Spring 2009, an off-duty cop barreled into our car, injuring our oldest daughter, our son, and myself. My husband and our youngest daughter escaped uninjured. The two kids (ages 15 and 12 at the time) quickly healed; I suffered shoulder and cervical injuries.
A few months following the car accident, my husband’s biopsy on an enlarged lymph node in his neck was negative, but a few months later he was diagnosed with head and neck cancer (the biopsy results were wrong). In 2009 and 2010 he endured two surgeries and radiation. During this same time, our son battled a mysterious illness, Lyme disease was suspected. For the love of playing hockey as a goalie, our son fought the pain and continued to play. Unfortunately, he suffered a shoulder separation during a game. In a sling for that injury, he had a MRI on a cyst the size of an orange; thankfully, it tested benign. After numerous appointments with various MDs, an infectious disease MD diagnosed him with Lyme’s and treated him for the disease. Also in 2010, I finally had surgery to repair the labral tear in my shoulder.
Fall 2011, our son suffered a severe concussion from head trauma in a hockey game. Fall 2012, he suffered a second concussion. Spring 2013, he suffered a third, yet this one in a car accident (another car hit the car he was a passenger in while being driven to school). December 2013, his neurologist cleared him to return to sporting activities. While snowboarding, he suffered his fourth concussion, yet this time he didn’t even hit his head. Simple jostling of his brain now causes a concussion, which ended his hockey career (he was drafted into Junior Hockey). It’s unknown how long he’ll suffer post-concussion syndrome.
Our oldest daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis in fifth grade and wore a full body brace for years. While swimming for Virginia Tech under a full scholarship, her scoliosis worsened. May 2012 she endured a five-hour surgery (13-inch spinal incision). Due to the rotation of her curvature, her rib cage was concaved in four inches (think: thoracic spine curved to the side and twisted inward). Two titanium rods and twelve screws now hold her spine straight in-line. Unbelievably (many patients are still in bed seven weeks post this surgery) she swam in the 2012 US Olympic Swim Team Trials for a spot on the US Olympic Swim Team that competed in London at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Understandably, she was unable to swim anywhere near her best at Trials and didn’t make the team. During the 2012-2013 college swim season, she pushed herself, especially at ACC and NCAA Championships—she won two ACC Championship Titles. Nerve damage, unfortunately, ended her swim career.
In August 2014, on our oldest daughter’s 21st birthday, I was bicycling in a crosswalk with a stop sign when a car ran the stop sign, failed to stop in the crosswalk, and struck me on my bicycle. I suffered injuries head to toe and I’m still healing.
Our youngest daughter was only nine years old in 2009, so young to watch all this happen to her family during her elementary and middle school years. During what seemed like endless years of medical battles, I called the five of us: “As the Bensons Turn” – it just all seemed so ridiculously unbelievable. Laughter, a positive attitude, and our faith, plus the love and support of family and friends sustained our strength. More than anything, God carried the five of us; He reminded me and my husband, Leo, we are well practiced in dealing with life’s mountains. When I was a junior in high school, my dad was killed in a bicycle accident and from that day on I was on my own. Leo’s brother committed suicide when I was pregnant with our oldest daughter; I went into labor at the funeral. Leo and I have lost three babies.
All that said (whew), next time you think something is unrealistic in fiction, ask yourself – “Is it really?” I weed what I see in EMS and what all I’ve experienced in life into my fiction, giving those trials purpose as well as turning them into a positive. The way I see it, our struggles in life strengthen our endurance and better our souls; I believe that is God’s point.
Her latest release, Persephone's Fugitive, is available at Amazon, Books-A-Million, and Barnes and Noble.