By DR KENNETH D KEMP
MANY beloved fairy tales were morbidly gruesome in their original connotation. Sleeping Beauty, for example, was unconscious when she was savagely raped by the king. Then, to add to the heinous nature of the act, he murdered his wife hoping to be with the woman he assaulted when she awoke. Soldiers were told to cut out Snow White’s liver and lungs to feed to the evil queen. In retribution, she was forced to dance at Snow White’s wedding in burning hot iron shoes until she died.
The wolf, in the tragic story of Little Red Riding Hood, chopped up the grandmother before putting her flesh in the pantry and draining her blood into a wine bottle.
In an equally sadistic tale, Cinderella’s stepsisters mutilated themselves by cutting off their toes and heel, in a deceitful attempt to force their feet into a glass slipper, only to have their eyes eventually gouged out by doves.
Those European folk stories were fortunately altered over the centuries, namely by The Brothers Grimm, to the happier, comforting variations that we’ve grown to love.
My patient, like many people all over the world, cherished the more analgesic version of these stories as a child. But adulthood soon taught her, in more ways than one, that life is not a fairytale. At the age of 22, she narrowly escaped a physically and verbally abusive relationship so for the purpose of this report, we’ll refer to her as Tina.
Tina grew up in Nassau in a loving home with both her parents and sister. She loved to read romance novels and spend time with her cousin, dreaming of the day when she’d become a published author. She fell in love and got married at the age of 21 but the relationship quickly soured. She hoped that having a baby would help, but it made things worse. One day when her husband pushed her to the ground while she was holding their young daughter, amidst endless yelling and cursing, a fire inside of her was lit. Her daughter cried out, inconsolably shaking and clutching to her bosom. The man she loved so much when they married only two years before had become a monster. Afraid that he would kill them both, she escaped during the cold and dark veil of night, seeking safety, and moving back into her childhood home with her parents.
Recognising that human beings are only ever as sick as their secrets, she confessed what happened to her family and the loss she felt from the breakdown of her marriage was counterbalanced by their overwhelming support. But there was a natural shame of failure that she sought to suppress with alcohol as she begrudgingly embraced her newfound freedom.
Not long after her divorce, nearly ten years ago on a fateful Sunday evening in May, Tina received a call from a friend inviting her to join her and her friend’s cousin at a sporting lounge later that night. She eagerly accepted and got dressed but her friend also needed a ride. Once they got to the lounge, Tina began drinking beers and dancing. She took shots of rum, one after another and danced on the pool table without a care of who was looking, pointing and laughing. She was having fun and for just that moment in time, she didn’t have to think about anything else.
But the exhilarating feeling of being footloose and free faded as the alcohol turned against her. Tina searched for her friend who was off somewhere else in the club and told her she felt dizzy and nauseous. She knew she was drunk and needed to leave but she also knew she was in no condition to drive. Her supposed friend was unsympathetic, told her she was staying and could get another ride home. At 2am, Tina left the sports lounge alone and stumbled to her car. Driving home, she smashed into a guard rail at such intense speed that the car flipped over and was crushed in half. She was 23.
Everything happened within seconds. Tina wasn’t wearing a seat belt and when her head slammed into the windshield, it did so with such force that she was thrown out of the car through the passenger window. When her body crashed onto the cold pavement littered with glass shards, it was like an unbroken egg being dropped into a frying pan. Several bones in her body exploded. She suffered severe injuries, fracturing her skull, her pelvis and multiple bones in her neck. The contusion to her head was so severe that her face and brain swelled immediately. Her stomach, small intestines and liver perforated her diaphragm, rupturing it during the impact, and most of her organs were pushed into her chest cavity. Emergency medical technicians treating her at the scene of the accident had no hope of her survival.
Tina underwent immediate surgery once she arrived at the hospital. The primary objective was to stabilise her fractures, put her organs back into place and immediately decrease the pressure in her brain. Because she didn’t have any form of identification on her, family members weren’t notified of the accident until later that day. As fate would have it, she purchased her car from a police officer and when another officer at the scene of the accident recognised the mangled vehicle, he called him and got Tina’s home number.
For one month, she remained in intensive care in a medically induced coma. The next month she spent on the surgical ward, able to open her eyes but non-verbal and non-communicative the entire time. Except for slow, limited movement in her right leg, Tina’s body was paralysed.
Tina’s physicians advised her family that to have a fighting chance of a full recovery, she required intense rehabilitation at a hospital in the US involving speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy, adaptive equipment training and counselling.
Without insurance, the cost would be $250,000. But a praying family can move mountains. Together, with their church community and an extensive network of co-workers, friends, neighbours and colleagues they raised the funds.
Tina spent two months at the rehabilitative centre in Florida and continued with outpatient therapy here in Nassau for several more months afterwards. Today with the help of her neurology team, she is a walking miracle. Outside of short-term memory deficits, she is healthy and deeply grateful to be alive. Throughout the entire process, she admits that her sole motivation was getting back home to her daughter.
Her take-home message to readers is multifaceted. She’s now less trusting of people, thinking that a better friend would not have let her drive home in the state that she was in. She advises others to choose their friends carefully but at the same time she takes responsibility for her actions and implores others to never drink and drive. She recommends always travelling with some form of identification, wearing a seat belt and, before going out, choosing a designated driver who you can trust with your life.
In the aftermath of this ordeal, Tina has been afforded the opportunity to do some self-examination. She feels like she wasn’t spending enough time with her daughter so now she cherishes their time together, watching television, helping her try new recipes and playing board games. Moments like that, once upon a time, didn’t seem important but today she appreciates the significance.
Tina understands that the reason fairytales were palliated from their original grisly adaptations is because children and adults need something to believe in and aspire towards. In fairytales, we dream of a better life where good things happen to good people, Prince Charming rescues the damsel in distress, love conquers all and good always triumphs over evil. But given everything that’s happened to her, Tina no longer believes in fairytales choosing, for the first time in a long time, to believe in herself instead.
This is the KDK Report.
birdiestrachan 2 months, 1 week ago
It is good that Tina has learned even if it was the very hard way
stillwaters 2 months ago
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