Susan Segal is known to TV fans for her roles in 1990s sitcoms like Seinfeld, Murphy Brown, andCurb Your Enthusiasm. But one fine morning in Los Angeles, Susan appeared on all the networks in a real life-and-death drama.
She was driving her daughter to school when a dump truck – parked on a hilly side street – suddenly rolled into traffic on Hollywood Boulevard. A bus swerved to avoid the truck, then lost control and crossed the center divider. The bus struck Susan's car head-on, crushing her car and trapping her underneath the bus in a clump of twisted metal.
Miraculously, the Segal's daughter emerged with barely a scrape. But Susan's situation was dire. She'd broken C2 vertebra that nearly severed the arteries leading to her brain – the "hangman's injury" so named because death from hanging is usually from a broken neck (not strangulation). If it doesn't kill instantly, it typically – as in Christopher Reeve's case – causes full paralysis.
1. What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book?
During my wife Susan’s recovery from the accident, I began sending out regular email updates to our large circle of family and friends. Many people on the list wrote back to me, moved and inspired by our circumstances and the emails, and encouraged me to write about it. Because I have a worked a lot in film, many thought I would turn it into a screenplay, but I always felt that it should first be a book. I hope that by sharing our story, it can help others who are going through challenges of their own.
A tragic accident drastically alters the lives and responsibilities of a producer and film and TV writer and his family.
Segal’s life came to a screeching halt when his beloved wife, Susan, an actress, was hit by a city bus head-on in 2012. Curious readers may skip to the end of this smoothly written memoir to discover that Segal’s wife (and daughter Alyce) miraculously survived the accident. However, the true heart of this book is the long journey afterward, as the author diligently and eloquently documents his wife’s painful recovery and his efforts to hold the family unit together. In flashbacks, Segal writes lovingly of his storybook romance with Susan, whom he met through a friend in New York City, and of their brisk marriage and relocation to Los Angeles, where they both thrived on the Hollywood film and TV circuit. Two decades later, while the marriage began to show some wear and tear, the near-fatal tragedy seemed to reinforce priorities and the idea that true love could indeed conquer all. With honesty and conviction, the author meticulously recalls his first feelings after Susan was bedridden for two months with critical injuries, including a massive brain bleed, a broken neck, broken arms and feet, and a crushed pelvis. Segal also remained dedicated to updating friends on Facebook with detailed, often heart-wrenching posts. Susan’s journey toward wellness was arduous, replete with “ICU psychosis,” hallucinations, and confusion, but it was all tempered by the love of her husband and children and the shared hope that she would fully recover. Segal also details the aftermath of her ICU stay, the long road through rehab, and how the family gelled back together; photographs of Susan’s mangled car horrifyingly illustrate the deadly extent of the accident. Some sections meander and ramble a bit, but overall, Segal’s story reflects the intensity and desperation of an “all consuming” familial trauma.
Hope and love trump tragedy in this heartfelt, vigorous memoir.
Film and television writer Segal earnestly shares the story of how his family endured after his wife was nearly killed in a car crash. In October 2012, Susan, Segal’s actress wife of 20 years, was severely injured when her car was struck by a bus; she suffered brain damage, a shattered pelvis, and a broken neck. Susan emerged from the ICU struggling to walk and determined to recover but unable to remember the eight weeks she spent in the hospital, or the accident itself. Verbose at times but never dull, Segal reflects on his marriage, parenting, love, and loyalty while confronting this harrowing episode: “When it is happening and you’re right there in it, the only thing you can see is the hell,” Segal writes. This inspiring and heartwarming book underlines the importance of faith and love in the face of trauma. (Oct.)