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Readers of our main website may recall the story my colleague Colleen Morgan recently told of well-known travel retail identity Stephenie Rodriguez, digital media specialist and founder of the WanderSafe personal protection device.
Stephenie is on a mission to impact one billion lives by 2025 by empowering women and vulnerable people to travel and commute more safely.
That mission is currently on hold, though one suspects not for long. Because for now, Stephenie has another challenge, a deeply personal one that she is determined to overcome so that she can return to her work.
Her story is one of survival against seemingly insuperable odds. Of cheating death. It’s a story that continues, and one which we feel it important to update.
The narrative so far
The technology entrepreneur caught cerebral malaria after being bitten by a mosquito during a WanderSafe business trip to Nairobi in September. Cerebral malaria is the severest complication of the disease, whereby the parasite infects the spinal fluid. Officially, one in five diagnosed cerebral malaria patients die, though the true mortality rate is certainly much higher.
The infection led to a prolonged battle for life against septic shock in a Boston, US hospital. Stephenie spent over a week in a coma where she had the last rites administered three times. As Colleen related at the end of 2019, Stephenie faced the amputation of her toes and heel reconstruction. “Recovery and rehabilitation will take up to six months; she will have to learn to walk again,” she wrote.
On 14 February, Stephenie underwent that operation in Sydney. On the way to the hospital she wrote, “It’s the big day. I am in the Uber and terrified. I just want to give a huge thank you to all of you who have supported me through this time and the next phase of my recovery.”
You can hear from Stephenie in her own voice via her gofundme site (created to tell her story and raise funds for a long and expensive medical process involving surgical costs far above those covered by insurance).
It is quite some story, which concludes, “Please help me get restored to my upright self so that I can continue on my mission of impacting 1 billion lives by 2025.”
I’ll close with the words from earlier this week of Stephenie’s close friend, another well-known travel retail executive Adil Raihaini, who flew to the US to be by her bedside as she lay fighting for life.
“Steph has done it again! She has come so far. She has kicked herself back into life several times, has grown spiritually and still has a killer vibe!
“Over the past 189 days we have all prayed and we keep praying; we have cried endlessly, and we have cracked endless jokes. And with that, Steph has given so much hope to other people who believe they have ‘big issues’. Let’s keep praying that she will recover quickly so she can continue her selfless mission to make the world a safer place.”
I told you that it’s quite some story. It is one that reminds us again of how quickly things can change. Of how life is for the living. And for the giving.