My daughter Ysobelle is on her senior year in high school and is working hard on her admission to university. She plans to study occupational therapy, and if finances permit, to eventually become a doctor specializing in neurological rehabilitation. To most people her age, it is just a matter of preparing for their future career, to Belle, it is about giving back to the people who helped her recover from an accident when she was a child and made it possible for her go back to being a normal and healthy child.
Belle was ten years old when she got injured in a vehicular accident while on a trip to another state to participate in a school competition. I was not among the parent chaperones on that trip as I was by then a single parent and could not take time off from work. Belle was severely injured, and stayed in the ICU for two weeks, in a coma, while the doctors did their best to reduce the swelling in her brain. The doctors did their best, but did not give assurances considering the extent of her injuries. They have seen lesser degrees of similar injuries and the prognosis often did not look good.
By some miracle, Belle, woke up from her coma in the middle of the third week and was breathing on her own by the start of the fourth week. When the tubes were taken off, it was obvious that she was going to live. The elation was however shortlived because Belle somehow lost her motor skills, speech, and practically was a baby in a ten-year-old body.
One of her doctors saw Belle hold on to life even when the odds were against her. She, together with an occupational and speech therapists designed a program that they thought could work on Belle. They also involved me, because the logic is, I would be the person with her when she eventually gets out of the hospital. I was told of the prospects and the realities of the struggle ahead of us, and that it was important that I understood the possible strain it would have on me.
We went through her program religiously and made sure that we took every step to recovery even on days when a trip to the neuro rehab clinic would be impossible. The doctors and therapists cried tears of joy at every small victory, every milestone in Belle’s recovery. Belle had to learn how to talk again, how to use a spoon, how to walk and relieve herself in the bathroom. It was a painful four years, but the reward of her full recovery is all worth it. By her second year, I started homeschooling Belle on the belief that one day, she would be back in school, just like any normal kid, with only some scars to show that she had been through a painful recovery process.
Belle went back to school when she was fourteen, four years after the accident, making up for only two school years. She is older than her class by two years on graduation day, but it doesn’t matter because she is living a second life.