drinking only fluid with thickener, no water or real food the whole time I was in the hospital. I was not allowed to eat anything or drink water the 2 months after I was home recovering. Doctors were desperately afraid I would aspirate.
So, what did I have to deal with
I had been a pretty and athletic woman who now drooled, couldn’t put my lips together, walked and talked like a drunk and saw double vision. I had a left eye completely closed and repeated myself all the time. We had a 2 and a 9 year old we had adopted who both had needs, were they going to be met? I started endless physical therapy and work on my very damaged eye.
My husband was forced to work on a construction crew for minimum wage, no more or Medicaid wouldn’t pay the hospital bills. Money was a huge challenge. There were $500,000 in medical bills exploding around us like Hurricane Katrina that was constantly on the news then. Would God take care of us and would we survive?
I had to decide
Was I going to live or die? Was I going to be a needy victim with a big and dramatic story? Was I going to give up on my goals and dreams to do both my TV shows I had been working so hard on and trying to find funding for? Did God really love me and have a plan for me now…in this mess?
The key to the treasure
It was really up to me how much I would and could recover. If I wanted to ever even imagine radio, TV and recording records again, I would have to practice hours a day forming consonants and talking normally with no feeling in my lower mouth. I would have to do this with no show, fanfare, money, looks or popularity. I would quickly become yesterday’s news and I knew it. So, what was my decision…to slowly disappear and be half of what I was or try and make a difference and dream again no matter how hard the road now was? I chose to believe, work my brains out without fanfare and to dream even bigger than before. I was insecure at times, needy and didn’t talk or look right. I was redundant, processed a lot but kept walking forward.
Laurie, you have to face the facts.
Naturally, with the huge financial struggles and endless physical challenges presented each day, I heard the speeches permitting and inspiring me to give up…make due…deal with reality and do something smaller and more reachable Laurie.
As I look back, 9 years ago, the road has been very hard financially for my radio show and family. There were major changes in my network, the economy struggled in huge ways and advertisers have been hard to find. There has been no overnight success in any regard. However, I have stayed the course and have dreamed dreams for national television again and am making albums…even at my age. I have been prayed up, am making plans and putting things in place that are getting real exciting. God will sort out the details. I will show up and do the best I can while trusting Him.
After all these years I am still me, though slightly altered and I think even more aware, humbled and visionary. I am so thankful for my life, for God and His love, for my family, talents and vision to achieve. I am also thankful for what I am not and cannot do well because God fills the gap.
One verse I believe and draw strength from is Phil: 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I also believe what Henry Ford said. “If you believe you can or believe you can’t, you are right.”
Never give up no matter what.
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