You need cutting edge women's health and baby information that’s safe and effective that you can act on right now. And you want it from the experts you trust most – Nurses. Health4Women.org is your essential source from the leading women’s health and newborn organization with the best advice possible for a healthy life, pregnancy and family.
Healthy Life /
Beautiful Mind /
Emotional Health /
Theresa Sareo Finds Strength in Music
By Kim Curtis
Theresa Sareo had been lying in a hospital bed for more than a month when a man who had lost his leg to cancer came to visit. Her friends, increasingly concerned about her depression, had arranged the visit.
In June 2002, Sareo, a New York City based singer-songwriter, was in midtown Manhattan on her way to deliver a press packet to her agent. A driver was heading north on Park Avenue when he made an illegal turn and was struck by a cab. His car hit Sareo, who smashed into a pole and severed her leg.
She doesn’t remember the accident, only waking up in the hospital with her mother telling her she was okay.
But she wasn’t okay. As the reality of her disability set in, Sareo plunged deeper into despair. She didn’t want to see Eddie McGee, who had driven to the city from Long Island. He waited in the hallway for an hour while Sareo’s friends persuaded her to let him visit.
“I was at my lowest,” she says. “But he was such a dynamic spirit, I was really overcome by him. He really gave me the will to live that day because I was connected with someone who really knew how I felt.
At the time of the crash, Sareo’s singing—she penned and performed pop songs with a country flair—supplemented by bartending, supported her financially.
“I loved the adventure of living my life,” she says. “To write songs…then go out in front of audiences. There’s something very gratifying about that…to create something and give it away like that.”
During her second week in the hospital, after being in a week-long medically induced coma, the non-existent leg caused her excruciating pain. Her right foot itched; she asked her brother to scratch it. Days later, when her surgeon told her the leg had been amputated, she believed life, as she knew it, was over.
She also suffered internal injuries, a torn bladder and a damaged colon, and stayed in the hospital for three months.
“You have to learn how to function as a one-legged human being. That’s when it hits you—how much you’ve lost and the permanency of it,” she says. “It keeps running you over like a bulldozer.”
For three weeks after her return home, Sareo’s prosthetic leg gathered dust in the corner of her apartment. Finally, because she wanted to perform again on stage, she decided to make it work. “When I first put the damn thing on…it was like trying to walk with a lawn chair attached to my body,” she says.
Sareo wears a tight, corset-like band around her waist that has a bucket at the hip where the prosthetic leg attaches. She uses a cane and walks with a limp. Aside from just being able to get up and walk around, Sareo says she misses jogging, dancing and wearing short skirts and 4-inch heels.
“You don’t get used to it, you learn how to cope with it,” she says.
But Sareo does more than cope. She believes all her life experiences led up to her accident, strengthening her and enabling her to cope with her loss. It also committed her to a life of service. She works with Iraq War veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She also conducts songwriting workshops for young women at the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases.
While her songwriting style or lyrics haven’t changed, Sareo says her voice has gotten bigger and more expressive. “I think I sing from a deeper place now,” she says. ”For the most part, I’m able to have a handle on my life. But some days the disability wins. You have to accept when those days come. That’s where the patience and humility comes in. Nothing lasts forever.”
About the Author: Kim Curtis is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.