Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The One-Legged Goddess of Romance


This blog is a love story.
It’s not the kind of love story I usually write, where everything makes sense and a thoroughly happy ending is guaranteed. No one’s life is like that, which is why romance novels – and their “happily ever afters” – generate more than a billion dollars in sales each year.  We all need a break from the real world, a world where really bad shit happens to basically good people for no reason at all.
This blog will be about how I’m learning to love myself again. I promise to keep the self-pity to a minimum here, as I strive to do in my day-to-day life, but I’m not making any promises when it comes to rage, sadness, hilarious absurdity, serendipity, ridiculousness, frustration, or joy. That shit is just going to come out without a filter in this blog. Otherwise, what’s the point of writing it?  If you wanted to read quality fiction, you would read one of my novels. (Which I highly recommend, by the way.) But this shit? This shit is real.
Let’s start in in the fall of 2011. I was minding my own business. I stepped off the metaphorical curb and got hit by a metaphorical bus. This bus had a fancy medical name: necrotizing fasciitis. It wasn’t a term I’d heard of until the night of December 4, 2011, when I lay on an exam table in my local emergency room, just about dead, mumbling, “What happened to me?”
One of the biggest, baddest mo-fos of the infectious disease world happened to me. At the time, I had no way of knowing I had just been slammed by a headline-grabbing disease that would mutilate my body and leave tread marks across the perfect little life I’d created for myself. I had contracted what was commonly referred to as "flesh-eating bacteria,"and it tried its best to kill me.
Corolla, NC October 2011
Corolla, NC 2012


And none of it made any sense. I was healthy, happy, and quite full of myself in the fall of 2011. I’d written two books and a novella that year. I’d traveled the world. I’d been working out with a personal trainer and was stronger than I’d ever been in my life. I was finally emerging from the dark post-divorce years and was dating a hottie twelve years my junior. I lived in a pretty little house with my wonderful teenagers and goofy dogs and believed that life was what I made it – and life was wonderful.
So what if I hadn’t been feeling so great for about a week? I was a little rundown. A little stressed. I knew I didn’t need to see my family doctor because it was probably a virus and it would go away on its own, the way it always did for me, a chick who was fit and cute and talented and successful and dating a young hottie and all.
Bam! Beneath the flesh-eating bus I went, thrown by fate, or God, or karma, or the laissez-faire randomness of the universe. Take your pick. Regardless, I should have died. Almost two years later, I am still recovering, but I will never again be that woman who stepped off the curb and into the path of this disease.
             No one has been able to figure out why I got ill, which is probably the most maddening part of it all. There wasn’t a cut or scrape to be found on my body, but strep bacteria had somehow wedged itself deep inside the flesh, bone, and muscle of my left leg, destroying everything in it’s path. On that night in December, I was helicoptered from my small town hospital to University of Maryland Shock Trauma, already in septic shock. My blood pressure tanked and my fever soared. My kidneys stopped functioning. I couldn’t breathe on my own. My heart went haywire. Doctors said they’d never seen lab results like mine in a patient who was still alive. When my brother pressed him, one surgeon said I had a fifteen percent chance of survival, but admitted that was a generous guess. He advised my family to prepare for my death and added that – if by some miracle I survived – I would likely suffer severe brain damage.
And speaking of odds, the doctors said that the chances of a healthy, strong, young(ish) woman such as myself getting this disease out of nowhere was about as likely as a person being hit by a train, struck by lightning, and contracting HIV in the same day.
            Clearly, I’m alive and back at my laptop. But the real miracle is that I’m healthy. My kidneys are normal. My brain works (well, my kids might challenge that . . .) My heart is fine, though I now sport a precautionary defibrillator/pacemaker that makes airport security more fun than ever. But I am healthy only because I chose to amputate the diseased leg instead of take all the risks associated with trying to save it. It’s a reality I’ll live with every minute of every day for the rest of my life. It was the right decision, no question, but it still seems like a bad dream sometimes. I wake up every morning surprised to find only one set of toes peeking back at me, and it takes a moment to reacquaint myself with the facts: I was hospitalized for three months, endured about twenty surgical procedures, and really shouldn’t be breathing. This blog will tell the story of my journey from near-death back to life, how a bestselling romance author more accustomed to whipping up happy endings for fictional characters has to find the courage to create one for herself in the real world, a world very different from the one she’s always known.
     Stay tuned.

25 comments:

Christie Craig said...

Susan,

I admire your courage and enjoy reading your "shit." Thanks for sharing. The world is a better place with you in it.

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Many thanks, Christie. If there's one thing I've learned through all this, it's that we all have our "shit" to deal with, in one form or another. My gift just happens to be writing about it. :)

Leslie Thompson said...

Susan - you are AMAZING! Thanks for the inspiring story!

Robin Kaye said...

Susan,

You've blown me away since the first time I read one of your books--one of the first romances I'd ever read--and you've continued to do that for the last 13 years. I'll never forget the first time I met you in person. You gave me a big box of Godiva chocolate and I told you that meant that you and I would be friends forever. I hope I was right. You've become one of my heroes. I've watched you over the last two years live your life with laughter, strength, determination, and grace. You're a true inspiration and one of the strongest people I've ever known. I thank God on a daily basis that you are still here with us, you have so much to share, so much wit and wisdom, so much talent. But above all, you will let nothing stop you from wringing all the joy you can from life. And I'm so blessed to have you as a friend.

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

I am the one who's been blessed, Robin. Thank you for everything.

Grace Burrowes said...

Been waiting to see if this story would find its way to a page. Good on you, Madam Author. AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?!

Gregory Payne/Alex Carreras said...

Very courageous. Congratulations on starting this blog.

Mary Lenaburg said...

So happy to read these words because that means you're still with us and for that we are all so grateful. I think of you everyday my friend and I am privileged to support you in any way I can. I can't wait to read more of your story knowing that you are one hell of a woman, brave, strong and funny as all get out. So bring it on sister. I hope you can hear the cheering ALL the way from VA!! Hugs from our house to yours...

rowanworth.com said...

Astonishing stuff. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Sooo glad you're still here, still writing, and still sharing! (Hm, for some reason this is pegging me as Anonymous instead of Rowan Worth...)

Chris Ganyard said...

Truly amazing...just like you. As always, your words make me laugh. And make me cry. But this time, in sharing your own heart-wrenching story, you inspire. You, my friend, give new meaning to the word courage. I stand in awe.

E.B. Black said...

This post was wonderful. You are an amazing person and a survivor!

Loralee said...

Your courage - and your blog - will touch readers in more ways than you can imagine. Thank you for sharing your amazing story. You are truly an inspiration.

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Thank you, Gracie! :) I hope you don't mind if I mention you at some point in the future, when I write about The Murph.

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Thank you.

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Oh, Mary. Coming from you, those words are high praise, indeed. Thank you.

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Thank you, Rowan. :)

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Thank you for your kind words, Chris. And your help and generous support after I got home from the hospital.

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Thank you. :)

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Thank you, Loralee. I wasn't sure that I should share my story. It took me a long while to decide to go for it. I appreciate your kind words.

Lynda said...

So very courageous of you to share your story & your life.
You are an inspiration!!!

Terri Osburn said...

You've shared an amazing story already, and I look forward to following along with the rest. Thank you to Robin for the heads up on this one. Your strength is an inspiration.

Melissa G said...

Thank you for having the courage to share your story. I came here from Mary Lenaburg's facebook page. I'm so glad she shared the link. Your strength and courage are truly inspiring.

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Thank you, Melissa.

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Thank you, Terri.

Bestselling Author SUSAN DONOVAN said...

Thank you.