Tag Archives: halo vest

. scaling greater heights, a year after i broke my neck .

So, it has been exactly 1 year since I attempted a trampoline flip and broke my neck. How time flies … A year later, I have embarked on my 1st solo trip to Bali (which was an adventure itself), left the comfort zone of my first job and am starting at a new place, exhibited my handmade leather wallet at the Singapore Design Week, did my 1st ever couchsurf in Hong Kong and climbed to the top of the Macau Tower!¬†Just like most challenging things in life, it takes courage and determination to overcome fear and achieve a profound sense of pride and satisfaction!

Everyday … Do something that reminds you you’re still ALIVE! ūüôā¬†

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. finding strength in hard times .

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Now that I’m finally off the halo vest, I guess one can only imagine that life would be a lot sweeter and smooth-sailing for me. Physically,¬†my neck seems to be on the right track to recovery as the last CT scan revealed a good reduction of the cervical fracture. And yes, I’m truly ecstatic to be freed of the vest and regain some of my¬†sought-after freedom. Yet,¬†I am still trapped in a dark place – emotionally and mentally. The past 2 weeks have been a real roller-coaster ride of emotions, knocking me down and off course for many days. Days living with the Aspen neck collar is a lot better than my days in the halo but there are still many restrictions. I’m a true blood Sagittarius, which means I love my freedom and independence and it is even more stifling now that I’m technically more mobile but am still not able to do much.¬†My sense of self-esteem and confidence have plunged to an all-time down as I have to let go of the once adventurous lifestyle that I grew to love, continue living with this uncomfortable neck collar for the months to come and face up to the¬†2 depressed scars (pin sites) imprinted on my forehead every single day.

I know that the road to recovery is going to be one hell of a ride¬†but the reality is ¬†that it is so much tougher and harder than I ever thought it would be. I pride my strength and optimism for getting me through the hardest 6 months of my life but these days, my spirit and soul are falling apart. It’s getting challenging to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me, I know that time is of the essence and one has to be patient for everything to fall into place, eventually. However, to have patience¬†in a world where we crave for¬†instant gratification, is simply torturing. It doesn’t help that an idle mind is the devil’s playground … It creates endless opportunities for me to mull and dwell over negative thoughts. Really bad for the soul.¬†While I usually hate to wallow in self-pity, I find it increasingly easy to have regrets about my decision to attempt the flip on the trampoline. You know how it goes … had I not attempt it, this would not have happened and I would not be in this state.

But I have survived this traumatic experience. Other than the broken neck, I’m in a relatively good shape and health. My family loves me dearly and have been a pillar of strength for me throughout this journey. I was blessed with visits from relatives and friends every day when I was glued to my back on the hospital bed for 2 weeks. And, now that I cannot be too active for a period of time, it is the¬†chance to pick up new skills and hobbies (am already at it). At the end of the day, everyone has to deal with their own fair share of hardships in life; but the difference is that each of us have a choice to make. Either to sit in that very dark corner and waste energy dwelling on the past, or to view the experience as an enlightening opportunity to re-discover life. As tough as I might be, I’m no robot and am only human. I’ll mourn over my loss of many things but I’ll also get right back up, press on and slowly rebuild my life. The end is a new beginning.

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i love you

Now, there are so many people who I would like to thank for being there for me over the few months. Truth to be told, I never expected to receive such an overwhelming amount of¬†love and support from so many people¬†and it has truly been a humbling experience. Sometimes, I wonder to myself, what did I do to deserve such an out-pour of love from each and every one of you. When I was at the¬†lowest point in my life, it was you guys who gave me the encouragement and motivation to develop the strength and press forward. Thank you. ūüôā ¬†Pls bear with me as it is a pretty long list but I wouldn’t want to miss¬†out on anyone.

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Dad
, for dropping everything and keeping me accompanied throughout my 2 weeks stay in the hospital. You have no idea how much it means to me to have someone close by my side every time I open my eyes in the hospital. Closer to home, you are my inspiration – You have never once allowed your handicap to get the better of you. If anything, you have always live life to your fullest and taught us so much about living vicariously. Mum, for being my sole care-giver – It is the hardest job in the world! Thank you for bathing me, feeding me, listening to my rants and wails, giving me advice and encouragement, the list goes on. You have been there for me 100% and I honestly wouldn’t know what I would¬†have done, without you. You are my rock!¬†Grandma, for feeding me¬†with nourishing food that aided in my fast recovery. Ginette, I know that it sucks that your older sister had to get herself into trouble when you are back for a visit and you had to spend your vacation time in the hospital with me. Thank you for easing my anxieties whenever I had a mental breakdown.¬†Amanda, for holding the family together after Mum’s car accident and¬†sacrificing your personal time to care for me. And of course, for teaching me how to bake a loaf of bread! :p¬†

Aunty Jo, Ah Bo, Ah Bo Lina and Uncle Anthony, Aunty Alice, Aunty Angie, Aunty Cindy РWords cannot even begin to express my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for the tremendous amount of physical and emotional support that you have showered me with. While I must admit that some of us had been on relatively distant terms, this accident has, ironically, brought us closer together. I really appreciate that some of you (you know who you are) have opened yourselves up and shared with me stories of your own struggles and difficulties in life that had certainly served as an inspiration. Thank you.

MK – Things are no longer the same for us but thank you for being there when I needed someone the most. For accompanying me at the hospital every single night without fail, introducing me to many sitcoms that I have, now, come to love, challenging me at QuizUp and reassuring me that things will eventually fall into place whenever I have my multiple meltdowns.

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Sara – We might be living at the extreme ends of the world but this does not mean that I have received any less loving encouragement from you. Thank you for sending me so many inspirational verses from the Bible, songs and messages to keep me going when I’m¬†feeling the blues.¬†Together with Imogen, you girls gave me 1 of the sweetest gift that I could ever ask for when you got together your girlfriends from church to write me¬†a super motivational card. Pls help me to thank each and every one of the girls for reaching out to me even though we don’t know one another.

Claire Р Thank you for always entertaining my messages (the serious and nonsensical), even though you have your own set of concerns as a soon-to-be-mummy! You have no idea how much your messages help to keep my mind occupied and sane! :p

Soy and Shermin – I love you girls. I might¬†be terrible with dates but please know that it doesn’t mean I care for you any lesser. Thank you for¬†visiting me so many times, satisfying my craving for Korean cuisine and being playmates to both Frosty and Simba!

Christine – You are amazing, do you know that? Thank you for your weekly visits to my house, updating me with the latest office happenings, being my personal mailman to HR, and¬†keeping my spirit up when I’m down.

Chern Chieh –¬†It touches me that you have made the time and effort to visit me even though¬†work has kept you pretty hectic and busy.¬†Thank you for always¬†being such a supportive confidante and personal cheerleader!

Kristin – Thank you babe for rushing down to visit me on the day that I was hospitalized, and also for squeezing time between your hectic schedule to have dinner with me at my place. The lavender diffuser plant helps keep me calm at night!

Swiss – It’s funny how our friendship has evolved, from acquaintances¬†who barely knew each other to good friends who can talk about anything under the sun.¬†Thank you for visiting me at the hospital even though we were still strangers at that point of time; your actions have proven to me that there are people who come and never leave your side. Really appreciate your endless stream of gifts and messages that kept coming!

Eileen, Jia Zhen, Christine, Elisabeth, Loisa, Cherie, Jane, Jocelyn – Eil and JZ, thank you for being there for me when I broke my neck at the trampoline park and of course, for giving me the teddy bear that accompanied me through my hosp stay and the endless support through our special chat group. To the rest of the girls, thank you for springing a surprise visit on that faithful night when I was already tucked in bed, ready to call it a night and for all your prayers. Jane, for sending me the smiley face bouquet of flowers that certainly brought a smile to my face!

Wendy, Rachel, Eveline, Daphne, Maylyn, Linda, Shu Ling, Candy – Thank you for dropping by my place and being my guardians-cum-bodyguards at Wendy’s wedding reception!

Serene, Jingwei, Zhennan, Wai Mun, Victor – I’m so blessed to have you guys at my fellow MT friends! Thank you for your various visits to me at both the hospital and my place, and gifts of all sorts – From baby food to vitamin C to face masks to a colourful garden windmill. And how can I ever forget the afternoon of fun, food and games – Saboteur! Thank you for going the extra mile for me, guys!

Amanda, Jasmine, Shi Hui, Xin Yi –¬†Thank you for putting together one of the most lovely package – doggy toy, balloons, flowers, and cards! Your gifts definitely brightened up the otherwise dull hospital room, even the doctors and nurses were singing praises about it. Amanda, I cannot thank you enough for helping to cover the bulk of my workload in my absence and Jasmine, for being a listening ear whenever I needed to share something.

Jessy, Cheryl, Kenny, Junie, June, Janet, Wei Sing, Vince, Kailing – Your visit had certainly cheered up a girl who was utterly depressed over her bald spot the day prior to your visit. Thank you for convincing me that I shouldn’t go down the route of moping over my hair loss and that it was way better for you guys to come and entertain me ! And of course, for sharing part of my workload while I’m on leave.

Daniel, Say Inn, Aaron, Ka Chun, Jia Yan, Sharon, Wei Shi, Joseph¬†–¬†Thank you for taking the time out to visit me at the hospital and your follow-up messages to make sure that I’m doing fine!

Kenston – I cannot thank you enough for offering to cut and wash my hair over the 10 weeks that I was in a halo vest. I know that it was a nightmare for you to wash my hair in that device but you did it. Also, thank you for always counting down with me to the day of the halo vest removal! ūüôā

Wei Ping – Just a week prior to my accident, you advised me against from embarking on too many adventures. Well, I should have listened to you! :p Anyhow, thank you for making a special home visit to adjust my new pair of spectacles and also for the box of chicken essence and witty card!

Havas Worldwide and Havas Media – Thank you for sending over the baskets of flowers and fruits. It was truly a delightful surprise!

Phew. But I’m not done yet! There are still many others who have sent me countless of messages ¬†and words of encouragement via Whatsapp, FB and my blog¬†to spur me on.¬†It was through every one of you and your actions, thoughts and prayers that I was (and still am) able to find the strength to fight on in hard times. Thank you.

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. halo vest: life behind bars .

Got your attention, didn’t I? This particular post is written specially for those of you who might have chanced upon this blog by searching for terms such as “C2 neck fracture” or “halo vest”. My guess is that you might have found yourself in the same shoes as me – Currently nursing a c2 neck fracture¬†with a halo vest.

Hello There! ūüôā Since my accident, I had a couple of friends who prompted me to share my experience with others on my blog and it has been something on the back of my mind since. Reading other people’s experiences of coping with a neck fracture and living with a¬†halo vest had helped me tremendously to adjust to a new lifestyle so I would also like to do my part and pay it forward.

To get you started, here are a couple of other neck injury related entries:
(1) The Accident, (2) Being bedridden, (3) Thankful for the second chance at life

Life behind Bars

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Life in a halo vest is certainly no walk in the park. In fact, second to lying¬†on my back 24/7 for 10 days in the hospital, it’s the next hardest thing I have to deal with. For the first couple of days, I¬†unleashed a floodgate of tears as it was¬†difficult moving around with this 4kg metal contraption screwed into my head, let alone trying to adapt to a normal life. Not forgetting the¬†frequent backache, shoulder ache and neck pain.¬†

But trust me, life will get better after the initial weeks. I’ll be honest and real ¬†with you to say that you will need to make major adjustments to your life and be dependent on others, but it can only get better. ūüôā ¬†There are days that get incredibly hard but I always tell myself that I’m very lucky and blessed to have survived a broken neck and this halo vest is giving my neck the chance to heal by itself and hopefully regain most of its original mobility. So yes, despite the fact that living in a halo vest is a bitch most of the time, I’m thankful that it’s keeping me alive and I try make the most out of it.

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Is it even possible for you to sleep with this thing on your head?
Oh yes. In fact, as bone healing requires a lot of energy, I sleep more than I ever did before my injury. Make that 12-15 hours a day. But it is usually interrupted blocks of sleep as I tend to wake up at every 2-3 hours interval. Personally, I find it most comfortable sleeping 60 degrees upright, on my back, on a recliner. Put a small towel in between your neck and the bars for extra comfort.

Can you remove the vest to shower?
Unfortunately, no as you have to wear this halo vest 24/7. What I do is to wet a small towel with diluted soap and sponge bathe; My mum helps me to clean my back while I do the front. It is, however, not an issue to shower the lower part of the body.

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How about washing your hair?
Personally, this is a nightmare for my family and me as we have tried various methods to wash my hair but to no avail. On this note, I must say that I’m very lucky to have a stylist who’s willing to go the extra mile and wash my hair for me. Living in the tropics with high humidity means my hair gets oily and dirty very fast so I try to make do with twice weekly visits to the hair salon although slight dandruff still remains as a problem. ūüė¶

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How do you even fit into any of your clothes?
Well, I don’t. Honestly, I don’t even wear any top when I’m at home. For modesty sake, I’ll have a handkerchief covering my private bits at the front and another at the back but otherwise, I pretty much walk around “naked”. This is also the only time I can go bra-less with a valid reason lol. When I do head out, I’ll usually don a¬†large-sized boyfriend shirt over the vest. Or a boho dress for special occasions.

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I miss exercising!
Trust me, I do too. With yoga and aerial arts out of the picture (and for a long time to come),
¬†I felt like¬†I had lost a tiny part of my identity. As I had mentioned earlier, bone healing¬†takes up an incredible amount of energy and I get tired and sleepy pretty easily these days. All the hard work gone into working out my core and muscles seem to have gone to waste. ūüė¶ ¬†Welcome flabs! But I know how important sleep/rest is to aid in recovery so I’ll do whatever it takes for a¬†faster and complete recovery.

What else do you do to fill up your day?
Sleep! Honestly, I used to have such a hectic lifestyle that I hardly have the luxury to do nothing. I know it sounds so clich√©¬†but I do reflect a lot about life and try to take each day as it comes.¬†These days, I seek pleasure in catching up on many shows – From American sitcoms to drama crimes¬†to documentary shows – , reading, playing with my 3 lovable dogs and catching up on a backlog of blog entries.¬†It certainly helps that my relatives and friends ensure that I have some form of social interaction by visiting me at my place. ūüôā

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. turning into Frankenstein .

After what seemed like an eternal wait, the spinal specialist informed us that I would be treated with a halo traction with a 7 pounds weight for the first few days before being fitted with a halo vest. This halo vest would allow the broken bones in my neck to hopefully fuse back and heal by itself; However, depending on the recovery of my fracture, surgery could still be an option.

Although I was slightly sedated, the memory¬†of having the halo crown fitted into my head is definitely something that doesn’t escape me. For that 15 minutes, I could sense that all eyes were on me as I was given a dose of local anesthesia at the 4 pin sites (2 at my forehead, 2 at the back of my head) before the drilling started. Drilling, you might ask? Yes, the drilling and screwing of the 4 titanium pins into my skull to secure the halo¬†vest. The pain was tolerable but I must confess that it was even more bizarre to¬†be relatively wide awake and hear the sounds of the pins drilled¬†into my skull. A memory that will stick¬†with me for the rest of my life.¬†I’m now officially Frankenstein!

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Now, I have always been an active and very independent person so having to lie flat on my back 24/7 for 10 days was excruciatingly tough. The anxiety first kicked in on the first night when I suddenly experienced a series of panic attacks and pleaded for the medical team to give me anything that they could Рbe it sleeping pills or tranquilizer Рso that I can return to sleep as I felt utterly restless to be bedridden. I was that desperate. Fortunately, the situation improved with each passing day and by the end of the 10th day, I was pretty accustomed to lying flat on my back.

My days in the hospital were often spent staring at the ceiling (not that I have a choice, anyway), getting spoon-fed for all my meals,¬†looking forward to the daily X-ray where I get to¬†enjoy fleeting moments of air-conditioning since my room does not come with an air-con, and lots of feeble attempts to get a good sleep. Sleeping was a bitch. My back and shoulders ached terribly from the pressure of lying on the bed (hot muscle lotion was my best friend). I could feel the bulk of my muscles¬†craving for some sort of movement and exercise but to no avail; the part of the body that I ‘exercised’ the most were my fingers… Through the use of my mobile phone! Hahaha. A slave to modern technology.

Nonetheless, I knew the extent of my injuries and was determined to be a good girl by keeping as still as I possibly could. It was extremely tough. But being bedridden and having to depend on my family and the medical team for even the most basic thing – from being spoon-fed, to getting sponge baths and even getting cleaned after excretionreally made me appreciate my life and not take such basic necessity for granted.¬†My ‘hard work’ was rewarded when the doctor pushed forward my appointment to be fitted with the halo vest a day earlier, which also meant a day earlier for me to finally get to move around!

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After 10 days of anxiously waiting for the big day,¬†I was finally fitted with the halo vest but the journey was only half completed as I still needed the help of the physiotherapist to get me to start walking again. Yup, that’s what your muscles do when they haven’t been used even for a few days … They need “help” to remember their function again.

Here’s a picture of me having my very first meal on my own since my accident!
A task so simple, but one that I took so much pride in. ūüôā

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Everyone says that I’ve been such a trooper – for being so strong and positive despite having undergone some of the toughest months in my life that finally accumulated with this neck injury. Honestly, I didn’t think I have so much strength and optimism¬†within me to find my way out of the depths either but now, I do believe that adversity helps¬†build one’s character and I’m coming out of this bit of struggle¬†by becoming a better person.

Of course, I couldn’t have been so strong without the support given to me by these incredible people in my life. My family for being my pillar of strength during some of the darkest moments in my life; relatives, friends and colleagues for the daily hospital visits and showering me with gifts and nutritious food! ūüôā¬†I’ve truly been so humbled by all your support and love; Please know that I really appreciate each and every one of you.

‚ÄúAnd once the storm is over, you won‚Äôt remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won‚Äôt even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won‚Äôt be the same person who walked in. That‚Äôs what this storm‚Äôs all about.‚Ä̬†
‚Äē¬†Haruki Murakami

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Next phase. Living with a halo vest …

. all it took was a flip on the trampoline … .

… To land myself with a broken neck and an accident¬†that is¬†set to change my life forever.

The plan for 5th April? Attend a free aromatherapy-yoga class for an article that I was working on, followed by 2 consecutive hot yoga classes before meeting my girlfriends for an hour of fun at the trampoline park. Well, we all know that the plan worked out perfectly well until my quest for an excitement albeit (on hindsight) recklessness pushed me to attempt a forward flip on the trampoline. My first attempt went well and I was filled with confidence, so off I went for a second flip.

Unfortunately for me, the second flip didn’t end off quite as expected and before I knew it, I heard the following sounds …

CRACK. repeat multiple times.

For a split second, I lost consciousness but I could recall that the first thing I did, upon regaining consciousness, was to move my hands and legs as I was terrified that I had broken my neck and might be paralyzed. Phew! No loss of feelings and sensations in all my limbs. Immediately, I voiced my concerns to the crew at AMPED Trampoline Park @ YOHA that I might have possibly sustained a serious neck injury as the cracking sounds that I heard sounded pretty grave.

Frankly, what followed through was a series of “NOT TO DO” when suspecting a neck fracture. I was reassured multiple times by the AMPED crew that I didn’t break my neck and it was common for people (both the crew and participants) to, I quote, hear similar cracking sounds when they pull a muscle or ligament in their neck.¬†On hindsight, I should have known to always trust my body and instincts; However, at that point of time, being in a state of pain and confusion left me acting¬†against my better judgement.¬†I was convinced by the¬†crew that my injury was¬†nothing more serious than just a bad muscle strain.

On the assumption that it was a muscle strain, my friends had one of our yoga instructor to check out my injury and for the next 20 minutes, he pulled my neck up and down, giving it a massage. Unbeknownst to me at that time, the tiniest action could have damaged my spinal cord. After what felt like an eternity, I cried aloud to stop with the massage as the pain was starting to become excruciating. The decision was made to call for an ambulance. Finally. Nonetheless, it was a series of wrong moves as I stood up, gathered whatever strength I had left within me to walk down 2 flights of stairs before I was wheeled into the ambulance and rushed to the hospital.

And because I could still move and walk, my situation was deemed as non life-threatening and I was soon transferred to the outpatient clinic, where I waited for another 3 long hours before my X-ray was taken. It was only after the doctor had examined the X-ray results of my neck before we realised the gravity of the situation. The verdict? It was no simple muscle strain; I had fractured my neck and needed to undergo a CT scan to further investigate the extent of my injuries.

Almost immediately, the A&E doctor and his team had me rushed to the emergency department where I had my neck immobilized in a hard neck collar and head blocks. I was told that I had to be bedridden as the slightest movement could jeopardize my injury and sever my spinal cord. Oh my God! I broke into tears and started crying uncontrollably as a cloud of negativity overwhelmed me. Truth to be told, it terrified me to no end that there was a real possibility that I could end up being a paraplegic. Being scared is an understatement. The CT scans revealed that I had fractured my C1 and C2, the first two cervical vertebrae that control the movement of our head and houses the nerves to our respiratory system. And no visible signs of damage to the spinal cord. I must have said this a thousand times since my accident but I am truly thankful to be alive and fully mobile despite the series of wrong moves along the way.

I lay completely still in bed, with an Intravenous drip insertion and a urinary catheter inserted into my bladder (one of the most uncomfortable procedure), as I await for the Orthopedic specialist to arrive … and¬†what was¬†also the beginning of¬†the most traumatic experience of my life.

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The take-away from this entry? Always assume the worst when it comes to any neck injury and call for an ambulance immediately. 

. second chance at life after breaking my neck .

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Where do I even begin? 6 weeks have flown by since that fateful day that changed my life, forever. An accident that could have possibly left me either dead or paralyzed. To summarize it, I, being the usual adventurous me, took a leap of faith that¬†didn’t quite end up as expected, crashed and broke my neck

(C1 and C2 vertebra fracture to be exact). ¬†4 weeks since I have been trapped behind the metal bars and cage, aka halo vest.¬†Emotions still run raw and deep whenever I looked back at how close I was to fatality but there is a reason that I’m given a second chance at life. A reason that I am still alive and able to use all my limbs. It might sound morbid but it’s the truth that ¬†most people who suffer a broken neck usually don’t survive and those who do,¬†chances¬†are they usually suffer from a spinal cord injury which could potentially result in quadriplegia.

This resonated so well with me.¬†To know what might have been is a terrifying thought and up till this day, tears continue to roll down my cheeks whenever that thought crosses my mind. I give thanks every single day to know that I’m still alive and fully mobile. When you experience something so life-threatening, it’s inevitable that you start seeing life from a different perspective and I was no exception. You become even more appreciative ¬†and thankful of even the¬†most basic and simple things in life, e.g. taking a shower (more to come in my halo vest post), walking, eating, exercising, being able to live with 3 generations under the same roof, etc.

In theory, I believe that we all know that we should¬†live life to the fullest but too many of us are guilty of either complaining too much or making excuses for the stuff we want to do.¬†I must say that my zest for life, coupled with my thirst for adventure and adrenaline, have led me to live a¬†relatively fulfilling life thus far. Sure, there are its ups and downs and I’ve experienced my fair share of a roller coaster in life but for the bulk of it, I usually take my chances and have no regrets. Since my accident, it solidifies my belief that life is too fragile and short to live on ‘what ifs’ and waste it living on anyone else’s terms.

No point dwelling on the past or wallowing in self-pity about the situation. This accident, along with emotional distress that I had undergone in the months prior, actually showed me that I’m way stronger and more positive¬†that I ever thought I can be. Never once did I push the blame to anyone or bemoan at the situation and¬†allow myself to sink into depression or self-pity. I choose to believe that things happen for a reason and when the storm is (finally) over, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, all it takes is to have faith, lots of support (I’m so grateful every single day for my family, friends, relatives and colleagues who have showered me with so much love and emotional support through my recovery) and be patient. And I know that at the end of the day, I’ll be a stronger and more determined person¬†who is going to accomplish more things in my life that I will be proud of. ūüôā¬†

I promise I’ll get to the details of the accident and life with a halo vest soon but for now, I would like to end off this blog entry with one of my favourite quotes:

“Today is life – The only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep thrugh you. Live today with gusto.”PhotoGrid_1402630252665