On October 28, 2011, the electronic tailgate of Micaela Bensko’s car came down on her head and knocked her to the ground.
“I was rushing, not paying attention,” she remembers.
It was a temple injury. There was blood all over the driveway. Her daughter rushed her to the hospital, where Micaela was diagnosed with a concussion. The doctor put a staple in her scalp, and she returned to the life and work she loved.
But today, as a result of that freak mishap, Micaela is 90% disabled.
She gets around with a wheelchair or an electric scooter, unable to drive the offending car. Her left leg is paralyzed and her right leg is extremely weak. Her arms no longer obey her signals. She’s in constant pain. Recently, she wrote:
I awoke this morning as I do every day, testing the new limits of my limbs. As I had suspected, the decline has officially begun in my right leg. Now, when I try to pull up my right knee, it feel as though a bag of sand is tied to my calf. Which would be fine if I was in a bikini, drinking a Mojito. Because I wouldn’t want to move anyway.
At this point, you’re probably having the same reaction I did: “That could be me!” And then, “How?”
Not only linebackers get “stung”
Micaela sustained an injury that football players call a “stinger”:
Blood rushed from my scalp as the corner of the tailgate dug down into the bone . . . My head throbbed from being stung like a linebacker. The one that didn’t want to leave the game for fear of missing something important. Who didn’t want to admit he was hurt as bad as he was.
Eventually, Micaela’s surgeon diagnosed her with CRPS, or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It started with the concussion and a crack in her skull, and was probably exacerbated by two subsequent spinal surgeries.
There’s an irony to Micaela’s condition. Her mother founded Rebuilding America’s Warriors (RAW), a nonprofit that provides free reconstructive surgery to war veterans. Micaela serves as vice president and media relations director.
. . . I never thought the years of observing the power of the human condition through their challenges, would at the same time prepare me for the greatest challenge of my life.
Before her injury, Micaela traveled the world as a successful freelance photographer. She had to shut down her studio at the beginning of 2012.
You can see some of her poignant images at Tempered Steel, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting national awareness, education, and support for severely injured military members.
Enter Give Forward, crowdfunding at its best
Micaela has a fantastic support network, four gorgeous children, and a devoted spouse. Her husband works behind the scenes in “the industry,” as we say in L.A. But movie and TV work provides no guaranties. The Guilds may offer some insurance, but Micaela’s out-of-pocket costs have become astronomical.
So her friends launched a fundraiser for her, through Give Forward, “an online fundraising website and one of the easiest ways to raise money for a loved one in need.”
They’ve raised enough for Micaela to undergo ketamine treatment at UCLA, a process of infusions for four hours a day, five days a week, for two weeks. “The goal is to reset my nervous system,” Micaela writes. Her doctor is hopeful, but can’t confirm she’ll regain lost mobility.
On a day like any other, everything can change
Micaela Bensko is not your textbook late bloomer. She’s a 43-year-old woman who, until recently, had pretty much everything going for her.
But today she’s embracing her own challenging second act with creativity, courage, and humor (as the “Mojito” comment above shows). She chronicles this transition on her blog, Moana Vida. A random Twitter post led me to her story and, again, I’m grateful for the magic of social media.
Micaela has a luminous way with words and I look forward to reading the memoir she’s working on, despite setbacks. She maintains,
Life is most beautiful when it is raw. When strangers tend to your wounds, and guide you to blessings you never knew were possible. I have seen only the best of humanity since my life took its turn.
If you’d like to connect with Micaela and her work:
- Personal Blog: Moana Vida
- On Facebook and Twitter: @MoanaVida
- Rebuilding America’s Warriors: The family-run nonprofit founded by Micaela’s mother, Maggie Lockridge, R.N.
- Tempered Steel: Where Micaela volunteered her skills to photograph injured veterans.
- Post Image: George Stubbs, Red and White Water Spaniel (c. 1790) in honor of Micaela’s friend and helper.