Angélique Simpson has always loved the great outdoors.
A New Brunswicker since birth, Angélique has always been an active person, immersing herself in nature whenever possible.
On November 22, 2012, all of that changed.
Angélique and her husband, Kevin, were driving home when Kevin saw something in the middle of the highway and swerved to avoid a collision. They lost control of their SUV and veered off the highway, rolling several times before coming to a stop in the ditch.
The next thing Angélique remembers is waking up three days later in a hospital bed, having had an 8.5-hour emergency surgery to repair her three broken vertebrae. Her doctors tell her she was the width of a hair away from being a quadriplegic for life, or worse, dead.
Angélique’s case was exactly the type of situation where MRI technology can help save a life, by providing surgeons with the detailed images they need to pull off extremely complex, life-saving surgeries.
But as luck would have it, on the night Angélique was admitted to hospital, MRI technology was unavailable. Her surgeon, Dr. Attabib, went into the surgery “blind” and pulled off a miracle.
“We are immensely lucky to have Dr. Attabib here in New Brunswick,” Angélique said. “If you’re going to break your neck, 17 kilometres from him is a good place to do it.”
Angélique would go on to spend nearly two weeks in hospital, then three weeks living with her family, before returning home just in time for Christmas on December 23.
“I vividly remember laying in the hospital bed, thinking about my running shoes and the feeling of running on a dirt path,” Angélique said. “I would think, ‘Sneakers on dirt… You’re going to get there.’”
For the next several months, it wasn’t just the snow keeping Angélique inside. She wore a neck brace for more than 100 days. Her first run wouldn’t come until later that spring.
“My first outdoor walk was with a friend on his lunch hour. We walked 400 metres and I was exhausted,” she said. “Once the snow melted, I went for my first run on a trail and I felt like I could fly. Just the feeling of air in my lungs – it was amazing.”
Just this past February, she went on her first ski trip since the accident.
“For the first 10 minutes down the hill, I couldn’t see anything through my goggles because I was crying so hard,” she said. “This is what I love about the Maritimes. Lying on a hammock… jumping off a dock… as cliché as they sound, I just love being outside. I get cabin fever when it gets warm out.”
Angélique says her accident has completely changed her outlook on life, and that it’s made her feel grateful for the quality of life we enjoy as New Brunswickers.
“You just don’t realize the value of access to the best healthcare until you’re driving home from a friend’s house and you wake up three days later with a broken neck,” she said. “And if we’re going to continue to have the world’s best medical talent here in our province, we need to make sure they have access to the best possible equipment – or they might leave.”
At the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation, we’re fundraising to bring the first hospital-based 3T MRI scanner to Atlantic Canada. In addition to doubling the capacity of the suite, it will allow us to capture images of patients like Angélique at a much higher level of detail, leading to enhanced patient comfort, more accurate diagnoses and more effective treatment programs.
MRI scans will continue to ensure that Angélique recovers completely from her frightening brush with death. The more timely and accurate these scans are, the less time Angelique will spend inside the hospital’s walls, and the more time she’ll spend running outside – sneakers on dirt.