One month ago, I was swimming in a lake in Georgia and was hit by a boat. The propeller split open my skull. It severed a bone and nerves in my right arm and hand.
There is so much I still need to process and reflect on about this experience. On one hand, I’m grateful to be alive when I could have easily died.
I will never forget what it was like to come to in the water. To look down and see my arm hanging by a muscle. To not be able to see out of my right eye. Totally alone. Blood streaming red into the water.
I’m grateful for all the synchronicities that saved me. That the propeller missed my brain and eye by a few millimeters. That it didn’t paralyze me. That a friend of my sister happened to pass by on a boat, with her mother - and was able to call 911 - so that I didn’t pass out and die alone in the water. That the doctors were able to save my arm instead of amputate. That they were able to clean the broken bones out of my brain and sew up my head.
At the same time, I am struggling with a sense of loss.
The loss of putting my career on pause. The accident happened a week before I was to fly out for a year of work in India, Brazil, and Mexico. I still hope to take that journey (eventually). But I’m now back in Atlanta for a year of recovery and physical therapy - after living abroad for seven years.
The loss of many of the things that I had learned to rely on to keep me sane. Writing every morning. Yoga, swimming and other exercise. Being independent and able to travel. Meditating to start each day, in a body free of pain.
The loss of feeling carefree. My sister took this picture four days before the accident - a few hundred feet from where the boat hit me. I was light and happy there.
I am starting to feel more of myself again, with fewer post-concussion symptoms. My body is healing. I am supported by a whole web of caring family members and close friends.
And with that comes both the gratitude and the loss.
This week: Health-wise, I am doing a lot better each day. The pins were removed from my hands and I am now going to occupational therapy twice a week to increase the movement in my hand. On Monday of this, I even touched my thumb to my forefinger! Progress and gratitude!
And gratitude for all of you who are following my progress!
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Entry by Kathlyn's Mom:
Home Sweet Home
Since healing is a full-time job, I thought I would give Kathlyn a break and send a quick update.
I apologize, particularly to those of you who trekked to Gainesville for naught, for not writing an update sooner. Frankly, adjusting to home sweet home has been all consuming!
For starters, it was bittersweet to leave our wonderful caregivers at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. However, it was definitely sweeter not to hear the constant beep, beep, beep and to sleep more than a couple of hours at a stretch. Kathlyn’s Dad and great friends helped us move home on short notice last Saturday. All the IV lines and monitors were taken off in a flash, and the arm re cast…and boom, we left. I saw Kathlyn breathe really deeply for the first time when we stepped outside into fresh air. It was so strange to leave a place which had the power to reattach an arm, clean out a brain, prevent infection and keep intense pain at bay. Healthcare professionals, staff and housekeeping are all such miracle workers!
Life at home means all the comfort you would expect, and since there are big ups and downs in each day, the grounding of home is really important.
Kathlyn is dealing with all the pains these types of injuries and her concussion brings. She likes to be in quiet, dark spaces and prefers short tv programs and short conversations. We’ve ventured out for ice cream on a couple of occasions, but the most comfortable she seems to be is when she is sitting at home enjoying the cards, messages, books, and food people have sent or dropped off. Right now, she is best with only one or two visitors a day. We’re usually at a doctor’s office two or three days a week and on the other days, Kat works really hard at becoming ambidextrous. (I don’t think I’ve ever had to spell that before.)
From a Mother’s perspective, I’m appreciating my cup of coffee in the morning differently and truly recognizing the fragility of life. I feel such sense of solidarity with all those in our world who are suffering in a gazillion different ways, and pray that our collective strength will carry each other through these times in life!
Most of all, I’m in awe of the Kat’s body’s ability to recalibrate and heal, her mind’s adjustment to change and decision making to affect positive progress, and most of all, her spirit’s way of holding the light and love sent to her by so many. This gives Kat, and the rest of us around her, such hope and gratitude.
More from Kat soon!
Katy (Kat's Mom)
Dear friends and family,
It’s been one week since my life changed. I am overwhelmed to have come so close to death and still be alive, and I am just beginning to process the magnitude of what happened. But, I feel a profound sense of gratitude and want to say thank you.
I want to first thank all of the people who have called, sent text messages, emails, flowers, and cards, those who visited the hospital, and the people I don’t even know who have been praying for me. Thank you to my sister, brother, mom and dad, who have been by my side at every moment, and the many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who have come to see me. Most of all, I want to thank the many nurses, doctors, first responders, and people who helped both at the site of the accident and in the surgeries and recovery that followed. It has been amazing to see the sheer number of people who care around the world and I am so grateful.
Recovery has been full of highs and lows. It has been very painful at times and the surgeries have been intense, but there have been moments like seeing the view of the mountains outside my window, the smell of the flowers in my room, or sharing moments of laughter with my family that have kept me going. I still have a lot to reflect on, but this experience has already taught me so much about the power of human connection.
I’ll leave you with a few photos from my walk around the hospital hallway today. As you can see, I am adjusting to moving with a sling and an eye patch, but I have people supporting me and I’m getting stronger by the day.
I’m sending my love to all of you, near and far.