“YOU have to go back and say goodbye. She’s dying. You have to say goodbye.”
Minna Lederberger’s family couldn’t comprehend what the doctors at the Tweed Heads hospital in Queensland were saying to them in December 2012.
“No, she’s not,” protested her husband. “You don’t understand doctor, she’s not going to die.”
He was right.
It’s now been four years since Lederberger lost both of her legs, but speaking to The AJN last week, she says she is “a better version of myself”.
The life-changing experience began four years ago. On a family holiday to the Gold Coast to celebrate her daughter’s VCE graduation, the mother-of-two felt unwell. A visit to the hospital in Queensland saw her leave with some antibiotics and a doctor telling her she was fine. She visited again the following day, and, before she knew it, she was awaking from a 10-day coma in another Queensland hospital.
“I couldn’t even press the bell in the hospital,” Lederberger recalled.
“I couldn’t do anything for myself. I couldn’t lift myself, lift my arms, lift my head, feed myself; I could do nothing.”
The 10-day holiday in Queensland turned into a month of chemotherapy and steroid treatment, before Lederberger was finally flown back to Melbourne in an air ambulance.
Australia Day 2013 was the day Lederberger underwent her amputation surgery – the day from which she has never looked back.
“I was lucky to have a husband and children – that was my reason to get better, to rehabilitate,” Lederberger recalled.
“I remember one of my girlfriends brought me a sign – it had been three months since I’d been out of my home – and the sign said ‘HOME’, and everything I did was work towards getting home. I need to get home, I need to get home. And I did.”
Inundated with support from the Jewish community from the day she fell ill in Queensland, Lederberger was blown away by the assistance she and her family received. From having Shabbat meals cooked by Brisbane’s Rabbi Levi Jaffe and his wife, to food being brought up from Melbourne, the Lederbergers were far from alone.
“All of the communities came out in such amazing support … we had meals all the way up to Pesach, we had to give them away, there were prayer groups all the time – they were absolutely amazing.”
Asked whether her relationships have changed, Lederberger replied with a smile.
“Your friends are your friends and they love and support you no matter what you go through.”
“Sometimes it’s uncomfortable – they think I’m so inspirational, so amazing, but I’m just trying to get on with my life.”
“It’s not what I’ve gone through but how I have handled it and have kept an upbeat attitude to keep myself happy.”
“I think my kids don’t help me more than they did before – everything is back to normal,” Lederberger laughed.
The 56-year-old has been through three sets of “legs” in the past four years and says her newest pair are the best yet. She heaped praise onto her medical team and prosthetist Catherine Mok.
Lederberger insists certain doctors in Queensland and medical teams at the Alfred, Caulfield and Cabrini hospitals in Melbourne played more than a significant part in keeping her alive – but it was her faith which kept her going at her lowest point.
“I can’t help but think if I didn’t have my faith and I didn’t have my relationship with God, how much more difficult this would be.”
Lederberger says she has been given a second chance at life and she isn’t going to waste it. The mother and wife described her new lease on her life as putting contact lenses in for the first time.
“It’s like you put contact lenses on for the first time and all the colours just pop and you see everything so much brighter – everything is popping for me now.
“I am so grateful that I have gotten another chance to live a fulfilling life and to live the kind of life that God wants me to lead.”