02 Apr Inspiring Notes from a Survivor, Part 2: By the Survivor’s Wife
Following up on the recovery of our very own Superman, AFT’s first student artist, Ford Austin, we were blessed with a letter from Lauree Dash Austin, who shares her perspective as the wife and primary caregiver of a trauma survivor. Thank you to Lauree and Ford for sharing their story so beautifully.
Inspiring Notes from a Survivor, Part 2: By the Survivor’s Wife
In March 2012, my husband Ford and I moved to New York City where I was beginning a job as a Supervising Producer, launching the new Katie Couric Talk Show. Ford was still walking with a cane at the time. We assembled a new team of East Coast doctors, he resumed Physical Therapy for his left hip and leg and I went back to work.
Three months into our life on the East Coast, Ford and I were walking to dinner to celebrate our 14-year anniversary and my birthday when he spiked a 103 degree fever. We went back to the hospital with a life-threatening infection. Sometimes the course of healing from Level One Trauma feels like 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Once again, we were blessed with amazing medical care and Ford recovered only to develop another infection just 3 weeks later.
Luckily for us, our Infectious Disease doctor was an accomplished Sherlock Holmes and he found the source of the bug that had been causing the 3 previous infections located in his new hip replacement. In fact, this doctor believed it had been present, probably since the initial accident one year prior but had been masked by the many courses of antibiotics Ford had taken for other issues. Now it was rearing its virulent head and that meant the entire hip replacement Ford had received 6 months prior, had to be removed. A cement spacer with antibiotics had to be placed in the leg and Ford needed round the clock IV antibiotic therapy for 6 weeks. I left my demanding job to care for my soulmate. Needless to say we were both devastated by this seemingly enormous setback. We felt like we were back at square one dealing with the same medical issues we thought we had resolved a year ago. I can remember how depressed and disappointed we both felt but we knew we needed to be together to get through this.
Wrapped in this challenge were enormous miracles. It turns out, the bug he had was a simple one we all carry and very sensitive to simple antibiotics. That was a miracle. His broken pelvis that had been held together with 2 plates and 7 screws was now healed and fused together so when the surgeons took out the infected hip prosthetic they were able to remove the plates and screws permanently as Ford no longer needed them. AND, we were blessed to be led to an amazing hip revisionist surgeon who is one of the few that uses computer imaging and 3-D mapping to put in prosthetic hips. This is a relatively new technique and it means Ford’s legs are now even and the replacement will last years longer.
It was during this hip ordeal that Laura brought Artists For Trauma to New York City so she could spread some love and hope our way. We spent many hours together, visiting, sharing stories and reconnecting in a way that only survivors and their loved ones understand. If you have been reading this blog then you know we ended up both buying tickets to the same Broadway show on the same evening. Ironically the play we shared was called ‘Grace.” It was a metaphor for life: moments of grace strung together in a beautiful necklace that connects us all. We felt supported and loved and only wished our visit could have been longer.
Now, we are 6 months out from the 2nd hip replacement surgery. For the first time since Ford’s accident, he walks unassisted- no cane, no walker, no wheelchair- only with the ‘grace’ of his own body. We have since moved back to our home of Los Angeles where Ford is dong the things he dreamed about in his hospital bed. He is acting again. He goes on commercial auditions and he is back in class working his craft and doing what he loves. In fact, Ford booked his first audition and shot a commercial just last week. I am eternally proud of my amazingly talented husband. We danced in 2013, celebrating New Years with my parents and every day Ford gets stronger and better. We are still in recovery. Every day he goes to Physical Therapy or works with a Trainer at the gym or we hike the beautiful the mountains of Southern California. Recovery is a process but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is always something better. There is always a miracle to be discovered.
Nothing about the last 2 years of our lives has been easy, predictable or ‘normal.’ We spent the last 2 years in the hospital 7 times but every day we continue to move forward- we take another step in health. Our bodies have this amazing ability to regenerate. The body wants to live- it seeks health and well-being naturally. That is our birthright.
Throughout this journey Ford and I found a partnership with each other we never had before. In fact, prior to Ford’s car accident our marriage was more like 2 people living 2 separate lives and then, suddenly, the world stopped. In one life changing moment we found each other anew. That was the greatest gift of this traumatic journey. We are a team and as long as we have each other we have it all. Our lives may never be ‘normal” from the outside looking in- but we have found a ‘new normal’ a place where we appreciate every moment of our amazing lives together. Sometimes I look at Ford and my little heart just gets so full with gratitude- I am so grateful we can have this life together. He has a scar on his belly that looks like a giant feather. It is a reminder of hope. It is the mark of an angel.
Do I wish sometimes this journey could have been a little less epic- a little less life and death and a little less like a Hollywood movie? You betcha! But I doubt we would be where we are now without it.
Artists For Trauma and our dear friend and guiding light, Laura Sharpe, has been an inspiration and healing force every step of the way. She is years ahead of us in recovery and wisdom. It is so comforting to share the hopes, the fears, and the questions we have with someone else who has travelled this path of trauma. We as a community need each other to remind ourselves of the miracles possible every day of our lives. It is so important to celebrate the little milestones along the way: the first time you can lift an arm, moving from a wheelchair to a walker, solving a math problem for the first time. All of these seemingly small things are enormous milestones and lead to more and more achievements. As Laura always tells us, ‘Stay positive and stay in process.”
I love this Patrick Overton quote: “When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that 1 of 2 things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.”
With love and gratitude,
Lauree Dash Austin