For those of you who do not know me my name is Vincent, Anna’s husband. Some of you are aware or might have heard that my dear wife Anna met with an unfortunate freak accident at our London home on the 17th April 2019 at 10.17pm, resulting in an acquired brain injury. For those of you that didn’t know, please take the time to read our story.
Anna and I had moved to London in March 2014 from Melbourne, Australia to gain some international work experience and to see more of the world. Little did we know that 6 years on we are still in London. We had both finally established our careers and had planned 2019 to be the year of travel. Anna finally found her dream job working at the prestigious V&A Museum. She had been trying to get this job since day 1 of arriving in London. She was living her dream and all the pieces in her life have come together with only one thing left, to start planning a family.
In March 2017, I celebrated the happiest day of my life where I married my soulmate in front of our family and friends in a beautiful garden ceremony back home in Melbourne. I still remember when Anna started walking down the aisle. Once I saw a glimpse of her wedding dress I broke into tears filled with joy and happiness, knowing I would get to spend the rest of my life with her.
2017 was the beginning of a new chapter in our lives but as the year went on tragedy struck. Anna had to fly back to Melbourne numerous times due to the passing of her grandmother, who raised her as her own mother passed away when she was 8. Later that year, her father had also become increasingly unwell which led to having open heart surgery requiring a triple bypass and valve replacement.
The pain of bad news continued when a tumour, the size shy of a golf ball, was discovered in Anna’s throat. The benign tumour was removed, but this then led to a recurrent swelling in her throat requiring laser surgery to reduce so Anna could breathe easier. Within a span of 1 year, Anna had 4 surgeries in her throat, with each one, both of us thinking it would be the last. On top of undergoing the surgeries, Anna had tried alternative treatments to reduce the swelling in her throat. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine were also used to help treat Anna but unfortunately, the swelling continued to reoccur.
On 17th April 2019, Anna wasn’t feeling well during the day. We had both overcome a cold from a recent trip back to Australia to celebrate her best friend’s wedding and the birth of her nephew at the end of March. Whilst she was showering, Anna was trying to clear some phlegm in her throat when it all happened. Anna had vomited, leading to an airway obstruction. I still remember her face as she was struggling to breath for a good 7-8 minutes until her heart stopped in front of my eyes and she collapsed lifeless in my arms. That was the worst moment of my life.
As the paramedics rushed in, our flat was turned into a battle zone with blood on the floor and medical supplies everywhere. I remember standing there watching them perform CPR on my poor Anna to keep her heart beating. After 1.5 hours, 8 paramedics and 2 doctors, they managed to revive Anna, but she was unconscious and placed into an induced coma upon arriving into hospital.
On the 26th April 2019 at 17.30, after numerous brain scans the emergency ward consultant sat down and told me this; “Remember how I wanted you to have hope earlier in the week, I’m sorry but I don’t want you to have hope any more”. He then told me that my precious wife Anna had suffered a severe hypoxic brain injury and would never be the person I once knew. He said she would never have any memories, personality and would ultimately have to reside in a “halfway house”. He concluded that given her condition, when she deteriorates we should consider letting her go. Hearing those words from the doctors destroyed me. My world crumbled on that day. The thought that this could be the end of Anna’s hopes and dreams was hands down, the worst day of my life.
10 months on and I can say with 100% certainty that I have not given up hope, because Anna is fighting and striving to get better every single day. Although it is an ongoing daily battle for Anna, she has overcome so many obstacles and has proven many of the consultants wrong. Anna was taken out of the induced coma, her breathing ventilator removed and she progressed from a vegetative to a minimally conscious state. She currently has a tracheostomy to provide a safe airway, a tube in her stomach to provide her nutrition as she is unable to eat or drink and is bed bound. She can’t see or speak and is reliant on her hearing to be able to communicate to the best of her ability.
During her 5.5 months of rehabilitation she emerged into consciousness and started showing some physical and cognitive improvements, but sadly the Northwick Park Rehabilitation Unit deemed this was not enough and discharged Anna to a care home requiring 24/7 support. The prognosis I was told on 26th April 2019 never came to fruition and Anna is continuously improving till this day. Anna has regained her memories, cheeky personality and understands her current situation. Whilst in rehabilitation Anna learned how to lift and keep her head up and has developed strength in her lower body by being able to lift her bottom and start to kick out her legs. I have stood by and supported Anna every single day for the last 10 months, witnessing her courageous spirit as we fight this battle side by side.
Despite Anna’s drive, determination and her continuing improvements, the public health system in London has given up on her. Being on the other side of the world with no family and close friends for support these last 10 months has been extremely difficult to say the least. Now is the time to come back home, so Anna and I don’t have to do it alone anymore. With the additional support of our family and friends surrounding us, we can all fight alongside Anna and encourage her to progress further.
Everyone has been asking what they can do to help. This is how you can help. To bring Anna home will come at a significant cost. She requires medical transfers to and from the airport, two medical escorts on board, portable suction machine and 24/7 care whilst making the long 24 hour flight home.
I need everyone’s financial help and support.
Together, we can all bring Anna home. She will be able to continue further rehabilitation in Melbourne, where I know the public health system will not give up on her. Anna will thrive amongst her family and friends and we'll no longer need to walk down this path alone.
Anna is hoping to one day be able to see and hold her nephew again. She is craving to sip a cup of coffee, and to eat her favourite durian cake. I am longing for the day when my wife can look me into my eyes and say these three words - “I LOVE YOU”.
I know this is a lot to ask, but please donate what you can. With your help, you can make our dreams come true again.
- Vanessa Smuts
- Lien Huynh
Fundraising team (3)
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