With the one modern day technology allowed on the Island, our cell phones, we DID keep in touch with Pam’s husband and we were updated on her condition every hour on the hour, during the day, for that entire weekend. Pam’s illness turned out to be an aneurysm that caused two strokes. She lost most of her motor skills and some eyesight. It was a smaller aneurysm leaking first that led the doctors to find a larger aneurysm in time to repair it. A blessing in disguise, it could have been worse. With rehabilitation and two eye surgeries, she is on her way to recovery.
Before her illness Pam used to kiddingly say, "If I die on the Island just throw me down the dunes." Now she says she looks at it differently: "If it wasn’t for the U.S. Coast Guard, I probably would have died on the island. I’d rather not die!" And with her vivid imagination Pam describes the day she got sick as a visit from Ronnie Riker. She tells us that Ronnie must have seen her coming first that day. Not wanting to be seen, had he put a curse on her? Is that why she got so sick and had to be taken off the Island? That was his warning to her. Had she stayed, it could have been fatal.
Pam regretfully backed out and didn’t make the trip with us last year. She still had reservations about her health and worried she would not be strong enough to be able to do all of the things she would want to do once she got there. Even though Manitou represents a life-changing event for her, and Pam associates the island with her tragic circumstance, she still loves the Island and doesn’t blame it for what had happened. Like the passengers on the plane that landed in the Hudson may not want to fly again for a while, after one year Pam was still not ready to return to the place where she almost died.
Although Pam had some apprehensions about returning to Manitou, the islands have been a big help with her rehabilitation. They have given her the determination to get better so she can go back to the place she so enjoys. She wants to rekindle all of her prior survival instincts and her sense of adventure. She wants to show everyone (including herself) that she can still do things on her own, as she had been able to do in the past.
No matter what happens in people’s lives, they need to keep going. To have something to look forward to in the future, to be able to return to the quality of life they once knew, gives people the will to make themselves mentally and physically stronger. The islands were magical to Pam until the sickness struck her there. Getting well enough to go back to Manitou represents a hurdle for Pam, and once she conquers this hurdle, she will conquer her illness and all of life’s magic will re-appear. The date is set for this year’s trip to South Manitou. Pam is ready to go!
Katherine Spaulding wrote this essay as part of her studies at Northwestern Michigan College.