On the morning of Friday, October 8, 2010 Emilie Louise Gossiaux was struck by an 18-wheel semi-truck while riding her bike in Brooklyn, NY. She was rushed to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan where trauma doctors performed emergency surgery to save her life. In addition to stroke, traumatic brain injury, and resuscitated cardiac arrest, she suffered multiple fractures in her head, pelvis, and left leg. She emerged from the ER in severely critical condition with a pessimistic assessment of her brain function. A “grim” prognosis was made of her chance for survival.
Born August 4, 1989 in New Orleans, LA, Emilie was diagnosed with moderate hearing loss at a young age due to an untreatable disorder. Her hearing deteriorated rapidly throughout her teens; a deficit that Emilie filled with a passion for visual art. She pursued her art education in high school at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and, after evacuating from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, FL. Emilie arrived at The Cooper Union School of Art in Manhattan, NY in 2007 for her undergraduate studies. Upon completion of her junior year in May 2010, she received cochlear implant surgery in her left ear to partially address her hearing impairment.
A month and a half after the Oct. 8 incident, Emilie's friends and family waited diligently at her bedside; she showed very few signs of mental functioning or response. Due to facial fractures, Emilie's mouth had been wired shut, a tracheostomy prevented her from speaking, and the integrity of her vision was in question. Finally in stable condition after multiple surgeries, doctors determined that Emilie was not cognitively ready for rehabilitative treatment, and should instead be transfered to a long-term nursing home facility. Although she was deaf and unable to communicate without assistive hearing devices, Emilie's boyfriend was still certain of her mental acuity and fought the hospital for her admission to rehab. By writing on her palm with his index-finger, he was able to communicate with her, proving her high-level cognitive function, and eventually coaxing her into allowing her hearing aid to be inserted. Once switched on, Emilie bounced back immediately, but not without recoil. Her memory and cognitive functioning were completely intact, but she awoke to discover that the trauma had left her blind.
Emilie was then admitted to the neurorehabilitation program at the Rusk Institute in Manhattan on Thanksgiving, where she remains today. Her outlook on recovery was set from day one. Simply happy to be living, Emilie approaches each day with positivity and thanks for the support from everyone around her. Despite her vision loss, Emilie is certain she will complete her final year at The Cooper Union, and is determined to help others by joining The Peace Corps as soon as she is able. She has many more surgeries and extensive physical therapy ahead of her. Please help Emilie begin her life again.
Emilie Louise Gossiaux is an artist, student, and survivor currently alive in New York, NY.