During the second night Karen has an eerie experience.
She awakes in the early morning and sees her right forearm standing up and her hand
flapping back and forth. It´s as if she were waving, but it is cramped, and out of
control. She shuts her eyes and lies there helplessly. Later, her arm slumps back on the
Victor´s smashed jaw has been operated the previous day and he is still under anaesthesia
at the time. He regains consciousness in the morning and calls his wife: "How are
you?" "You know, Victor, ----" she replies. But she can only whimper after
"I could only say: "Victor, you know..." I was struggling to find a
word. What I wanted to say was "Victor, you know, I cannot speak!" But instead
of words I only found a gaping void in my brain..."
Karen´s speech has again gone - just as immediately
after the accident. Victor, still numbed by the anaesthetic, hangs up. Karen hears the
A nurse takes the receiver from her hand. The doctors anaesthetize her and inject a
contrast fluid in her carotid artery that supplies blood to her brain. They can see on the
X-ray that parts of the brain are cut off from blood circulation. The result: Karen´s
right side is paralysed - and she cannot speak anymore.
A few hours later a doctor calls Victor: "Your wife has suffered a stroke."
Victor wants to go to her at once but his doctors do not let him: "Remain in bed! You
are freshly operated!"
Early next morning Victor steals out of his bed and
sneaks across the hospital campus to her room. By sheer chance he meets a doctor in front
of her door. "Your wife?" he asks. As Victor nods he shows him the X-rays. The
right hemisphere is pale (because of the many functioning blood vessels), but Victor sees
a large, dark patch on the left hemisphere. "You see" says the doctor, "
dark as night. She´ll never get up again."
Karen Smetacek is 33 at the time. Just 3 months before the accident she had got her first
job: As a teacher in a high school in Neumünster not far from Kiel. Already as a child
she was crazy about language. At the age of 5 she wrote her first words in the sandbox, at
nine she wanted to be a translator. She studied languages at Kiel University, was trained
as a teacher in French and English and, on the side, took courses in Hindi, Victor´s