In sickness and in health: Having a celebrity 'injury-alike' doesn't help

Earlier this year, Rebecca’s husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident


Whenever I had idly thought in the past about how I might react to adversity, I imagined, with a guilty hope, that it would firm up my character – and my bum. I hoped that bearing up would make me a better person and, I admit it, make me thin. I would be gaunt from worry and my me-at-my-slimmest clothes would hang off me.

Oh adversity, you are a sod. Not only has four months of eating on the hoof and drinking with lonely determination left me swollen with horrible Costa sandwiches and straining at my widest waistbands, I’m more irritable than I’ve ever been. Slimness and stoic serenity elude me.

I try to keep a lid on my grumpiness because folk are either trying to be kind or work in call centres and can’t help but have to read from a script designed to make me want to rend flesh. Still, I’ve found that a rant followed by a roar of grief can pay dividends when dealing with insurance companies.

So, rather than letting my frustrations fester and erupt, I thought I’d share one with you. Milk the venom, as it were. Today, I’d like to talk about Michael Schumacher. I wish him and his family nothing but the very best, but I have to say, he and his medical condition have been driving me nuts since Nick suffered a traumatic brain injury and wound up in ICU. “Oh,” people said to me knowingly when I explained that Nick was unconscious. “Is he in an induced coma like Schumacher?” “Pressure on the brain?” Suddenly everyone was an expert.

Neighbours would update me with the Schumacher latest. Coming home from the hospital one day, two young snowboarders with boards and kit (Eh? Had they been to the mountains of High Barnet?) were endlessly discussing Schumacher’s injuries and levels of consciousness. Every time Schumacher loses a battle or makes a gain, I get at least three phone calls to update me. Guys, thank you. But please, enough.

You see, one thing that I’ve heard countless times since Nick’s accident is that when it comes to brain injuries, every single patient is different. Sure, two people might have very similar damage, but how they recover – or don’t – can be very, very different.

While it’s frustrating on some days not to have a blueprint for recovery – or even a worst-case scenario to sob over – it’s also good to know that my husband has a fighting chance of getting at least a bit better. Obviously, neurologists know this. Which is why every mention of the S-word makes them roll their eyes, too.

While I’m truly pleased for Schumacher and his family that he’s out of a coma, I also know what that really means – a long, hard road ahead with no destination in sight.

So let’s try something. If I am to keep my impotent rage in check, it’d be great if everyone could stop mentioning Michael to me. Thank you. And pass the sandwiches.

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