"As I tried to shut the door, he charged at it and stuck the knife thru the opening before I could shut it all the way. The knife cut the tip of my finger and I pulled my hand off of the door. He got in. He was in my house standing in front of me with a knife, staring straight at me. He could have just held me at knife point, taken my car keys and left, again, another opportunity for him to leave, but he didn’t. He started slashing me... " (an excerpt from Donna Ongsiako's Victim Impact Statement which is printed in full underneath this article)
MONMOUTH COUNTY: Sometimes a movie or a book can have a lasting impact. We may leave the movie theater and we can’t stop thinking about the movie. Sometimes the experience changes how we feel about certain aspects of our life. Perhaps it changes our behavior in some way.
Maybe it moves us, stays with us. Maybe it changes us forever.
That is what Donna Ongsiako’s real life, nonfiction story seems to do to everyone who hears her tell it, or anyone who reads her victim impact statement.
It is haunting. It is unbelievable.
You are changed and it can take several days to even stop thinking about what happened. Just randomly throughout the day your mind goes there and tries to wrap itself around what you learned. It’s hard to believe that something so evil is possible, something so violent and senseless and non-human, because how could a human do such a thing to another human? It may bring something that feels like guilt, an urge to want to apologize on behalf of humanity. Apologize that something so vile happened by the acts of one person to another person, an innocent gentle person.
In 2013 Donna was living happily with her daughter Kiersten, in an old farmhouse on a flower farm in bucolic Colts Neck, NJ. It was a peaceful place to live, it was home. Donna comments, "I was happy and carefree. I can honestly say that life was great.” She had just shared a fun few days enjoying the 4th of July holiday with family and friends. The evening was winding down as July 6th closed and Donna was preparing to go to sleep.
It was shortly after midnight on July 7th, 2013, the temperature was hot, very hot. A heat-wave had hit the east coast. Her home was dark, the lights were out, it was bedtime. Donna thought she heard her cat scratching at the door and went to let him in for the night.
She swung open her front door, and stood face-to-face with a stranger. He had a knife. He immediately charged at the door as she tried to shut it and without a word he began slashing her.
Here is what happened next... Listen to Donna in her own words speak to guests at a recent Holmdel Chamber of Commerce Meeting, where she talks about her violent attack in detail, and reads her victim impact statement. Donna’s mission is to raise awareness for her nonprofit peer support group; Survivors of Violent Crimes. Note: the details of her attack are graphic:
VIDEO: Hear from Donna Ongsiako as she reads her victim impact statement:
Donna received a standing ovation from the Holmdel Chamber audience that day in response to her talk to the full room.
Licensed Social Worker, Shari LaRosa, was sitting in the front row at the meeting and comments, "As a member of the chamber audience, I was struck by the notion that those in the helping profession often do not know how to help a client after experiencing such violent trauma. The violence is often beyond comprehension. Donna mentioned the many kinds of therapies involved that she experienced such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a type of psychotherapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and many more treatments to try to combat the painful memories and anxiety related to this awful experience. I felt angry and sad and an overwhelming amount of emotions that this had to happen to this beautiful intelligent lovely woman and I also felt fear, fear that this happens to people. I also feel grateful to Donna, that she is taking her pain and turning it into power. She is helping not only those who have experienced such suffering, she is assisting us clinically, with her strength and knowledge about how to help survivors of trauma. We learn from you too. I wish Donna much healing through her work in helping others and want her to know how much love and gratitude was felt for her."
Donna chose to be anonymous at the time of the trial--not anymore.
This article is about Donna and her mission to help victims of violent crimes. This is about the amazing strength that she found within herself in spite of the heinous violent crime against her and all of the suffering she bears everyday with her physical and mental scars; Donna has risen up and she's speaking out. She's helping others everyday, on a mission to help victims of random violent crimes. Donna has founded a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization: Survivors of Violent Crimes, a peer support group providing resources for survivors of violent crimes. The organization's mission is also to raise awareness of PTSD.
TAPinto Holmdel & Colts Neck had the privilege to meet and get to know Donna in an exclusive series of in-person interviews, including accompanying her on the road at the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office in Freehold, where she shared her story to help ninety cadet officers better understand crime from a victim’s perspective.
Donna, at the hands of a stranger suffered a brutal stabbing attack. He stabbed her multiple times across the face, her neck, plunging the knife into her chest and then into the back of her neck...again and again he drove the 10 inch knife into her body. He left her to die, bleeding to death. Walked over her saying, "Your'e dead (explicit language)". Then he took her car keys, stole her car and took off into the night.
Donna comments, “ I remember knowing that I was laying in a pool of my own blood and that I was dying. I knew that if I did not get up those steps to my cell phone which was charging upstairs, my daughter would find me dead. I didn’t want her to be the one that found me. I don’t know how I did it but I got upstairs, smelling, tasting, hearing my own blood flowing out of me… I had long hair and it was heavy, soaking wet with blood. I remember I found my phone and there was so much blood pouring from me that I couldn’t dial because the touchscreen was so wet with blood. Somehow I wiped it off enough to get through to 911. I remember telling myself to speak clearly and calmly so that they knew who I was and where to find my body."
Colts Neck police officer Tom Ward comments, "I will never forget that night. It was very very hot. I was on the other side of town when the 911 call came in and I rushed across town to get there as fast as possible. The street where the house is on is very dark, there are no street lights. I ran out of my car with my first aid bag and there were two officers already on the property at the time, Officer Savage and Officer Campan. They cleared the first floor of the house. What we saw looked like a horror movie. There was blood everywhere, a large pool of blood on the floor that had soaked into the carpet, was pooling blood on top. Then we saw bloody foot and hand prints leading up the steps. I never had seen a crime scene like that before and I hope to never see anything like it again."
Donna comments, "I lost consciousness after I made the 911 call and I remember waking up to hearing the police come into the house. I saw the flashlights coming up the steps and I lost consciousness again. They found me and started talking to me and I came to again. I remember Tom Ward cradling my head and speaking to me. I felt so relieved that they found me. I also felt relieved that I was not dying alone. I remember Tom kept talking to me and I felt calmer and he kept my mind going as he cradled my head..."
Officer Tom Ward comments, "We located Donna and obviously she was in very bad shape. She was covered in blood, she was holding her neck. I moved her hand and there was a major wound that she had been applying pressure to. I immediately begain applying pressure to her neck and holding her head. I also noticed that she was losing alot of blood from a large wound in her chest. I yelled for Officer Campan to find anything to apply pressure to her chest and he quickly did. I couldn't believe someone could lose so much blood and still be alive. She was speaking with us talking about her daughter, and about a barbecue they had just enjoyed... She was explaining to us what happened with the attack, giving a lot of details... Officer Campan kept the pressure on her chest and I kept applying it to her neck. We had the oxygen on her and soon Colts Neck First Aid Squad arrived. They continued working on her and we got her into the ambulance and on the road to Jersey Shore Medical Center. We were all extremely concerned. We were concerned that she would not make it, but we had hope."
Donna comments, "I remember the ride to the hospital, I was in and out of consciousness but I could tell that everyone was really concerned and expressing urgency to get me to the hospital as fast as possible and I could feel the ambulance flying there. On that ride I remember knowing that the ambulance driver and all of the first aid crew cared, and they were determined to get me there."
Officer Tom Ward continues, "I followed in my police car behind the ambulance. The trauma doctors were waiting upon arrival and Donna was quickly in surgery. I remember everyone was uncertain that she would survive. We did not know if this was a murder we were beginning to investigate, or an attempted murder. I was also assigned to collect her clothing and personal belongings as evidence. We were all hoping it wasn't a murder, but she was in surgery for over seven hours, and she was fighting for her life."
Upon arrival at the hospital Donna had already lost more than half of the blood from her body.
There had been an event nearby the hospital that was hosting some of the best trauma doctors in the country, and by some miracle some of them were still in town. They received an urgent call to action and were waiting for Donna when the ambulance arrived at the emergency room. Donna was rushed into trauma surgery.
After seven long hours of surgery where according to reports given to Donna there was doubt from many that she was going to make it; Donna survived--she was on life support.
Donna comments, "I remember waking up in the hospital in absolute disbelief, and to the rancid smell of my blood soaked hair. I was in pain but the smell was worse. I was fortunate that some of the best trauma doctors in the country were at the hospital when the ambulance arrived. They took the 3 slashes across my neck and pulled them to the side of my neck sewing them together. This eliminated some of the scarring that would have been front and center of my neck. They had to crack open my sternum to repair my internal injuries from all of the wounds to my chest area. I have a continuous scar running from my neck and down my chest to the bottom of my sternum. I suffered nerve damage to one side of my body from when he stabbed me in the back of the neck, causing my left side to have permanent nerve damage. I had surgery to repair the drooping of my eyelid, there is no surgery to repair the nerve damage. I woke up scarred forever. Looking at my face for the first time was something I will never forget. I was horrified. I had stitches and staples in my face, front of my neck, back of my neck, chest, abdomen, hand, my left arm was flail and my left eye was drooping... I was physically and mentally broken."
For Donna it was the beginning of a very long road. She comments, "I was now living with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, living in fear every moment. In addition, the person that did this to me was still out there somewhere. I knew he could come back and finish me off. My car was found and taken into evidence, my home was a crime scene that I would never return to live in."
Donna continues, "My daughter Kiersten had come home that night to a crime scene, she was totally traumatized and because at that point everyone was a suspect, she was too. The police could not give her any information other than the fact that I was attacked and on my way to a 'hospital.' They couldn't tell her which hospital or my condition. Imagine what she went through not knowing if I were alive or dead, where I was or how to get to me. My daughter also suffers from PTSD and severe anxiety as a result of the violent attack on me."
Donna's daughter Kiersten comments, "Not a day goes by after almost 6 years that I don’t think about the violent attack. It could be the smallest thing like getting a paper cut and just seeing the blood, or pulling out a knife to cut up my food or open a package. It’s come to the point where i can’t go into unfamiliar stores by myself. When i’m having a bad day I have terrible anxiety attacks that render me helpless. I hyperventilate so bad that I have fainted on multiple occasions. I’ve had to leave work because of my anxiety and have actually needed to be driven home because I was too scared to drive. Sometimes I can’t get out of bed, my body simply will not allow me to get up, so I just lay in bed and cry and I won’t/can’t leave my house because I’m terrified that if I drive I’ll pass out and crash so I sit home and cry. At night I have to take melatonin to sleep, and sometimes it takes hours for me to even fall asleep..."
Eventually Donna's attacker was caught. He was only 16 at the time of the crime, and living in Colts Neck, with his parents, not far from Donna's home. He had a fight with his father that night, grabbed a 10 inch knife from their kitchen cutlery set, and was waving it around. His father threw him out of their home and locked him out as he set out on foot..making his way to a random house; Donna's house. Months later he eventually was turned in by extended family members, brought to trial, and is in prison serving at minimum 85 percent of a 15 year plea deal. This article is not about him. (There are many articles from that time that can be searched online for details on the attacker). This is Donna's story. Donna also won a civil trial against her attacker and his father for hiding the whereabouts of his son. Donna has never been paid one dime of what the judge awarded her in the civil suit from the father. Money that he was ordered to pay. Her attacker will have a chance to begin paying upon his release.
Donna comments on the civil suit, "It's not about the money, it's about accountability. It felt so good when the judge validated my feelings that I had been violated. You can't put a price on physical and mental scarring. My prescription for time off after the attack was for three months for the physical wounds to heal. What I would like to have is to be rewarded the opportunity to step back and take a mental break with the award that my civil suit could afford me. Since the attack the psychological healing has to happen when I can fit it in. Collecting on the civil award would afford the opportunity to take the time and explore different treatment modalities. It would create the opportunity to focus on healing both my daughter and myself, to rebuild my life, my comfort and my safety. That financial burden falls on me, for the rest of my life. "
In her nonprofit Survivors of Violent Crimes, Donna's contact information is given to victims of random violent crimes to call on her to help them on their journey of healing. Part of Donna's mission is also to raise awareness of PTSD.
Donna comments, "Living with PTSD everyday is extremely difficult. Every morning I wake up in fear, full of anxiety. I don't sleep well. My anxiety skyrockets at night. I sleep with a light on, always. Waking in the morning starts a process of calming my nerves, I physically tremble, I need to regulate my breathing, I have to talk myself into the day and focus on getting from my home to my office. It's a constant struggle to confirm that I am safe. It's exhausting. It effects every part of my life. Fortunately for me, my employer has been over and above supportive, making allowances along the way. Having my job to go back to and move forward in was so important. It kept me moving, motivated, and gave me a sense of purpose in the midst of horror and chaos. I am eternally grateful to them. For my speaking engagements it takes every ounce of my strength to get there and to make it happen but I know it's something I have to do to help others."
Donna continues, "I am very fearful of people that I do not know, doors and the dark. I am extremely fearful of anyone coming to my front door and I have to have notice from anyone that they are going to visit. I am absolutely terrified of certain situations, dark rooms, everyone to me is a possible threat. I see my physical scars every time I look in the mirror but I live every moment of everyday with my mental wounds, the invisible pain of PTSD is overwhelming and it is nearly six years later and I feel I have not had the time to try to give my mind the time to heal."
Donna adds, "The Parkland survivor who tragically died by suicide last month was also dealing with post traumatic stress syndrome. We have to look for the symptoms for someone that has gone through trauma and realize that the face of PTSD can look like me, gets up everyday, makes themselves look presentable, gets to work... there needs to be help, more awareness of what to look for. I am relieved that people are talking about PTSD with the Parkland suicide and I feel that people look at me and think oh she’s fine look at her she’s doing great, she smiled.... I'm not great. There is not a day, or even a minute that goes by that is not a struggle in dealing with my PTSD it sucks you into the darkest deepest black hole that you can be in and I believe the girl in Parkland was in that dark place and I have been there."
TAPinto spoke with Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Dr. Christine Moutier, MD, asking her for input about PTSD. Dr. Moutier comments;
"The internal experience of mental health conditions like PTSD is actually so profound it's hard to put into words to help people understand. Just like physical pain can be intense but only the person experiencing it knows what it's like, the same goes for symptoms that stem from changes in the brain. And just like physical pain changes over time and affects the person in different ways, the same goes for mental health symptoms. When we experience something traumatic, our physiology in our brain and body is affected. For some people that develops into a full blown syndrome (PTSD) which takes on a life of its own, floods the body with stress hormones like cortisol on an ongoing chronic basis, causes the person to be on hyperalert for any potential threat, even when they are in a safe place. Sleep, mood, thinking, perception and processing can all be intensely affected. One reason it can be hard to see all of this going on in a loved one or colleague is that our culture hasn't taught us a way to express these experiences. So we grow up being socialized to 'chin up' and 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. There are times when that's terrific to work through challenges on your own; but there are other times when it becomes literally life threatening. So we just have to know which strategies to use for these various situations related to stress and particularly trauma. We need to teach our kids there is a time for toughing out challenges and a time to get support. And it's ALWAYS good to talk things through- this way we can stay connected, learn the best strategies that work for us, and help ensure that the strife and conflicts of life get processed in the most healthy way."
Donna comments, "Don’t be afraid of the stigma of PTSD. It’s ok to fear PTSD but not the person that has it. That’s part of the problem because when you have PTSD you feel like no one can understand you because you are different from everyone else. Everyone expects you to move on and be your old self again and that’s impossible without the therapy and the time you need to take to go through the healing process."
Donna, when speaking during normal conversation, often seems sad. However, when she talks about the first responders on the scene of the attack, Officer Tom Ward for instance, her face lights up. When she speaks about her victim advocate assigned to her since the attack; Nancy Frankie, her face lights up. Donna credits a large part of her ability to function to Nancy Frankie, Director, Victim Witness Unit Monmouth County Prosecuter's Office.
Donna comments, "Nancy Frankie has helped me so much since she was assigned to my case. I would have never made it this far without Nancy. She is someone who I feel has helped me more than anyone in my journey to heal and to help others."
Donna as part of her mission to help others now assists Nancy in presentations to cadet classes, speaking about the victim's perspective and how important first responders are as Donna comments, "I believe Tom Ward and the other officers and first aid responders saved my life along with the surgeons of course. The way Tom cradled my head and the first aid that was administered by everyone kept me alive until the doctors could take over. Speaking to the cadets and telling my story in detail gives them insight from the victims perspective, lets them know the vital role they will play in saving lives."
Donna does not only speak to cadets in Monmouth County. Donna visits state prisons speaking to groups of inmates showing them and explaining to them from the victim's perspective the destruction caused by senseless violent crimes. Donna comments, "I've watched grown men, hardened criminals brought to tears after hearing my victim impact statement and seeing the pictures of my wounds. I know my talks are changing their pattern of thinking." Donna also speaks to criminal justice classes at colleges, explaining the victim's perspective and the vital role criminal justice serves.
TAPinto interviewed Nancy Frankie, Director, Victim Witness Unit Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office to discuss Donna and her public service work with Frankie... Following the interview, Nancy Frankie emailed these comments about Donna:
"I have been working with Donna from the beginning of this terrible crime, and over the years I’ve had the opportunity to watch her work through her process and evolve from this experience. Donna has been sharing her story with police recruits for years; with each presentation, she is able to initiate a tremendous impact. She expands their compassion, which in turn changes their life, and influences how they will treat future victims in their career.
You mentioned that Donna has a light within her, which you say is special. There is a story of Kintsugi, it is a Japanese art form which repairs broken ceramics with a special lacquer, usually mixed with gold. The philosophy behind the technique is to recognize the history of the object and to visibly incorporate the repair into the new piece instead of disguising it. The process usually results in a piece that is more beautiful for being broken. When we view our lives sometimes as broken or shattered, we begin to understand that no matter the trauma, we must look at the beauty, the light that shines through due to the experience. An understanding begins to develop within the soul as one heals, and the cracks defining the event should not be disguised; they should be visible. It presents us with a deeper sense of meaning and compassion for life which makes each of us more beautiful.
Much like the Japanese art form, Donna fills in the cracks with her strength and courage, allowing her beauty to shine through. She has been able to transform a terrible event in her life as an opportunity to motivate and inspire other victims of violent crime; in doing so, she has touched many lives along the way. Donna is a tremendous support system in a victimization that is so rare, unusual and traumatic; where often times the victims feel lost, alone and misunderstood. With each person she touches; a new light begins to shine.
Donna's light shines brightly for so many lives as she pushes through her own personal journey of pain to exend a hand to others suffering the emotional and physical scarring of violent crime.
Donna comments, "After I was attacked I soon realized that there were great support groups with many resources available for victims of domestic violence and many other catagories but there was no organization in place to help victims of random acts of violence. I left the hospital displaced from my home, paying car payments on a car that was impounded as evidence and I lived in constant intense fear. I was fortunate enough to have an employer who kept me employed, and when I could physically go back to work my job was waiting for me, but not everyone has that situation. I was physically and mentally devastated."
When a criminal is sentenced they are hit with a fine and that money goes into a Victims of Crime Compensation Organization which covers any crime related injuries, repair, relocation, doctor's co-pays, prescriptions, but the victim is capped at $25,000. Donna's surgeries were covered mainly under her employer's insurance but the repair of her eye was a battle to have covered because it was considered plastic surgery. Eventually with the doctor lowering the price and finally the VCCO agreeing it was necesary surgery, the VCCO paid for it. Donna comments, "Innocent victims should not have to struggle to pay for treatments." Currently Donna is near her cap with the VCCO and comments, "I need ongoing therapies for my PTSD and soon my VCCO contribution will be maxed out. There are no benefits to cover my treatments and that is not the way it should be."
Raising awareness of PTSD is something that Donna is very passionate about. It's a big part of her mission for Survivors of Violent Crimes. Donna comments, "I decided to form Survivors of Violent Crimes, to be a resource offered to anyone who finds themselves in a situation like mine. See me, I look like everything is fine right? This is what PTSD looks like. This is the invisible condition that needs intense therapies. We need to talk about it, start the conversation. I want every victim of a violent crime to understand and feel the following: YOU MATTER, you have a voice, you are not alone and your story can help others."
In Monmouth County when someone is a victim of a violent crime, the victim advocate assigned can provide the victim with Donna's Survivors of Violent Crimes information and her phone number to contact. When Donna gets a call from a victim she goes as quickly as she can to be there for that person. Donna Ongsiako has risen out of the darkness, providing a light to so many.
All photos, video, victim impact statement below etc. were all used with concent by Donna Ongsiako.
Publisher's note: I had the great privilege of getting to know Donna through the many interviews for this article. Donna's courage, her resilience and her passion to help others is so inspiring. Donna is already helping others through her foundation; Survivors of Violent Crimes, as well as her work with Nancy Frankie and the cadets, and her prison and college visits...but I have no doubt that this is just the beginning of the many great ways that Donna is going to help others. I am so proud to call Donna my friend. Jeanne Wall
Donna Ongsiako's Final Victim Impact Sentence as read at the sentencing of her attacker:
All I did was open my door to let my cat in. I was startled to see the defendant on my front porch. I saw that he had a knife and he was cutting into the screen in my window. Seeing the knife, that startled feeling turned to immediate fear. He could have left at that moment, he could have run away, but he didn’t.
As I tried to shut the door, he charged at it and stuck the knife thru the opening before I could shut it all the way. The knife cut the tip of my finger and I pulled my hand off of the door. He got in. He was in my house standing in front of me with a knife, staring straight at me. He could have just held me at knife point, taken my car keys and left, again, another opportunity for him to leave, but he didn’t.
He started slashing me. He slashed my face, my right cheek, I couldn’t believe it, I could not understand why he was doing it. The fear I was feeling turned to horror. Everything was happening so fast but at the same time it felt like I was moving in slow motion. He could have stopped there, another opportunity to leave, but he didn’t. He slashed my left neck, not once, not twice, but three times. In between the slashing, he plunged the knife into my chest and pulled it out. I was still standing face to face with him at this point.
Blood was pouring out of me rapidly and I did my best to keep pressure on my neck and chest while backing away from him. I was terrified and confused, I could not process what was happening. I felt like my legs were going to give out so I backed up hoping to brace myself against a wall. While I was backing up, he walked at me, holding the knife so that it was extended out and pointing at me. I tried to get the knife away from him, I tried to grab it with my left hand while still holding pressure on my neck with my right hand but, grabbing the knife blade just cut my hand open.
I made it to the doorway of my bathroom, with my back against the frame of the doorway only for my legs to give out. I slid down to the floor. He watched me struggle to stay upright, he watched me sink to the floor, all the while, still in front of me. I was covered in blood. I laid on the floor trying not to pass out, trying to keep pressure on my neck and chest. He could have taken my car keys at the point and left, another opportunity for him to leave, but he didn’t. He came at me again while I was on the floor, this time jabbing at me with his knife. I wriggled around trying to avoid the jabs but I was on the floor, there was no where for me to go. He caught my face again, this time the opposite side and down my jawline. He jabbed at my abdomen, and then when I turned my head he plunged the knife into the back of my neck.
While all of this was happening, I was overwhelmed with horror, I could taste, smell, and hear the blood that was pouring out of me. It was an absolute nightmare. He walked away. He walked over to my kitchen table. I laid there completely terrorized and in total shock. I was bleeding to death. He could have left again, another opportunity for him to stop what he was doing and leave, but he didn’t. He spoke to me. He asked me for my car keys and if I had a lighter. I spoke to him. I told him that I can’t die like this, I have a daughter and she still needs me. I told him that my car keys were in my purse and my purse was on the table, and that there was a lighter there too.
He found my car keys. He could have left, again, but he didn’t. He walked back to where I was laying on the floor, he stepped over me, declared me dead, and plunged the knife into my chest one last time, pulled it out, turned around and walked out of the front door. He left. But he was still outside. My mind was racing. The front door was wide open, I wanted to shut it and lock it but I was afraid that he would hear me. I was so afraid that my daughter would come home and find me there, dead, find a blood bath, how awful that would be for her. I waited to hear the car start, the car backing out over the gravel driveway but it was silent. I didn't know how long I had before I would lose consciousness. I thought, where is he and why isn't he leaving? I couldn’t wait.
I got up, made it up the stairs to my bedroom where my cell phone was. I looked out of my bedroom window which overlooked the driveway and he didn’t leave, he was still there, in the car. I felt complete terror that it wasn’t over, he could come back in at any moment. I took my phone off of the charger, I had trouble using the touchscreen because my hands were wet with blood, but I got thru to 911. I didn’t think I would survive to see help arrive. My goal was to speak clearly and calmly so they knew who I was and where to find my body.
I took you moment by moment thru my attack because it’s important to me that you understand the pure evil in his actions. He had so many opportunities to walk away but he didn’t.
He left me for dead. I survived my injuries because of the 911 operator, the police, the paramedics, and the ER surgical team.
PHYSICAL INJURIES AND SURGERIES
Because of the injuries inflicted upon me, I underwent emergency surgery. The doctors had to perform a median sternotomy and left neck exploration to repair the damage caused by the 3 slashes to my neck and 2 holes in my chest. By the Grace of God, the knife missed my heart but nicked my lung causing it to eventually collapse. I was placed in a medically induced coma, on a ventilator due to respiratory failure and suffered massive blood loss.
This is what I went thru in the immediate hours following the attack.
The surgeons pulled in the 3 horizontal slashes on my neck, into one and tied it into the vertical sternotomy incision. (I have a photograph). I have a continuous scar from my neck to the bottom of my sternum. In all, externally, I had 37 stitches on my face and neck, 38 staples in my chest, 7 stitches in my hand. Internally, my sternum is wired shut.
The stab to the back of my neck damaged my brachial plexus causing permanent nerve damage to my left arm. I have the sensation of “pins and needles” running the length of my arm and my thumb and forefinger are numb. The damage to my brachial plexus also caused Horners Syndrome, as a result I was left with a drooped eyelid. I’ve since undergone surgery to repair my eyelid.
The impression that the attack has made on my emotional state and well-being has been enormous, and now over 2 years later I am still trapped and terrorized by it.
• I suffer from PTSD. It’s been a rough road, an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve been completely debilitated by anxiety and panic attacks. I have beennumb and detached from everyone and everything and I’m consumed by sadness, horror, fear and disbelief. I struggle every day. I’ve lost my excitement for life and I don’t know who I am anymore. I have been unable to resume my “pre-attack” life.
• I remain unable to sleep at night and haven’t had a normal nights sleep in over 2 years. I’m exhausted all of the time.
• I can’t be alone at night. I lost my independence. I’m now living with family until I can manage my fear of being alone, fear of the night and fear of the dark.
• My scars are a constant reminder. Every time I look in the mirror I flashback to the night of the attack. I can’t escape it.
• I was out of work for 3 months. When I returned to work, it was only for a day here and there and only for a few hours, if I could manage that. I did that for months, then moved to 2-3 days a week and a few hours a day, then a few more months, 3-4-5 days randomly for a few hours a day. I’m still not back to my full work schedule. Pre-attack I was one of the first people in the office in the morning and one of the last to leave at night.
Some specific things that weigh heavily on me and have a tremendous impact on my fears stemming from the attack:
• I was in my home. If I’m not safe in my home, where am I safe?
• The blood, the amount of blood.
• The weapon, the knife.
• July to October, before he was caught and arrested, the 4 months of not knowing who he was, where he was and the fear that he could find me and come back to kill me for being able to identify him.
• The phone call in the middle of the night that he was released on bail and no longer in custody, it propelled me back into a state of fear, that he could find me and kill me.
• The time that he was out on bail. 16 months of knowing that he was out there somewhere, free. I could cross paths with him at any time.
That is only some of it, only some of the emotional trauma that you can’t see by looking at me. I can leave my own private hell and tell you about what my daughter experienced, coming home to find the police processing our home, to learn of the viscous attack and see her mother’s blood pooled on the floor and trailed about, what it was like for her to not know if I was going to live or die, where I was or how to get to me, the horror and devastation that hit her like a ton of bricks in just the blink of an eye.
My life has been changed forever. This is not something that I will ever “get over”.
I ask that considering the violent nature of his actions, that he receive the maximum plea deal sentence of 15 years.