Rise and Shine: The extraordinary storyof one man's journey from near death to full recovery
By Simon Lewis
Santa Monica Press, £17.99
'You never get to make the two decisions of real importance in your life: how you arrive and when you leave."
So reflects Simon Lewis, in Rise and Shine, his searing story of survival. By all medical yardsticks, the broken-bodied, brain-damaged Lewis was beyond saving that night in March 1994 when his brand-new car was struck by a high-speed, hit-and-run driver.
A native Londoner and Cambridge graduate, Lewis was 35 at the time and prospering as a film maker in LA. He was blissfully married. Marcy, his wife of five months, died instantly in the crash, along with Lewis's well-founded hopes of a sweet and secure future.
His wife died instantly. He is still recovering, 16 years on
Rise and Shine is his testament to the rebuilding of mind, body and spirit, a recovery still in progress after 16 years, and bedevilled by repeated infections, false dawns, the quest for elusive, state-of-the-science specialists, and health payout rulings that seem part black comedy, part punitive Stasi torture.
An indomitable, latter-day Job, Lewis grips you from opening horror through 15 assorted operations (and that's discounting all the surgery he had in ER and ICU) to triumph as he finally walks freely again (thanks to a hi-tech Israeli foot-drop system) and regains his driving licence courtesy of prism spectacles to provide peripheral vision.
From the cosmic dreamscape of his month-long coma to the Yom Kippur when his heart lifts at his niece's Kol Nidrei solo, Lewis also makes an astonishing spiritual journey. His style is lyrical, life-affirming, graphic and remarkably unembittered: "went through very dark times, but ultimately I understood that even in the darkest times, the next day would come and the sun would shine".
His is a memorial to Marcy "to contemplate", as he sees it, "the beauty of consciousness, even in a world where the guilty go free (that hit-and-run motorist was never caught) and sleep soundly at night… to make something positive out of loss and for the future."