August 20, 1998. Nearly fourteen, long years ago. Yet, one ill-fated moment in time was to change my life forever.
It happened. I have replayed the moment, over and over again, in my heart and mind. Why did it happen? I will never know. But, the past is over and done with. One random moment, where life as we know it went awry. That is why it is called “an accident.”
On the afternoon of the accident, at 4:50 PM, just before I left my busy, multi-specialty dental practice in Woodbury, Long Island, I called my husband, Chuck, who waited for me at our Dix Hills home, sending him kisses, and telling him I’d see him soon. But I never made it home.
In the 15-minute drive east on the LIE, a reckless, speeding motorist rear-ended and crushed my brand new Toyota Camry. The accident fractured my skull and I fell into a coma. Chuck sat home and waited anxiously. Finally, after four hours, Suffolk County detectives arrived to share the news of my accident.
Freed from the wreck by the “Jaws of Life” I was heliported to Nassau University Medical Center, undergoing emergency surgery by Dr. Stephen Schneider.
My coma lasted 35 days. When I regained consciousness, I was unable to walk or balance, and saw double through severely crossed eyes. Having stopped breathing during the coma, a tracheotomy had been performed. Until the hole in my throat was closed I was unable to speak.
It took time for the reality of my situation to sink in. I deluded myself, thinking I’d return to work the next day, that merely a single day–not an entire month–had passed. My life, as a mother, a wife, a dentist, had been wonderful, but demanding. Now, I applied my attention to the even more demanding task that lay ahead: rehabilitation.
So much is history now. As a result of processing the myriad details of everyday life, my memories of the recovery time are no longer clear. But I will never forget the emotional support and encouragement I received from friends, family, but, most of all, from Chuck.
I spent nearly 2 years in treatment at Transitions of Long Island, where I underwent an intensive, combined program consisting of speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, cognitive therapy and psychotherapy. My time at Transitions played an enormous role in my recovery. It will always be considered a huge part of my life.
The past years, post-accident, have been gratifying, although very different from my life pre-accident. I have watched my children grow and shared a home with my family. One very satisfying experience was my resumption of driving an automobile. New York requires that all coma victims undergo a repeat NY State DMV road test, which I passed with a perfect score in 2005.
In 2000, I joined the faculty of the Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine and taught there for 10 years. I enjoyed teaching, but, two years ago, I returned to my greatest professional love: private practice.
Written by Dr. Laura S. for braininjurystories.org