Last year, Blythedale Children’s Hospital helped Cara Macdonald ‘15 recover from a serious accident. This year, Macdonald is all about giving help instead of receiving it.
On November 2, 2012 Cara Macdonald ’15 was busily chatting with a friend on her cell phone while crossing the Post Road in Westport. Mid-conversation, Macdonald stopped talking. After calling Macdonald’s name into the phone and receiving no reply, the worried friend rushed to the Post Road.
When she arrived, the ambulances were already there. The streetlights had lost power because of Hurricane Sandy, which is presumably why the car didn’t stop and had instead hit Macdonald.
Macdonald was brought to Westchester Medical Center for immediate care.
She suffered a TBI, traumatic brain injury, and a small fracture in her neck. She also had to get 15 stitches in her head.
Macdonald was then brought to Blythdale Children’s Hospital, which friend of Macdonald’s, Malin Hovstadius ’15, refers to as “the hospital that saved her [Macdonald’s] life.” A room had just opened in the TBI facility, which would be Macdonald’s home for the next 75 days.
After a week, Macdonald regained consciousness and began occupational, physical and speech therapy.
She initially couldn’t talk, and instead communicated through hand gestures, then progressed to whispering. She took a nurse’s advice to try singing to music to regain her throat muscles. While singing Taylor Swift’s song Red from her album 22, her voice came back. “I would parade around saying Taylor Swift gave me my voice back, she gave me my voice!” Macdonald said.
The next obstacles were learning to walk and eat. “By January I was getting pretty antsy because I could walk and do stairs and I felt fully recovered,” said Macdonald. Although she couldn’t return home for Christmas, she was discharged from the hospital on January 11.
Her first day back was filled with shopping at Urban Outfitters, a trip to Starbucks, and a visit to crew practice to see her team members.
Sleep had been a strict requirement in the hospital for Macdonald, and it would continue to be at home. It was a month and a half before Macdonald returned to school because of the necessary amount of sleep. “I just wanted to go to school so badly and have a normal social life seeing actual people again,” Macdonald said.
Although Macdonald still requires sleep, physical therapy, and a few medications, she feels her brain function has been normal since January.
Her memory, however, has yet to recover completely. Macdonald doesn’t remember getting hit and only remembers some of the day of the accident. She also has a few spotty, vague memories of the time between the accident and mid November. Furthermore, her short-term memory is now worse than it was prior to the accident.
In the grand scheme of the accident, Macdonald is happy to take her current state over many of the patients she saw in the hospital. “I just got really lucky that I can speak and function,” Macdonald said.
“Because of her attitude and strength she recovered beautifully and quickly,” said Hovstadius.
Now, Macdonald has come up with a new way to say thank you to those who helped her at Blythedale Children’s Hospital.
Three of her best friends, who have been brought even closer together after the accident, have teamed up with Macdonald.
Last year, while Macdonald was in the hospital, her friends Hannah Berggren ’15, Dylan Donahue ’15, and Hovstadius raised over $1,200 for Blythdale Children’s Hospital to purchase three iPads for teen rehabilitation. “It showed how three girls from Westport who just wanted to help their best friend really made a difference to the lives of those kids in the hospital,” said Berggren.
This year, with Macdonald now joining the giving, their goal is even higher. They are selling candles for $15 and have created a donation site as well, with all of the money going to the Blythdale Children’s Hospital.
The online fundraiser ends on December 21, so if you are interested in a little Christmas giving and helping kids like Macdonald visit: http://www.crowdrise.com/BlythdaleChildrensChristmas/fundraiser to donate in Macdonald’s name or contact Macdonald, Beggren, Hovstadius, or Donahue to purchase a candle.
Something to be learned from Macdonald’s story is that we all take our turn on the receiving and giving end. This year, if you are lucky enough not to need the help, instead try giving some, because as Hovstadius says, “you never know when something is going to happen that can change your life in a split second.”