The last 7 1/2 months

I was on top of the world, at the prime of my life. I had it all – a loving husband, a supportive family, a thriving career in my field, a new apartment in a new city, excellent health, and happiness. Newly married at 26, I had so much to look forward to.

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And then we got into a car accident. On our honeymoon.

I broke my neck. All of a sudden, it seemed that I had nothing to look forward to.

It was like suddenly falling from a building where I enjoyed the most amazing view… except I survived.

At first I was angry. I was upset. I was sad, disheartened. Oh and the day after the accident, I learned that I broke my left arm too.

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Then to that, add two major surgeries in a week, on my spine and on my arm. Add being in a heavy, cumbersome halo brace 24/7 for three and a half months. Add being stuck in the US where the accident happened, not being able to come home to my loved ones back in Canada.

Finally my halo was removed and I came home to all my family and friends. Never had I been filled with such immense joy. With one month to go in my new neck brace, I thought this nightmare was nearly all over!

But it wasn’t.

It turned out that I didn’t get the proper surgery on my neck. My spinal fusion failed, my neck wasn’t healing properly all that time. After nearly four months, my fractures were still too unstable that I had to get yet another surgery.

Again I was angry. I was upset. I was sad, disheartened.

I had a successful revision surgery. My doctor told me to wear another type of neck collar for three more months, twice as long as the six weeks he first advised me.

Our rock

Through it all, all the emotions I felt – be it despair, happiness, and everything in between – I held on to my faith. I still found God. I continued to believe in Him and whatever His plan was for me. I never stopped praying.

These core values were instilled in me by none other than my parents. They implored God’s help that I patiently endure this difficult time in my life. My parents prayed a lot for me, more than anyone else ever did. As active members of the Catholic community, they also asked their friends from church to pray for me from Day 1. Here is my what my dad emailed to them:

Subject: Request for Prayers for Danica and Pierre

Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

We humbly request you to join us in our prayers  for my daughter and son-in-law, Danica & Pierre, who recently got married last April 18 and was spending their honeymoon in various parks and campsites in the US.

They met an accident last night along the [Northern] Mojave Desert as [their car rolled over multiple times]. Pierre suffered minor concussions.

Danica will undergo surgery today this 7 AM PST [for her fractured neck,] to place some pins in her [skull for a halo brace] to prevent her from being paralyzed.

Please join us in prayers for their recovery and for the successful operation of Danica today.

Kindly pass this around so that the whole Couples for Christ community can join us in praying for them.

Thank you.

I read this forwarded email on my phone three days later, helplessly lying in my hospital bed with a gigantic halo brace on me. My parents were flying from Toronto, Canada that afternoon to come see me in the hospital, conveniently located in the middle-of-nowhere town of Lancaster, California, USA. My dad (tatay in Tagalog) also wrote me:

… So have faith, be strong and everything will be okay and you’ll both be back to your normal lives soon.

Just trust in HIM.

Tatay

Fast-forward to a month ago when they were asked to share “their/my story” with their church group. PREPARE YOURSELF… YOU WILL CRY. I was BAWLING while watching this… the first AND second time. Disclaimer: My dad’s so lame sometimes, hehe.

Since I had moved back to Québec City with my husband at this point, I recorded a little message at the end to show the Couples for Christ community my gratitude for their love and support.

I felt so humbled after watching this the first time, feeling guilty that “I didn’t pray enough.” That I didn’t pray as strongly and as fervently as my parents did. But my husband consoled me and said, “Like they said, they didn’t know what to do, how to help you… so they turned to prayer.” Indeed,  my parents had the time to pray and think about me, especially while I was away in California. I, on the other hand, was busy with dealing with myself. I was busy cleaning the pin sites on my head. I was “busy keeping myself busy” so I wouldn’t think about how everything just sucked. I was busy obsessing about eating healthy and walking everyday.

Yet in my own personal way, I still found my path to God. Though I neither read the Bible everyday, posted religious quotes on Facebook, nor prayed the rosary often, I simply talked to God a few times a day. I told Him whatever I thought or felt. I asked for His guidance. I prayed that my bones were healing well.

Most of all, I asked Him to give me strength and courage to deal with “all of this.”

I’m thankful that He heard my prayers.

“It worked!”

Back in August, I asked Darlene, my younger and only sister, to pray that my halo would get removed at my appointment with my neurosurgeon. She watched my neurosurgeon remove it… unscrewing the pins from my skull and all. Donning my new Minerva jacket a few moments later, I told her, “Dang, thank you for praying for me.”

In amazement she replied, “It worked!”

She’s 13.

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Sisters, born 13 years apart

Yesterday, I was so nervous before my appointment to see if my Aspen collar would get removed. My dad, who drove and came with me to the hospital, said, “Matatanggal na yan! Ang dami-dami na naming pinray dyan. Every 3:00 pa nga sa office, pinag-ppray ka namin eh.”

Okay, translation: “It’ll come off! We prayed so much for it. We also pray for you in our 3:00 pm prayers.” (It’s just so much better in Tagalog though…)

And yes, like my sister said, “It worked!”

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My first brace-free selfie

So Mommy, Tatay, and everyone, thank you for all your prayers. While I know that some of my friends don’t necessarily believe in religion, thank you too for thinking of me and sending me your good wishes. Cheers to you all. 😊

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At their Christmas party, two days after I got my brace removed!
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