My name is Martha von Bulow. "Sunny" was put between Martha and von Bullow. I will tell you my story from the grave where I am now. I am 76 years old.
I was born in a train between Virginia and New York in 1932. My mother's name was Annie-Laurie and my father's George. I was a very wealthy person. In 1957 I got married and became a princess (like Grace Kelly did). My husband was Prince Alfred von Aversperg of Austria. Alexander and Annie Laurie came as blessings in our lives together. We got divorced in 1965. In 1966 I got married again. His name was Claus von Bullow. We had a girl together named Cosima.
In the fall of 1980 my life changed to tragedy. I fell sick - persistent vegetative state. My husband was accused of trying to kill me with an overdose of insulin. In a first trial he was found guilty and after appealing, got a second trial and was found not guilty. He gave up my fortune as a bargain to get his freedom. He got his wish. He became a free man and I a prisoner locked in myself. I was removed to a hospital and later to a nursing home where I lived for long 28 years until today: December 6th, 2008.
As soon as I became a "vegetable", I received lots of visitors. Some came to see only my surface: the sleeping beauty princess with a dead brain. Others came to see me inside: my children and others who really loved me. Their love was my solace for almost three decades.
The bed became my home and my body my cage. A legion of doctors used to come to see me almost every day at the beginning. They wanted to solve my "puzzle". I had the most famous neurologists by my side looking at me as I was a personification of the theory of relativity waiting to be made possible in their practice. They were supposed to know everything about brains but mine was a complete blank canvas to them. My case challenged their expertise to the bottom. As they knew they could not "resuscitate" my high functions, little by little the doctors started disappearing one after one. They gave me up. When some doctors feel in their guts they will not be able to "fix" the patient, they abandon not only the case but also the person stuck on a bed. Every case unsolved is a failure under their pride perspective. So, the doctors gave their back to me. Case closed! But fortunately, the nurses saw me as a whole being still, not a brain dead on a bed.
Every day, for 28 years of my life, the nurses came. I knew each one of them. They were a legion. Some were old, others brand-new, some tall, some short, some thin, some fat, some black, some white, some talkative, some as silent as I was. These ones looked at me and talked to me with their eyes. I knew all of them, in their own style, loved me unconditionally. It was everything I needed. I did not like to stay alone with myself. I was always in need of warmth, smiles, touch, being seen, celebrated as a human being, not as a "lettuce".
My children, my friends, and my nurses filled my days with joy. They used to keep me updated regarding everything: weather, news, holidays, birthdays, their accomplishments, even their secrets. They really could trust me their most intimate secrets, after all, they knew with 100% of accuracy, with me their secrets would be kept in secret forever. The nurses also used to tell me the most fabulous jokes and I felt my body shaking inside. I was laughing out loud, but nobody could hear my burst of laughter! Anyway, they related to me as they could listen to me. To them, at least, I was alert, alive, and busy like them taking care of my life inside my cage. They did treat me like a princess I was. I had a royal care! But, unfortunately, I was not a fairy tale's princess. I could not hope a prince would come to kiss me and give my life back. Yes, my first husband was a prince, but his kiss was far away from being a miracle maker. No! I was very realistic about that, so I did not nurture any wishful thinking in that matter.
During the nights, when I was alone, I used to remember my life before the coma, a very active one. I was also a philanthropist. I wanted to use my tittle, name, money, and influence to help others. In spite of being so wealthy, I was sensitive enough to see that only few people in this world had the same privilege I did of being rich. I could not turn my back to those people. As soon as I became ill, my two first children kept helping others on my behalf. They knew that was something I would ask them to do if I could. They knew me very well.
My life inside myself was very lonely. It was like to live inside an empty house. My heart stayed pumping blood, my lungs exchanging gases, but my ability to think properly and communicate with the world outside was completely lost. I could not think about everything I wanted. My cortex was shut down. My body was so heavy on the bed. The nurses used to turn me in different positions every two hours to prevent those terribly painful and ugly bed sore ulcers to start making infected holes in my flesh. I felt like a pig spinning in a stick, but I knew it was better to me.
The nurses were very kind and respectful. They tried to keep my privacy and dignity as brave and loyal warriors. It was very important to me not have my body exposed to the crowd, the dead body in an anatomy lab waiting defeatless to be cut in pieces by curious and shocked students nauseated by the smell of chloroform coming from the body. As I told you, I did receive a royal treatment by the nurses. They kept my hairdo, nails, mouth, skin, mind, and heart imaculated. I was so grateful to them but my words echoed back to me every time I tried to express it to them. Nobody could hear me but by own self. What a prison! What a torture to have my life encapsulated like I was inside a cocoon that would never let the butterfly go free.
When I was born, my mother called me "Sunny" but unfortunately I lost my sunny side to become immersed in complete darkness. My "cage" became sun-proof. My mind was dominated by frustration and my heart sadness. My empty house was cold, dark, and dusty. The unconditional love from people since I got sick was the only thing that kept me "alive" for so long, nothing else. Each person who loved me was a candle in my life. I saw my mother aging, my children growing, and even could meet my grandchildren. They were so cute and full of life. My opposites! They used to jump on my lap as children usually do and I loved that. They hugged me before leaving. As my motionless arms did not help me to get my wish, I hugged the children with my eyes, soul, and inner arms. As a daughter, mother, grandmother I was complete, at least!
Now, at 76 and declared officially dead, I feel relieved. I have lived a lot! What I have learned from all of these years? That love is the only thing that does not perish. In mine most difficult days, I was nourished by love and that kept my sense of life and purpose. I thank God for my children, my few friends, my grandchildren, and of course, my nurses who kept me and my sanity "alive" somewhere and shared their lives with me as I was really as alive as them. Because their unconditional love and loyalty, they made this princess happy even after. Now I can go in peace. It is time for me to parade my last sunset. Princess Sunny is blowing her candle of life. Goodbye! Amen! Martha von Bullow.