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Editors’ Note

This book is meant to offer guidance on supporting patients and families through recovery from critical illness. Understanding and giving voice to the patient experience is at the heart of this work. The first chapter tells the story of a patient and her husband, starting with the injury that led to her critical illness. The story contains graphic details of the author’s experience. We opted not to exclude these details, as they are central to the patient’s narrative of injury, illness, and recovery. This chapter does not follow the format of the remaining chapters; it starts with the patient’s experience, continues to the family experience, and concludes with considerations for recovery.


Before the ICU

A year into living in Connecticut, I had begun to embrace my new work as a regional program manager for an international nonprofit organization. I had the honor of designing curriculum for elementary through college age students. The focus of my work was sharing the lives of various Nobel Peace Prize Laureates as real-world heroes and mentors showing that “ordinary” people can do extraordinary things when they have passion and conviction to create change, regardless of their origins or the challenges they face.

My main mode of transportation was bicycling. I used to live in Vermont and would cycle as often as I could instead of driving. I found cycling was not only a huge source of joy to me, but it was also a way I could be in harmony with nature. When you sit at a desk for most of the day, having the ability to exercise and be one with nature is such a gift. I kept cycling to and from work after the move to Connecticut. I would cycle up to 100 miles a day, then speak at night at area community centers and colleges. In Fall 2011, I had completed a 600-mile ride across New England and New York covering my work territory. My cycling was uneventful; throughout the entire trip that autumn, I did not even have a flat tire.

On October 8, 2011, I was called in for a work meeting—a 9.5-mile ride each way. The leaves were blissful and the weather was idyllic, with the sun high in the sky. As I rode back from work later, I thought about home—making dinner with my husband, taking a walk down to the water together bundled in fleece jackets, watching our Labrador swim. A large freight truck came toward me on a side street that crossed my route. I heard the truck downshift to come to a stop, but as I passed the side street, I heard the truck accelerate. As I was hit by the truck’s front tires, I had enough time to think, “I’m going to die.” My adrenaline kicked in.

I ...

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