This is part 1 of a series of posts I will be continuing to write about my beautiful sister, Candice, and her journey of recovery. It has been 5 weeks since her accident…I wrote about the lessons I had already learned from such a tragic event 2 weeks after it happened, here.These posts will be mostly from my point of view, but will also include my family’s journey throughout this period of our lives.
I am writing these posts as this is obviously a big part of my life right now, but also I hope by sharing this journey it will reach out to those of you who have gone through a similar experience. I hope that our story will give you some comfort and inspiration.
Although possibly confronting for you to read, particularly this first post, I want you all to know that even though this has been completely catastrophic for Candi and my family, it has also been a huge blessing. My sister from even before she was born, has struggled. She is a twin, and my brother (who was born first) stole most of the food in my Mother’s womb which meant Candi was born premature and had to spend the first two weeks of her life in a humidity crib. My Mum has always thought this had an affect on her, as back then you weren’t able to touch or hold your baby whilst in the humidity crib.
Candi is very spiritual and loyal, and is definitely an old soul. She is a Pisces and true to their character, loves the ocean. She also has an addictive personality and is extremely stubborn! Which is a very good thing, as she needs to be right now! 🙂
All of us in the family have had our challenges with Candi over the years. This event has enabled us to put all that in the past, and focus on showering Candi with the deep love we all feel for her.
One Moment Can Change Your Life Forever
At 3.30pm on Tuesday July 17th, my life as I know it was changed forever. I was driving to my Mum’s place when she called me…as I was just around the corner, I didn’t bother to answer her call. When I walked in the door my Mum was on the phone to my Dad, and the words “Candice”?, “hospital”?, “very serious”? were flying out of my Mum’s mouth with such terror, anxiety and shock. My Mum had become breathless, so passed the phone to me and I immediately asked my Dad what happened and if Candi was okay.
My Dad was calm. He told me Candi had slipped and fallen off a balcony at her friends’ place and needed surgery straight away so we had to get to the hospital quickly. Panicking, I asked how serious it was but he didn’t know. I then screamed at Mum who was rushing around the house collecting her purse and keys, and she said the hospital couldn’t say much over the phone but we had to get there straight away as they need her consent to operate…”To operate?!!” I yelled.
The drive to the hospital was agonising. Every day, so many families must go through this feeling…a feeling and a circumstance I never thought we’d be going through.
When we arrived at emergency, they took us to a private room (the room of bad news) that had boxes of tissues on the table. “Oh shit”? I said to myself, thinking this is really, really not good. A couple of minutes later my Dad arrived and then 5 minutes after that, a team of 4 doctors walked into the room. The first doctor that spoke to us was quite clearly an intern and was from neurology. She began to tell us what Candi’s injuries were and then one of the other doctors from emergency took over. We were in shock.
We were told that Candi was in theater about to have surgery on her spine and my parents gave their consent. Candi had suffered injuries to C1, C6 & C7 and had some bleeding on the right side of her brain. No other parts of her body were injured. The doctors said they were very serious injuries. C6 & C7 had shifted 50% and had to be fused back into position. Candi would be in surgery for 2-3 hours and we were told she was in very good hands and to go home, eat something (yeah right!) and come back again. As we lived only 10 minutes away we decided to process this horrific news in the privacy of our own home. As soon as we walked outside the reality of what had happened set in and I started wailing uncontrollably in my Mother’s arms.
The Bearer Of Bad News
When we arrived back at the hospital 90 minutes later at 6pm, Candi was still in theater. We were taken to another private room in emergency and told to help ourselves to tea and coffee. We waited there for an hour and then were taken to intensive care to wait in another private room. This waiting process was extremely difficult. At around 7.30pm we were told Candi was out of theater and a doctor would come talk to us shortly. At 9pm two doctors finally came to see us…my parents and I were so anxious and stressed.
The doctor that spoke to us, started with her head injuries and said there had been some bleeding which was stabilised but the neurosurgeons were keeping a close eye on it and will need to go in and drain the bleeding if the pressure builds up. At this stage they didn’t think there was brain damage and didn’t seem overly concerned about this injury. He moved his way down to her chest and spoke about her breathing and the whole time I was just thinking to myself “he hasn’t even gotten to the worst part”?. My hands were over my face and my head was now in my Mum’s lap as every time the doctor spoke it became harder and harder to hear about my sisters devastating injuries. The doctor paused and then began with her spinal injuries. He said it was an awful injury. He explained what had happened, said the surgeon had given Candi the best possible chance of recovery, but at this stage as there had been no movement, Candi may be unable to move her body again. I’m sure you can only but imagine how hard it was hearing this. This information was so far removed from anything we had ever had to endure. There are no words to describe the sheer pain and utter despair we were all feeling at this moment…so unbelievably tragic. Questions started flying out of all of our mouths trying to cling onto some hope she will recover. The doctor said it was too early to tell if Candi had complete or incomplete quadriplegia (this is the only time I will be writing this word as I believe by writing/saying it too much, gives it power and makes it a reality which I do not believe will be the case). He said if it was incomplete, meaning some movement even a wiggle of a toe, it would be possible for Candi to make a full recovery with intensive 10-12 month rehabilitation. This was the glimmer of hope we needed to hear, and have hung onto this hope, a word that has so much meaning as it evokes positivity and faith, ever since.
After speaking with the doctor, who struck me as a very sincere, good man, he took us into ICU to see Candi. This was a very painful, scary and overwhelming moment seeing her lying there. She had many tubes connected to her, including a breathing tube and her head was being held in place by a metal contrapment plus some other device that was monitoring any swelling in her brain. It was so awful seeing her like this, but oddly enough, she looked so beautiful and peaceful.
Looking over at my parents who were both distraught, I felt so sad for them both seeing their daughter this way. No parent should have to suffer like this.
It was now Wednesday, the day after the accident and Candi’s twin, Sam, would be flying in from his mining job on Thursday. We all decided not to tell him until he got back, thinking it would be far too traumatic for him hearing this and flying home alone. My parents (who are divorced by the way) decided they would go together to the airport to pick him up at 9pm, knowing Sam would want to go straight to the hospital to see her. Sam & Candi are very, very close.
My Mum and my Aunty went to my eldest sisters’ house to tell her the news on Wednesday. Kate and Candi had a big fall out a while ago and hadn’t really communicated for quite a long time which has been hard for the rest of the family to deal with, as we’ve always been quite tight knit. This was clearly still extremely traumatic news for Kate and her fiance, Jared, to hear and to process. It took my sister a few days to come to terms with this news and to be able to come in and see Candi. But as soon as she did, it was like water under the bridge and Kate was Candi’s loving, protective big sister again.
I decided not to go to the airport with my parents to pick Sam up…I just couldn’t deal with more pain and was already feeling incredibly anxious about him finding out, as my parents and sister were…poor Sammy. As soon as my parents drove up to where he was waiting, Sam said he knew right then and there that something had happened to Candi. He’d been trying to call Candi for two days and when he called me a couple of times, I couldn’t bring myself to answer the phone, so text him saying I was at work. He already had an inkling something was up.
Sam has been a tower of strength for the family. Although utterly devastated, stressed and in shock, feeling like he’s lost his best friend (at this early stage) who he imagined growing old with, Sam has been amazing throughout all of this…although I worry that he hasn’t fully grieved yet. For the first two weeks, I was a blubbering mess at some stage of most days, as was Dad and Kate. My Mum had her moments early on and privately by herself, but both she and Sam I think have been holding it together as much as possible as I know they fear if they start they won’t be able to stop. They also want to be strong for Candi…as we all do.
A Family Unites
As a family we decided early on, that there would be no tears in front of Candi once she was conscious. Only love, warmth and positivity were allowed whilst in her presence as this energy is what heals someone…not negativity and fear. My Mum is extremely holistic and spiritual, which has rubbed off onto all of her daughters…my bro and Dad are slowly but surely catching up! It’s been interesting observing how females differ from males in these kinds of circumstances. As I’ve seen with Sam and Dad, males tend to be more pragmatic, wanting to know statistics, the worst case scenario, what we can expect Candi’s quality of life will be, etc. The women in the family (and I must make special mention of my cousin, Cam, who has been an amazing support to us all and has always been positive), although not ignoring the magnitude of Candi’s injuries, are open to different healing modalities and understand to take it one day at a time and not think too far ahead, as every case is individual and miracles DO HAPPEN! One thing however we have all agreed on, is we do not want to see our sister/daughter suffer. We also agree that the deep love Candi is receiving from all of us, is the most powerful drug of all.
Part 2 of this story I will begin to share the process of Candi’s recovery. For those of you who have been following my updates on Facebook and sending your prayers and love, once again, I thank you all for your support.