Tue 7 Jul 2009
Linda Petersen, advertising manager of The West Marin Citizen, working from her bed in The Rafael — Assistance for Living, a convalescent hospital on North San Pedro Road in San Rafael.
I’ve been posting periodic updates on Linda Petersen’s condition following her horrific traffic accident in Inverness June 13. Linda suffered 10 broken ribs, a broken arm, a broken leg, a broken knee cap, two broken vertebrae, two broken ankles, and a punctured lung when she fell asleep at the wheel and hit a utility poll along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.
Since then, Linda has spent time in Marin General Hospital, Kaiser Medical Center in Oakland, and now The Rafael. She wears casts on both legs and on her left arm. Her head and neck are immobilized by a medical “halo” made of steel.
The halo won’t come off for at least four or five more weeks, and until then she is basically stuck. She spends a few minutes in a wheelchair each day, “but it’s not very comfortable,” she acknowledged Monday. “It puts a strain on my neck. This thing was probably invented during the Second World War and hasn’t been been updated since. It weighs a ton.”
Weighed down by the head gear, which is screwed into her skull, and able to move only her right arm, Linda has chosen to fight the tedium of spending a couple of months on her back by getting back to work.
Using her cell phone, she’s already working with about a dozen advertisers, she said, “and as soon as I’m online, there’ll be a lot more.” (Three days later following numerous calls to an ISP her laptop was finally connected to the Internet.)
How do merchants react when she calls them from her hospital bed? “They’re kind of surprised,” she replied. “‘Oh, Linda, how are you doing?’ they ask. ‘We’ve been worried about you. You sound so good.” Does their concern translate into ad sales? “It might give me a bit of an advantage,” she admitted with a laugh.
Linda has been receiving a steady stream of cards, emails, and phone calls from well wishers. People have brought her flowers, fruit, yogurt, ice cream, books, balm, and magazines. “I’m so touched by that,” she said. “The outpouring of encouragement has really helped me keep a good attitude.”
Linda’s much-beloved dog-about-town Sebastian died in the crash. Here the two of them paused while on a walk at White House Pool.
Speeding Linda’s recovery, her doctors say, is her being in good physical shape at 61 years old. Before her accident, Linda went to the West Marin Fitness gym almost daily. Until two months before the accident, she went horseback riding every week or two, and therein lies a story.
Linda lived in Puerto Rico for more than 20 years, and in March 2000, she was riding her own horse, a Paseo, when it was attacked by a much larger stallion. With the other horse trying to “throw itself” onto the back of Linda’s horse, she leapt off, only to have her horse fall and roll over her lower back.
Her injuries on that occasion consisted of a dozen broken bones, including a crushed pelvis, and numerous internal contusions. Despite major surgery and extensive hospitalization after the mishap, her hip was deteriorating by the time she moved to the Bay Area about five years ago, necessitating a hip replacement in 2006.
After recovering from that hospitalization, Linda resumed riding, accompanying friends on trails throughout Marin and Sonoma counties. Increasingly on her mind, however, was her recent hip surgery and the fact that our bones become more brittle and take longer to mend as we grow older. So two months before her automobile accident, “I decided I better not do anymore riding,” she noted, laughing at the irony.
And then the conversation turned to business. Shari-Faye Dell of The Citizen happened to also be visiting when I showed up at The Rafael, and Linda told her that ads for Osteria Stellina restaurant and Zuma gift store were ready for this week’s issue. “Check with Chris [Giacomini, the owner] at Toby’s,” she told Shari. “If he isn’t there, you can also talk with Oscar [Gamez, the feed barn’s manager].”
Later in the hallway I commented to Shari how remarkably Linda was handling a situation that would devastate many of us. “She’s one of those people whose glass is half full,” Shari responded with admiration.