My book is dedicated to my best friend Jen. Here is the story behind her battle…
On Christmas in 2012, I was sitting by the fire, surrounded by my whole family opening presents. There were laughs, tears of joy, and wrapping paper all over the floor. Ten minutes later, I sat on the ground behind a locked bathroom door. My eyes were swollen, and it had become hard for me to breathe after crying so hard. I couldn’t stop staring at my phone, looking at the text I had sent her hours before that she never responded to, now knowing that she never had the chance to read it. My best friend was in the ICU and they didn’t know if she would survive or not. It was Christmas… The happiest day of the year. How could this happen?
Jen had a blood clot that traveled up to her lung. She suffered several pulmonary embolisms and her heart had stopped. After being revived, it stopped again. Being without oxygen for a number of minutes, Jen was now left with severe brain damage.
Jen was in the ICU for a few weeks before being transported to a rehab facility where I was finally able to go see her. I’ll never forget the nerves I had walking in there, not knowing what to expect. She was still in a coma, was hooked up to a number of machines, and wasn’t breathing entirely on her own yet. I sat down next to her. A girl who was young and healthy just a few weeks prior. A girl who played soccer and was full of life, that now couldn’t control any part of her own self. Weeks went by and when she was finally out of a coma state. I stood above her and watched her eyes look around the room. She had tubes down her throat, had a trachea tube inserted, and her arms and legs didn’t move an inch. Was my best friend still in there? Did she know that it was me standing there in front of her? Does she know who any of us are? But then one day while I was in conversation with her Mom, she laughed and couldn’t stop. I knew… I had hope, that Jen was still there.
Four Years Later
Today, Jen lives at home with her family. She can eat some foods pureed but is still using a feeding tube. She is wheelchair bound since she can’t walk. She can’t communicate other than a few head or arm motions to signal yes or no. She receives in-home and outpatient therapy for speech and swallowing. Jen’s primary caretaker is her mother. Her mother is a hero. She dresses her, bathes her, feeds her, and takes care of her all day every day.
For me, visiting her never gets easier. We think she knows who we are, but how can we be 100% sure when she can’t communicate? Every time I leave, she cries and it breaks my heart. Our conversations have been one sided for the last four years. I tell her about guys, my career, my book ventures, etc. Sometimes it’s still hard for me to comprehend how one day everything was fine and the next all of the things we take for granted were ripped away from her and now she’s trapped in her own body.
Food for thought; Christmas is coming up and Jen can’t open her own presents nor can she give them. She can’t eat all of the delicious holiday desserts, build a snowman, or even simply say, “Merry Christmas” to her loved ones. I think of these things all the time. She can’t vote in presidential elections, she can’t go shopping to pick out her own clothes, and she can’t eat her favorite meals. But she does get to watch everyone around her do all of those things and I can’t even fathom how hard that must be for her to watch.
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