By Liana Jacob
MEET THE BRAVE woman who suffered a seizure while driving that sent her CAR CRASHING into a TREE resulting in her nose being pushed TWO-INCHES into her SKULL – and she claims to have had an out-of-body experience too.
In August 2018, former postal worker, Stefani Manzoni (27) from Pennsylvania, USA, was driving back from a long shift at work when she began feeling nauseous. She pulled up on the side of the highway and threw up. She began feeling delirious and confused about where she was and completely blacked out.
Her mum was on the phone on her Bluetooth at the time, who filled in the blanks for her. Stefani then started driving home again and even though her mum begged her to pull over, her irrational behaviour drove her to drive up the embankment, which triggered the airbag. Out of nowhere she did a 90 degree turn across the highway and crashed into a tree resulting in her face smashing into the steering wheel.
Allegedly, Stefani had an outer-body experience and was searching for her ‘dead body’, despite her body being stuck in the wrecked car. She began spitting up blood and envisioning a ‘guardian angel’ who sat her on the grass and kept rubbing her back, soothing her, telling her to keep breathing and to stay alive. She was taken in an ambulance where a nurse was trying to calm her down.
She ended up with two shattered orbital bones (eye sockets), a shattered nose, fractures in her skull, and a broken ulna (arm bone) in two places. It turns out she had suffered an unexplained seizure on her drive back home, despite the fact that she only had one once before.
“After a long shift at the postal service, I was driving home from work, which was an hour drive home, talking to my mum on my Bluetooth. I don’t remember anything after leaving the parking lot at work,” Stefani said.
“My mum told me that I kept complaining of feeling nauseous and sounding delirious. I remember pulling over to the side of the highway to throw up, where I unbuckled my seat belt, to just lean outside of the car.
“I remember looking at a puddle and thinking for some reason that I was back home where I grew up and felt very confused on why I was there.
“The rest is a complete black out. My mum, still on Bluetooth, told me I started driving home again and she begged me to pull over, but that I wasn’t understanding her and talking irrationally, at which point a few minutes later she heard static and the phone went dead.
“I had a seizure driving home from work that day which made me ride up the embankment, which made the airbag go off and then out of nowhere I did a ninety degree turn across the highway, hitting a tree.
“The airbag was already deflated when I hit the tree, so my face smashed into the steering wheel, which is why the damage was so bad to my face.
“The next thing I remember is running around the outside of my car in the woods looking at car parts scattered everywhere and searching for my body.
“I heard a man yelling at me to sit down and I couldn’t understand how he could see me because I knew I was dead.
“I started spitting up blood and feeling pain as he continued to yell at me to sit down and stop running and I told him I need help and I couldn’t feel my arm and that someone punched me in the face.
“Everything is such a blur and I was in and out of consciousness but remember a woman (who wasn’t listed on the witness sheet, so I believe her to be a guardian angel of sorts) who sat me down in the grass, she kept rubbing my back and telling me to breathe and that everything would be okay.”
When she arrived in the emergency room, hospital staff began cutting her out of her clothes and she started to panic as it dawned on her that she couldn’t move. With her wife, mum and dad by her side, she managed to remain calm. By this point, she had no idea about the damage to her face, until she looked at herself in a mirror and felt heart-broken.
Stefani was sent home for a few days and when she got back to the hospital, she was told she needed facial reconstruction surgery. Her doctor informed her that during the accident, her nose was pushed two inches into her skull, and they had to remove her whole face to pull it out. She was told that if her nose was pushed just a millimetre further into her skull, she would be dead.
“I barely remember the ambulance ride, but the nurse told me it would just be a couple black eyes, obviously trying to keep me calm,” she said.
“I started getting anxious because I remembered my mum, and that she was probably worried sick, scared that she heard the crash and that my wife needed to know what happened.
“I remember a bunch of people around me cutting my clothes off but got freaked out wondering why I couldn’t just take them off myself.
“I quickly realised I wasn’t moving much for a while. It was a huge blur in the ER, but I remember trying to make jokes and my wife standing right by my side and my dad giggling at my jokes. They both kept me sane.
“At this point, I still didn’t know the damage to my face and my family didn’t want me to see what I looked like yet.
“I was in the hospital for a few days, but I don’t remember much of anything except when I looked in the mirror for the first time, with the one eye only half opened; the feeling I had I don’t know how to even explain it except that I was heartbroken.
“They sent me home, so I was safer from infection and four days later I came back to the hospital for the facial reconstruction surgery.
“Terrified isn’t even the word because they told me my nose was pushed two inches into my skull and they had to take my whole face off to pull it out. They were supposed to put three plates in my nose to help me breathe and to fix the look of it.
“The surgery was worse than I ever could imagine; it was originally meant to be a four-hour surgery but took eleven hours.
“I woke up, blind from the swelling, hearing people around, yelling for help, but nobody came. I remember being so thirsty and wondering why nobody was helping me. My parents and wife finally were allowed back.”
She has since had the reconstruction surgery and a metal plate put into her broken arm and has more facial reconstruction surgeries to come.
She now says that her accident has helped her appreciate her life and the people in it and that her wife, Gia, who she married just two months before the car crash, has been her biggest supporter throughout her ordeal.
“The accident was and is a huge adjustment. I’m a very hard worker and always need to keep busy so having to sit rest and heal is very difficult for me,” she said.
“I’ve been suffering from extreme depression and anxiety seeing a different face in the mirror now. It doesn’t get any easier as time goes on. Hopefully in the future I will get more of ‘my face’ back after more surgeries.
“Between a new face that isn’t mine, the wondering ‘how could this have happened to me’, and the long healing process that feels never ending, it’s been very hard.
“I’ve been going through therapy trying to get my mentality back, but I haven’t even accepted the accident yet, so I know it will take time.
“As for my marriage, my wife and I have never been closer, but it also took away our first year of marriage together; our ‘honeymoon’ phase, our free loving, fun relationship, but together we are strong. Everyone in my life has been supportive.
“My wife has been incredible. I would be lost without her. She’s been by my side through every step and always making sure I’m okay and have what I need.
“Sometimes you have to find the positive in the hard times. I had a hard time coping with everything and kept asking ‘why me’ before I realised how lucky I really am.
“I got a second chance at life when I should’ve died. The ‘why me’ will only take you to a darker place. It takes a lot of work, but it does get better.”
Despite the accident being caused by an unexplained seizure, Stefani has been charged with ‘reckless driving’ and making an illegal turn.
Gia has set up a Go Fund Me page to help with her wife with medical bills and to afford a car to take her to hospital appointments: https://www.gofundme.com/ftzr8a-accident-survivor