SVH: Yvette Ford — A Miraculous Rebirth

Yvette Ford: A Miraculous Rebirth

What’s it like to be born in a 29-year-old’s body? Yvette Ford knows. Although she’s brought three babies into the world at Simi Valley Hospital, it’s her own “rebirth” that’s most miraculous.

A Life Shattered

It was a horrible moment on a rain-soaked road when Yvette Ford’s life was nearly erased.

She was on her way to pick up her children from school in November 1996, when the force of a rear-end collision made her car bounce off trees like a pinball. When it finally crashed down, the car landed on top of the same car that had hit her.

The effects were devastating. Even though she was wearing a seatbelt, Yvette’s bones were shattered and broken from her face to her legs. She stopped breathing twice on the way to Simi Valley Hospital’s emergency department just a mile away. Few thought she would survive.

Trapped in a Coma

It was a tortuous time for Yvette’s husband Frank, and their three young children. Before the accident, Yvette had been an energetic mom, finishing a degree in accounting while caring for the kids. Now, she lay still in the hospital’s ICU, so deep in a coma, that doctors feared she would never come to. Frank’s daily visits left him with little hope. Seeing her so helpless, he was scared he’d have to raise the kids alone. By the second week, Frank found the courage to bring the two oldest children. It was painful for six-year-old Sean and seven-year-old Amanda to see their mom this way, but he knew it was best. “I wanted to reassure them that she wasn’t dead,” he says.

A Stirring of Hope

A hint of hope appeared in the fourth week, when Yvette opened her eyes. But her stare was blank and unknowing. Still, when Frank saw her moving her arms and kicking the bed rails, he felt that maybe, just maybe, she was on her way back.

By January, Frank saw more progress: she would sometimes nod her head in response to questions. But it wasn’t until February, when her jaw was unwired, that he sensed a real turnaround. “It was like something switched in her brain,” he says. She was more responsive, and she began eating, but still couldn’t talk.

Finally, after 10 weeks, the moment Frank had been waiting for arrived. “She said my name and asked a few questions,” he recalls. “I thought, �Wow — she’s in there.'”

Starting Over

Waking from the coma was just the beginning of a very long, uphill battle. Yvette had suffered severe head wounds known as Traumatic Brain Injury – which had wiped away much of her memory. “I became a 29-year-old one-year-old,” Yvette says, “because I had to learn to walk, talk and eat all over again.” Although she remembers none of it, Yvette went through eight weeks of physical, occupational and speech therapy in the hospital’s Rehabilitation unit. Frank was given the option of having her transferred to other facilities, but says he’s glad he chose Simi Valley Hospital. “She didn’t know why she was there, so she’d always complain,” he says, “but they did a very good job.”

Day-to-Day Recovery

After 162 days at nearly every level of hospitalization, Yvette was finally able to go home. At first she used a wheelchair to get around, but after a week she decided she didn’t need it.

Thanks to ongoing in-home and outpatient visits with her speech, occupational and physical therapists, she’s continuing to recover her abilities. “The accident changed my whole body,” she says. “My right leg moves outward instead of straight ahead, so my physical therapist shows me how to walk. The occupational therapist helped me learn how to get dressed, brush my teeth, shower and comb my hair — the day-to-day stuff. I’m pretty good at all that now.”

Erased Memories

But perhaps most challenging and upsetting to Yvette is her memory loss. Tragically, she remembers almost nothing before the accident, including her husband and children. “She remembers we’re married, but doesn’t remember anything about how we met, or our wedding,” Frank says. Her short-term memory is also largely gone. “She’s unable to remember she ate breakfast ten minutes ago,” says Frank. That’s where the speech therapist comes in. “The therapist helps her compensate by having her write down important dates, phone numbers and appointments in a daytime planner.” They do memory exercises where they practice reading, looking at pictures and seeing what she remembers. It can be discouraging. “I look at photo albums from the past all the time,” Yvette says. “It’s like it’s somebody else when I look at the pictures.”

Back to the Hospital

Another recent development is also encouraging. On June 28, 1998, Yvette was once again in Simi Valley Hospital as a patient. But this time, there was rejoicing. Just one and a half years after her accident, Yvette delivered her fourth baby, Andrew Stephen. “He’s beautiful,” she says with a mother’s pride.

Little Andrew is the newest addition to the family that kept Yvette going during the darkest hours. “I survived for my husband and kids,” she says. “They’re the reason I’m still here. I fought hard for them.” She also mentions her gratitude to the hospital’s staff. “The doctors, nurses, and everyone else — I couldn’t have done it without them at all.”

Sharing with Others

Living through this tragedy, and coming out on the bright side, has inspired Frank to share what he’s learned with others. “Every once in a while, I stop over at the hospital, see someone in the ICU waiting room and drop off information or a web address that would be helpful.” Yvette, too, shares a special message with those she knows and loves. She often ends her conversations with a simple, heartfelt plea: “Drive safely.” Coming from someone with such an inspiring story of returning from the brink, those words are hard to ignore.

Yvette really feels she got a second chance at life. “Simi Valley Hospital was where all four of my babies were born, and where I was reborn,” she says. “I feel very lucky.”