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My Turn: Damage from Sandy of another type

Betty Lecuit with her husband, John; his storm-related

Betty Lecuit with her husband, John; his storm-related injury has put things in perspective for them. (Oct. 30, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Gwen Young

With the anniversary of hurricane Sandy's horrible visit to Long Island, I see notices of Remembrance Days to honor those who have lost homes and those volunteers who gave so much to assist them. Yet, I can't help but think of my own situation and of the many more who share untold Sandy stories, like mine.

My husband of 56 years, John, and I have lived on Ontario Avenue in Lindenhurst, for more than 54 years. We have survived many hurricanes and storms with minimal damage to our home, as we are between Montauk and Sunrise Highways, and therefore do not have flooding issues.

My heart goes out to our many friends and acquaintances who have been enduring horrible hardships and are still not in their homes.

My story is slightly different from the ones of families that are often profiled in Newsday. My husband owns a small business that was started by his father, Eddie's Barber Shop, in Lynbrook, just feet away from where the Sandy floods encroached up Broadway. The only damage he thought he sustained there was a power outage in the gas heating system on the roof of his building.

He called electricians and gas companies, but everyone was too busy to come at that time, so after waiting and using space heaters for two weeks, he decided to go up on the roof to see what the problem was. Unfortunately he fell off the roof, sustaining a severe traumatic brain injury.

Members of the Lynbrook Fire Department's Emergency Medical Company took him to the South Nassau Communities Hospital emergency room in Oceanside, which was still being staffed by the National Guard, helping hundreds of displaced persons with temporary housing within the hospital's common areas. Despite the controlled chaos going on, the fantastic staff saw my husband through emergency brain surgery and then through a two-week period of touch-and-go, where we were advised to be prepared: If he survived, he might never wake up from his coma and would need 24-hour nursing care for the rest of his life.

During his two-week ordeal, while he was on a ventilator and totally unresponsive, I sat by his side and continuously whispered, "I love you," into his ear.

I am a registered nurse with over 50 years of nursing experience, and I know that the traumatized brain often enables comatose patients to hear but not respond. Imagine my surprise and shock when, one night, he feebly answered, "I love you, too."

The entire ICU staff, including the neuro-intensivists and nurse specialists gathered and couldn't believe him, as over the next weeks he slowly regained consciousness, opened his eyes and tried to speak. They called him their Miracle Man, and indeed he is.

Today, almost one year later, he is home with me, having finished the allocated Medicare physical, occupational and speech therapies. True, he is functioning intellectually on a first-grade level, cannot drive or work, is blind in one eye, and talks and walks like a Weeble Wobble.

He has secondary hypothyroidism and diabetes from the brain trauma. But, you know what? He's home, I love him, and he's mine, and I will take care of him, by myself, forever and try to make him better every day.

So, as I see these other poor souls feeling badly about all the property they have lost, I'd like to tell them that their homes and possessions, hopefully, will soon be replaced and that the past year will fade into a really bad Sandy dream. But my Sandy nightmare will always be with me as I look at my once-active, virile husband that Sandy has changed forever.

And I wonder how many other Sandy victims are out there needing to tell their stories?

Betty Lecuit, Lindenhurst

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