Send Me An Angel
First Published in Pink Magazine (October 2011) – PRIVATEEYE – Angie Bajada
Angie Bajada hit the headlines when a motorbike accident left her in a vegetative state last year. The 20-year-old was destined to a semi-conscious life in a home for the elderly, but thanks to her mother Anna’s determination, and her own fighting spirit, she recently left hospital. Anna’s next hope is that her daughter would one day be able to swallow the food she can teasingly smell and taste, rather than feeding directly through a hole in her belly. Alison Bezzina is impressed by the colossal pain and the mini triumphs in their lives.
I had planned to meet up with Angie’s mother Anna to find out about Angie’s progress, but just a few hours before the interview, Anna and her husband Leslie, cancelled the appointment.
Angie’s parents decided to drop everything to fly out to Manchester in order to purchase a specially designed van which had just become available. “Angie hasn’t been outdoors in over a year,” explained Anna over the phone, “we just have to go get this van, so that we can finally take her outside.”
The interview was postponed to a week later and when I met Anna and Leslie at their home in Ibragg, I was greeted by a huge black van in front of the Bajada’s house and, enthusiastic parents explaining how they’ve already taken Angie on her first ride in the van.
“We took her down the steps with this electric chair,” explained Anna pointing at the gorge of equipment hoarding their front yard, “and we kept her feeder hanging by the van’s window,” she adds nonchalantly, “but that’s ok, so long as Angie got some fresh air.”
Angie is in the yard reclined on her wheelchair and as I walk towards her I see a tall young lady with angelic features and beautiful skin. She seems to be sleeping and Anna tries to wake her up to greet me, but when she doesn’t react she explains that Angie is having one of her tired days. “Sometimes she wakes up and is so alert,” she explains almost apologetically, “on such days you can tell that she knows exactly what is going on, but then she gets days like today when she seems to be sleeping all the time.”
Angie’s two year old daughter who, at the time of the accident, was only 18 months old, stands bravely next to her mother’s electronic feeder and as I take tap her on the hand and introduce myself to her, she promptly replies ‘my name is Alison too,’ and then proceeds to showing me pictures of her mother before the accident. “That’s my mummy,” she tells me, pointing out Angie from the group of people in the photos.
With Ally bouncing on my lap and the rhythmic noise of the electronic feeder in the background, Anna, sits down to recount her daughter’s.
“Angie knows she’s home,” she starts with a painful smile, “but just in case she forgets, I sleep next to her every night, and every now and then, I wake up to remind her.”
‘Angie, you’re home,’ I shout out. ‘You’re not in hospital, you’re home, and you’re going to get better, and there will be no more pain Angie.’
“I feel that she can hear me and understand me,” she states convincingly, “and I want her to know that she’s going to get better and that there’s going to be more to life than what she’s been through in hospital.”
At this point Anna gets up and gets close to Angie’s face “and now Angie, we’ve got this van,” she tells her, “we can go out and have fun. We’ll enjoy the sun and the sea, and we can stay out all day.”
“Seven months before the accident, Angie and Ally’s father broke up” explains Anna. “They had been together for over three years and Angie took the break up very badly. She grabbed Ally and moved back here with us and spent months not wanting to go out except for work. I’d encourage her to go out with her friends but she rarely wanted to. She spent seven months here playing with her daughter and her younger sister Roberta.”
“Eventually she started going to the gym, dropped from a size twelve to a size eight, and was on her way to emotional recovery. She was still living entirely for her daughter, but she was making big strides in her career. She was also about to get her driving license and get promoted at work, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
“One day, Angie accepted an invitation to go out with a friend. It wasn’t supposed to be a late thing, and she assured us that she’d be back early. She almost changed her mind in the last minute and I was the one to push her to go out and have some fun.
Unfortunately, Angie and her friend met someone else during that night, and somehow Angie accepted what was supposed to be a five minute motorbike ride around the block. With Angie as pillion, the young driver took off for longer than promised, and at one point he lost control of the bike and they were both catapulted on to the road. Then came that dread knock on our door. It was three o’clock in the morning, and the news the police gave us changed our lives forever.”
“The driver was hurled onto Angie and whilst she was in danger of losing her life, he only suffered minor fractures. She had to undergo brain surgery to stop the bleeding which left her severely brain injured. She can breathe alone, hear and feel pain, but she cannot see, talk or move, except for small movements and sounds.”
“I’m still very sad of course,” explains Anna, “and I had to go to therapy to deal with this tragedy, but I’m also hopeful. I think of Angie as an angel, and since she’s always been a fighter she has gone beyond all medical expectations. At first they didn’t think she was going to make it at all, but she did. Then they told us that she will never be able to breathe by herself, but she now breathes unaided. They also said that we will never be able to bring her home, and they wanted us to send her to St. Vincent De Paul, but she is now home, with her family, and her daughter, where she belongs. They had also told us that she will never be able to sit up, but she can now spend up to four hours in her special wheelchair which was bought with the help of the National Commission persons with Disability, and The Community Chest Fund. She also makes some sounds to indicate yes and no and she reacts differently when Alison is next to her, so yes, she will definitely continue to get better and we will not give up on her.”
“At the moment, what gets to me most is that Angie still cannot swallow, so since the accident she has not eaten anything except through her feeder which injects food directly into her stomach through a hole in her belly. Like everything else, the feeder was donated to us by a kind organisation. It was brought over from overseas because the one that we were using in hospital used gravity to inject food into Angie and this was resulting in lung problems and causing her constant coughs. Thankfully ever since we got this new feeder which was recommended by her physiotherapist, things have improved dramatically.”
“During the time that Angie spent in hospital she was always running a fever, but ever since she’s been home, it’s gone away. I’m sure that it’s because she’s more relaxed and because she’s not afraid of more pain,” says Anna.
“All we wish for now is that we find a way of getting her to eat through her mouth. I love to cook, and Angie used to love my cooking, and we know that she can still smell and taste, so it kills me to know that she hasn’t tasted food since the accident. The doctors think that it is very unlikely that this will ever be possible, but as I said, Angie has already broken all medical expectations and I’m hopeful that she’ll get to this stage as well. There’s a clinic in Cyprus which specializes in these cases particularly in swallowing and eating problems, so our next aim is to take her there so that hopefully she will eat again.”
“None of this would have been possible had it not been for the dedication of her friends especially Gillian Balani who has taken the lead in helping us out. She even takes Ally out and does fun stuff with her. We’re so grateful for this because with having to take care of Angie we don’t get much free time on our hands to do fun things with Ally. The medical staff at Mater Dei and particularly a Pakistani doctor who truly believed that Angie could feel, were also essential in this whole saga. At one point this special doctor to whom we will be eternally grateful, went out of his way to instruct the nurses to treat Angie more humanely because even though there was no medical proof of his convictions, he knew that she could hear and feel. He told the nurses to inform Angie before they did anything to her, just like they would any normal patient.”
“One thing is for sure – we would never have made it this far had it not been for the generosity of so many people, the KNDP and The Community Chest Fund” she says. “I had to quit my job to take care of Angie, my other two children as well as Ally, and there’s no way that my husband’s teacher’s salary could be stretched far enough to cover all the expenses. Thankfully, we’ve had many people knocking on our doors offering us donations and support. At first we couldn’t understand where all these strangers where coming from, and we had no idea that people could be so generous, but it seems that when people heard our story on TV they felt compelled to help out and we were overwhelmed with their response. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Angie was always very generous and helpful. Maybe it happened because she always went out of her way to help others, almost forgetting herself in the process, so when she needed others they came through.”
“Angie’s friends also set up two websites and a Facebook Page which we update regularly to keep people in the loop with her progress. Over the months we raised a lot of money with which we bought all the special equipment we needed to bring Angie home – a special inflatable bed to avoid bed sores, an electric chair to go down the stairs, a special wheelchair from Germany, the electronic feeder, the van, and we also manage to pay for Nympha – a full time helper whom we brought over from the Philippines.”
Though optimistic and somewhat cheery, Anna looks at Ally sadly realising all over again that the child will never really know her mother. “She was so young when this happened,” she explains, “chances are that she will not remember how her mother was before the accident.”
As I play with the child’s hair and quite literally listen to Angie’s heart breaking, I find myself struggling to hold back tears, but right in the nick of time Ally turns around to remind me that we share the same name, so I pull myself together, share a chuckle with her, and go on to peel stickers and stick them randomly on her scrapbook.
Anna is smiling once again, and gets up to help Nympha get Angie into bed. “She’s been in her wheelchair for four hours,” she explains. “We need to get her to bed, please don’t forget to thank everyone that has helped us get through this,” she adds as she leaves the yard.
As I sit there alone with Ally on my lap, I wonder how such a tragedy affects a child this young, but before I can lose myself in sadness, Ally shakes her head at me and informs me that I just stuck a sticker the wrong way round. I promptly correct my mistake and let out another laugh. She’s happy and smiling again puts her finger on my mouth and says, ‘Shhh! Mummy is going to sleep now, we must keep quiet.’
For more information and to help Angie Bajada,
visit : Facebook page – Get Well Very Soon Angie Bajada or www.helpangiebajada.info