Linda Ripa


I was driving around Northeast Philadelphia running errands. While waiting to turn at a traffic light and seven months pregnant with Sergio-Giuseppe, I was rammed head-on and spun into a minivan.

When the terrifying moment was over, in addition to dozens of crushed and broken bones, my pelvis was broken in such a way that it bore onto unborn Sergio-Giuseppe and caused him to go into a coma.

The next several weeks were fraught with fear and pain. I refused to take anesthetics when I had leg surgery three days after the accident out of fear that the drugs would harm the unborn baby. After the operations, I rejected pain medication for the same reason.

Finally, after four weeks in a coma, Sergio-Giuseppe responded to stimuli, and on Sept. 8, 1999, he was born about seven weeks premature.

For the next  three years, I endured seven operations putting off more until after the 2002 national tour for ''The Ladybug Blues'' (the disguised blessing born along with her beautiful son) is finished this summer.

I don't suspect I will be without pain the rest of my life, but when I look at my son, I know I won't give up.''

Sergio-Giuseppe suffered with breathing problems from the trauma, but is otherwise normal. But for nearly a year after the accident, I was bedridden and could hold my son only when someone brought him to me. It was the worst thing you could imagine.  As much as I hurt from all the broken bones and operations, the worst thing was not really being able to hold my son for very long. Any mother would tell you that.

Someone gave me colored pencils, remembering my interest in drawing when I was younger. For a while, I dared not to touch them, but then decided that it would be uplifting to remember something fun from my youth.

My nickname as a little kid was Ladybug, so I drew some. My little nephew, Mikey would come in to visit and I would hold the papers up with my arms and draw for him. And I would tell stories to him and my son.

One of those stories was about a sad ladybug who could not find her niche and wanted to find someone like her. She followed home nearly everyone in her neighborhood -- mosquitoes and fireflies and locusts and butterflies. They were all willing to talk with her, but they all pointed out their differences. Finally, the ladybug finds her family, shedding her blues and finding happiness: ''There was a little ladybug resting on a tree. She gazed at her surroundings. Is there no one else like me?''

While my book does teach tolerance of those who are different, I just wanted to tell good stories that children would like.The boys seemed to love it, so I grabbed a napkin and quickly wrote it down.

At the time, I didn't think it was anything more than a story to tell my son.  I wrote and drew a few more. My father, sister and mother said: "These are great. You should publish these.'Within days I found a publisher, Dorrance Press.  (Cont'd at Right...)
 I wrote and drew a few more. My father, sister and mother said: "These are great. You should publish these.'Within days I found a publisher, Dorrance Press.

While I was ecstatic that ''The Ladybug Blues'' is in print, I was far from satisfied about what has happened in the aftermath of her accident. The driver, who was drunk, was sentenced to 6 to 24 months in jail and he and his friends and family used abusive language to her when she showed up in a wheelchair during the trial. They called me the names you might imagine, as if it was my fault, and showed no remorse. 

On the other hand, people at the accident scene were amazing. People stayed there with me until the ambulance came. One man kept wiping blood from my face. Another person held my neck up. Many asked what they could do. I don't know who they were, but it did keep my faith in humankind.

I hope my experience will be inspirational, showing that tragedies like my accident need not cripple an entire life. Though it is unlikely that I will ever again be a model -- my walking is stiff at best and doctors say I will probably often need a cane for longer walks -- I was happy to find writing as a paying outlet that requires little mobility.

It is so rewarding to go to a reading and have all these little faces light up when you read them a story. You just have to adjust what you do. I can't say I love having been in this accident, but slowing down isn't so bad, either.

Since the accident both my sister and I have become active in Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).  

Though I had a career in modeling, what I had always wanted from when I was a girl was to be a mommy.  Thankfully I had the help of my parents, especially when my son wondered why I couldn't pick him up all the time. At least I could enjoy watching him grow up and that he has.

Sometimes you just have to make tragedy work for you.

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