Omg you ran 5k next to the hospital where you learned how to walk again, what a special moment that must have been!

Gemma, my Amsterdam physiotherapist, July 2023

Four years ago, when six weeks in an Amsterdam ICU had fully depleted my fitness-instructor muscles, I would have been thrilled simply to be able to roll over. My physiotherapist at OLVG hospital, however, had a higher goal in mind: to get me on my feet and walking. Gemma and her colleague Nadima did it. On July 7, 2019, with Nadime at my side, I walked across the fitness room floor.

I walked onto the plane home to Florida, where I kept walking, then jogging. I would have returned to Amsterdam to thank these women then, but the pandemic put a stop to travel. Masked and vaxed, I kept getting stronger. I ran. The pandemic eased. We traveled to Amsterdam.

On July 2 of this year, I ran 5 kilometers in the park across the street from that Amsterdam hospital. In the lovely Hotel Estherea, I celebrated my return to fitness with Gemma and Nadime, the women who helped me learn how to walk again.

During our week in Amsterdam, my husband and I shared a lovely home-cooked meal at the home of a Turkish family that adopted my husband when he was alone and bereft in that Amsterdam hospital, unsure about whether I would make it out of the ICU. Jasmine’s father was my ICU roommate, and our families bonded over food and sign language in those long and horrible weeks. The connections are for life. We look forward to returning the heartfelt hospitality in Florida.

We stopped by that ICU, where we found the nurses who remembered us. I say “us”: I was the patient, but my husband was cared for with understanding and compassion. The hospital believes strongly in families being able to be by the side of ill patients. They even made up a cot for my husband that first night, brought him food and a toothbrush. This is who they are. Being able to thank them in person helped my husband take a huge step forward in his own healing from the trauma.

We celebrated my return to health with the nurses who helped me recover during six more weeks after the ICU. What a pleasure it was to host Anne and her colleagues Martine and Monique to lunch at the Arena Hotel in the park across the street from OLVG. These women will long be in our heart, and our Florida home is open to them.

We also savored the sanctuary of the OLVG chapel, where my husband would take me to visit every afternoon to gather our strength to keep going. Last week, we had the place to ourselves, and we were filled with gratitude that I was able to stand where I last sat in a wheelchair.

I was so taken by a choral piece sung during a service I attended in my wheelchair that I downloaded it from Apple Tunes and drifted off to sleep with it every night. But I never understood how powerfully connected that music was to my healing until last week, when the pastor in the chapel office took the time to download the lyrics and send me the translation. They include:

These words are dedicated to you, here and now, keep them in your heart, keep them in the innermost place of your soul. These words are entrusted to you, when you sleep, when you wake. They will prolong the days of your life, that you will bloom and not wilt.

Deze Woorden, as translated by Joost de Wolf, spiritual caregiver at OLVG Kapel

The staff at OLVG Hospital feel that they are a connected village. It is a village that raised this lucky, lucky woman from the dead, that saved my husband when all seemed lost.

Our Dear Lady Guesthouse, dank u wel.


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