Thursday, March 19, 2009

Being lucky

Over the past two days, it's become abundantly clear to me how very, very lucky I am. A seemingly innocuous skiing accident on a bunny slope ended up killing actress Natasha Richardson. An autopsy is being conducted even as I write this, and results are expected to be released later today.

Not to be pompous or pretentious, but I feel a kind of survivor's guilt. What made the difference between her dying and my living? Why am I so lucky?

My family and friends have been absolutely wonderful, I can never thank them enough. They've been staying in touch (especially over the past few days; Richardson's accident has freaked them out, too). Allie has been a Doggie Therapy Goddess. Regular tug-of-war sessions with her are helping to restore the strength in my left arm, and her companionship has been nothing short of sustaining.

I saw my neurosurgeon the day before yesterday. He says I'm doing well. My brain is starting to resorb the remaining hematoma, my balance is much better, and I've been able to cut way down on painkillers and anti-seizure meds. And while I tire very easily, I'm working and making my deadlines. (Full disclosure, though: my editors have been absolutely wonderful about extending those deadlines.) There are other activities, though, that I can't manage right now, and that frustrates me no end. My doctor tells me to be patient: full recovery from brain surgery takes months, not weeks. My surgery was just three weeks ago.

There are some humorous aspects to this whole saga. Because I had to have some strips of hair shaved for the surgery, I've developed a new sympathy for balding men who attempt to master the art of the combover. My own hair is longer than it's been in years (I'm not allowed to go the hairdresser until the scabs from the incisions on my head are gone) and is wildly curly. I kinda like it.

Interestingly, I have not had a single hot flash since this whole business started three weeks ago. Since the precipitating incident involved three rowdy dogs, I'm wondering if I should proclaim this development (or lack thereof) the Meno-paws Cure.

But on a serious note, know that March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Learn the facts, and never, ever make light of a bump to the head.

Update: According to, the New York City medical examiner's office has announced that Richardson died of "blunt impact to the head." The impact resulted in an epidural hematoma, which differs from the brain bleed that I have had, subdural hematoma. Epidural hematomas, because they involve the arteries, result in much more rapid bleeding than do subdural hematomas, which involve the veins. Hence, Richardson developed symptoms within hours, where I developed symptoms over the course of six weeks.


Anonymous said...

You are one incredibly lucky woman. And you guessed right about the type of injury Richardson had.


Liz Palika said...

Hmmm. time for all of us to treasure relationships with family and friends (human and canine); and reflect on how lucky we are.

Lots of positive thoughts going your way!


Anonymous said...

Just very, very glad you are doing well Susan!
Deb E

Susan said...

Me, too!

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

While the horrible news about Richardson stirs us to savor each moment, remember that in many cases life is a distance race, not a sprint. Take care of yourself and allow the healing to come, even if it's slower than you'd hoped.

We're keeping so many people in our hearts these days. It's a good thing our human (and canine) hearts are so big.

Thanks for the update.

Susan said...

Roxanne, you sound just like my mother (smile). But both you and she are absolutely right.

YesBiscuit! said...

Oh forget the mother-of-all-combovers Susan - baldies rule! (My fiance is bald and has been ever since we met. I may be biased.)

So glad you are lucky.

Kate Reilly said...


So frightening. I'm so glad you're on the mend now, and that you have such a wonderful fur-nurse to care for you.


Susan said...

Thanks, Kate. I know I am unbelievably lucky.

Babette said...

Wow, Susan...Your story IS incredible and you are unbelievably lucky...but I don't think I'd ever have known that without the sad story of Ms. Richardson.

I think how lucky WE are--Ian, on the Mt. Tremblant mountain, practically knocked himself out...having raised three kids, I did my usual low-key reaction...probably like Ms. Richardson. I know now Ian was lucky. It was nothing. YOU were lucky. It wasn't nothing, but it was slow enough for your docs to do something.

I am so happy to hear you are healing...Take care of yourself. Let Allie give you great love.

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with brain injuries (and I'm so sorry that you're going through this; my cousin has brain surgery the week before Christmas) but rather with the sixth sense that dogs have.

My husband was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea. Two sleep studies in the hospital and one CPAP machine later, and it turns out that he was stopping breathing at least 40 times during an eight-hour period. During the sleep studies, the technician noted that his apnea was most severe between 3 and 4 a.m. (go figure). This now explains why, for years, our dog has pawed at us between 3 and 4 a.m. We always get up, ask him if he needs to go out, and he usually jumps up and settles in next to my husband. He was taking care of him the whole time. By the way, since my husband started wearing the CPAP machine, the 3 to 4 a.m. pawings have stopped. Amazing.


Janine Adams said...

Susan, I immediately thought of you when I heard about Natasha Richardson. I can imagine you're feeling very fortunate.

So glad you're healing well. Sending good thoughts for a continued speedy recovery.


Susan said...

Barb and Leah --

So good to hear from you both.

Barb, one thing that I find appalling is that a five-star resort like the one Richardson stayed at is some 60 miles away from the nearest medical facility with neurosurgery capability (at least according to the NY Times), but there is no helicopter transport service for medical emergencies in the area. That's not the resort's fault; it's something that the provincial government in Canada needs to address. By having to transport Richardson all that way on land, valuable time was lost.

And Leah, that story of your dog's detecting your husband's sleep apnea danger is remarkable. I've often marveled at how perceptive our canine companions are. My Allie is normally quite an exuberant Golden girl, but when I came home from the hospital, she greeted me in a very gentle, subdued manner. I wonder how she immediately perceived that I needed to be treated differently, and how your dog knew that your husband was in trouble.