Mars Hill Church plans benefit to help Delridge bicyclist injured in accident
A benefit concert is being held Tuesday at Mars Hill Church's West Seattle campus to help Angela Sweet, who suffered traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for two weeks, following a bicycle accident in August.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Concert: "Benefit Concert: Angela Fuller for Angela Sweet," 7 p.m. Tuesday, Mars Hill Church — West Seattle campus, 7551 35th Ave. S.W., tickets $20 in advance, $25 at door, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/91359.
These days, Angela Sweet can walk about eight blocks with the help of a cane. She can lift her left arm, with its long forearm scar, to eye level and hold it there for a minute or so before it starts shaking.
For Sweet, who used to bicycle 22 miles to and from work each day and work out twice a day, those are facts that both frustrate her and for which she is profoundly grateful.
Four months ago, Sweet was in a bicycle accident that left her in a coma for two weeks. She suffered a traumatic brain injury, had more than 20 fractures and broken bones, her spleen was ruptured and her kidney lacerated.
It's an impressive recovery, and Angela and her husband, Josh Sweet, count themselves relatively lucky.
They have insurance, which paid the bulk of the medical bills. And they are surrounded by family and friends, and a church that has come through for them — including with a benefit concert Tuesday at Mars Hill Church's West Seattle campus.
"It's definitely going to be a long road," Josh said. "We're fortunate to have the support."
This much is known about what happened early the morning of Aug. 18: Angela, 27, an associate scientist at Amgen, was biking to work from her home in the South Delridge neighborhood, wearing her helmet and reflective vest and lights, her husband said.
Seattle police said officers and medics responded to reports of a bicyclist down on Delridge Way Southwest and Southwest Webster Street. The police report doesn't have much detail beyond that — including any findings about possible causes of the accident. The case is under investigation by the traffic-collision squad.
"Who knew," Angela says with a kind of wry humor, "that riding my bike to work could result in all this."
Josh Sweet, 31, who works in Boeing supply management, and Angela's mom rushed to her bedside at Harborview.
Josh, who researched the injuries, said in the early days, he was scaring himself, reading about the worst-case scenarios. Still, along with the scary stories there were "stories of miracles — and I was hoping my wife would be one of them."
On Sept. 1, Angela opened her eyes for 15 minutes. The next day, she was able to keep her eyes open for about 30.
Her relatives and friends rejoiced in her progress. Still, there were many scary moments, and some disorienting ones they can laugh at now.
For days, her face was blank, showing no emotion. When she started talking, her voice was quieter than normal. She called her husband by her brother's name. She didn't remember her wedding three years ago.
The first thing she said to her mom: "Hi mom. I want cake."
These days, when Angela gets frustrated, her husband shows her a calendar he and her mother kept, charting her daily progress.
She's reminded that when she woke from her coma, her whole left side was paralyzed. Now, she feels pins and needles on her left side constantly and goes through hours each week of physical, occupational and speech therapy. Her long-term memory still has holes, but is coming back.
Dr. Rod Oskouian, a neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center's Neuroscience Institute, who did not treat Angela Sweet, says about 2 million Americans a year suffer traumatic brain injuries — most of them relatively minor.
Only a small percentage have injuries severe enough to result in a coma.
And though such patients awake from comas "more than people think," Oskouian said, "it's certainly not a huge number."
The Sweets know they're fortunate. Beyond the recovery, they have insurance, which has paid about $400,000 so far.
But they've also had about $4,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses, and more will come in the new year.
The benefit Tuesday at Mars Hill, where the Sweets have been members for more than four years, came about when musician Angela Fuller — a childhood friend of Angela Sweet's, and currently principal second violin with the Dallas Symphony — heard about what had happened and wanted to help.
The Sweets are slowly getting back to enjoying what they did together before. They watch movies together.
She is starting to cook again. Angela has marked down Friday evenings as "date night," going out to eat when she has the energy. By next summer, they hope to again go for long strolls.
In the meantime, Josh said, they are grateful for their "miracle by the grace of God."
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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