“I have been in EMS since 1997 beginning with First Responder. I then progressed to EMT-basic and then Paramedic. I began my career in the Indiana area. Almost 8 years ago, I moved out here to Oklahoma due to a better job. I worked in Tulsa for 2 years, and then changed jobs. I began working in Vinita, Oklahoma. Due to the nature of this job, there is the high probability that coworkers can become a close knit ‘family’.
My EMT and I had worked together on the ambulance for 2 years. He had really bad untreated PTSD and cancer for the second time. Upon the second diagnosis, he asked me to move closer to help him through the cancer fight. I was still living in Tulsa at the time, but I agreed because that is what ‘family’ does. I moved into an apartment complex across the street from his house.
On January 23, 2018, my life forever changed. That morning, he texted me saying he was going to pop in to say, ‘Hi’. I was laying on the floor watching TV when he entered. We said, ‘hi’ and talked for a minute. The next thing I knew, I was holding my head with my hands and screaming.
I thought he had had a PTSD episode and had shot me while thinking I was someone else. He told me things like ‘Don’t move!’ and ‘What happened?’ I thought he was going to throw me in the back of his pickup and drive to the hospital. But then he shot me in the head a second time.
I was again screaming. Next, he took a baton stick and beat my head and hands with it until the stick broke. I remember all of it too. He left the apartment then. I crawled around on the floor looking for my cell phone to call 911. I sure wasn’t going to die without a fight. I couldn’t find it and so figured out the next plan. I crawled outside, down the stairs, and knocked on the neighbor’s door. When he answered, I asked him to call 911. He stayed with me while waiting for help to arrive. I was flown by helicopter to the hospital. I had a stroke, head bleed, skull fracture, seizures, finger fractures, and moderate hearing loss.
Life has not been easy these last 19 months, but I’m extremely thankful that I am still here. I continue to struggle with many health issues such as extreme hypotension, cognitive impairment, seizures, weakness, and PTSD just to name a few. I’ve had many majorly dark moments. I’ve lost my job, my car, my driver’s license, my independence, my former self, ‘friends and family’, ability to run races (I was a runner previously. 5ks to full marathons).
I have completely lost literally everything. I now have to use a walker, have to depend upon others for transportation, I can’t run, have to have someone go with to appointments because I won’t remember. I fly off the handle at small insignificant things when I used to be so patient. So many more issues. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t survived this and that the doctor’s prediction had been correct in that I wouldn’t survive. Other times, I have thought about taking enough medication that I could make all of this go away. With the surgeries I’ve had, I’ve wished that something would happen in surgery that would cause my death. Even though I have many friends and family assisting me and nearby, it’s amazing how alone I can still feel. I’m being carried by others through the darkest time of my life, but still feel very isolated. I began writing poems and journaling to help me cope. I also am in therapy.
How did I and I do I continue to survive all of this insanity? Grit. Determination. Stubbornness. Hardheaded. But far deeper than that is the inner strength. I’m not a religious creep, but I do believe in a Higher Power. I also believe that Someone sure was looking out for me that day. My guardian angel had her hands full that night and probably immediately requested a transfer to someone else with a far more boring life. My job here is not finished. I still have work to do.
I still have a long road to go, but I have created my own mantra: ‘Never give in! Never give up! It’s just 5 minutes at a time’. The day may seem to never have an end. The hour may seem to stretch on for forever. But if I can fight to make it 5 minutes, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something even as little as 5 minutes are in the big scheme of things. Then it’s another 5 minutes and then another. If I take this darkness, this tough road, and this life what it is all at 5 minutes at a time, then I know I can come out on the other side of the day a stronger woman.
My goal in telling my story is not only to help me work through the event, but to also encourage others through whatever dark moment they are struggling through. I need to help others learn the warning signs, understand the danger, and how to find the fortitude to survive. I now feel like I have a responsibility to do this, but it is also very much a privilege and honor to be able to help people.
Life is 5 minutes at a time.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bonnie VanDeraa, 42, of Vinita Oklahoma. Follow her journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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