I'm sorry, but there's no sound out tonight. I just can't write right now. I wanted to share an incredible story with you instead...
When I was at the Books & Such retreat in Sonoma back in October, I met 2 amazing women. Well, actually, I met, many, many amazing women, but I want to introduce you to 2 of them here. The first one is Julie Papievis. Julie lives near me, just outside Chicago. In 1993, Julie was in a horrific car wreck. A doctor and an off-duty paramedic happened to be nearby at the time of the accident and immediately tried to assist Julie who was unconscious. Her pupils were fixed and dilated, she didn't respond to pain, had a palpable blood pressure of 80, and an elevated heart rate of 120. After cutting her from the car with the jaws of life, the paramedics delivered her to the hospital. As they handed her over to the trauma team, she started posturing, she urinated all the water from her body, and started agonal breathing, the last breaths taken before dying.
Julie shouldn't be alive today. She shouldn't be, but she is. Before she awoke from the coma she was in for FOUR weeks, she saw heaven. She saw her 2 grandmothers who told her, "You can't follow us. You have to go back. Your body will heal. Go back and be happy."
from Julie's book, "I know that I must return. I don't belong here yet. It isn't my time to be in heaven. I have to go back and finish my life and find happiness. God must have a reason and purpose for me not to stay. I trust him. I feel such hope. I feel such unconditional love. I know that whatever happens I will be okay. My faith is no longer 'blind'."
In this inspirational book, you learn of Julie's time in heaven and her struggle to relearn everything after coming out of a coma. I have to admit that I had the TV version of a coma in my head where the patient lies there motionless and then suddenly wakes up, refreshed and ready to get on with life. Not so. Not even close, in fact.
I read this book on the way home from Sonoma. I couldn't put it down and finished the whole thing on the plane ride.
Meet Julie Papievis from Go Back and Be Happy.
DAWN: When I met you at the retreat, I never, in a million years, would've guessed that you'd been in a coma, suffered major trauma to your brain, been paralyzed, and endured years of rehabilitation. Do people have that reaction a lot?
DAWN: What was the hardest part of your rehabilitation?
JULIE: Rehabilitation, as a whole, is the hardest work I've ever done. I just finished rehab. for my left eye this year. Every year, they pick a new body part :)
DAWN: A triathlon! I've never participate in a triathlon. Or even a marathon. Oh, who am I kidding? I've never even run across the street! I'm just so impressed that after suffering such a severe brain stem injury and having to relearn how to walk, that you were able to come back and finish a triathlon. How did you feel finishing it?
JULIE: Finishing the race, I said to myself "your body has healed" just like my grandmothers in heaven told me it would.
DAWN: The chapter that talks about when you died and saw your grandmothers in heaven just sends chills down my spine. What an incredible experience. Can you describe what it was like?
JULIE: The way Margaret describes it in the book is perfect! If I had to use 2 words to describe it, they would be "perfect peace". Trust me, we all want to go there :)
DAWN: What is the best thing that has come out of this?
JULIE: I got the chance to reinvent myself :) Don't we all wish we could that? :)
The other person I want you to meet is Margaret McSweeney who put Julie's story down on paper. As Margaret says, "I tried to be the voice of Julie's heart."
DAWN: How did you hear of Julie's story?
MARGARET: I heard about Julie's story through her Aunt Kathy. We were both active in a local chapter of Infant Welfare Society. At that time I
wrote a neighborhood column for The Daily Herald and featured Julie's
story along with a fund-raiser for Midwest Brain Injury Clubhouse.
DAWN: What made you decide to write Julie's story?
MARGARET: After the article, Kathy, Julie and I met for lunch in Oak Brook.
She asked me if I would consider writing her book. As I was sipping
my iced tea, Julie told me about her near death experience and waking
up from the coma. One of the first questions she asked the nurse was,
"How is my yellow Toyota?" Years after the accident, she still had no
idea why she had said that since she didn't ever drive a yellow Toyota
and she didn't know anyone with a yellow Toyota. I about spewed my tea
across the table. My first car was a yellow Toyota! That was
definitely an indication that I was supposed to write her story. I
tried to be the voice of her heart.
DAWN: Do you have any other writing projects in the works?
MARGARET: My next book is Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit Experiencing Grace to be released in July 2009 by Moody Publishers. Just like the oyster, women get "grit" stuck inside their lives, but God's nacre of
love and grace covers the pain and turns it into a pearl. This book
features essays by women about the difficulties they have faced. Any
proceeds I receive will go in full to two charities: WINGS and Hands
of Hope. WINGS provides a Safe House for women and their children
fleeing from domestic violence. Hands of Hope is helping to build
wells in African villages.
I have 5 copies of Julie's book to give away here. Just leave me a comment and I'll draw 5 random winners on Wednesday, Feb. 11. In the meantime, you can check out her website and/or order your own copy HERE.