Surviving ICU: How ex-soccer star's wife Sonia Booth rose above pain

Published Aug 31, 2017


If one had to look at Sonia Booth’s life through the press coverage and social events, it has been idyllic. 

Married to former soccer star Matthew Booth, with two sons Nathan and Noah, she oozes confidence and warmth. And not forgetting her flair for fashion.

But there’s more to her - a strength even she didn’t realise she had. And in her book Surviving I.C.U. she tells of her insecurities, fears and sadness while revealing her fortitude, faith and appreciation for life and her loved ones.

In February 2015 a CT scan revealed she had a burst cyst and four fibroids. She was given several options and researched as much as she could about her condition.

Booth recalls: “An ultrasound and CT scan revealed uterine fibroids, and the first thing my gynaecologist asked me was if I knew of anyone else in my family who had experienced such.

“I phoned my mom as soon as I left the clinic and she said my maternal grandmother had suffered similar pain to mine prior to her death.

“Had I known this beforehand, then perhaps I would’ve acted sooner instead of just taking painkillers, hoping and thinking the pain would subside.”

What Booth didn’t realise at the time was that her “nightmare” was about to get worse after surgery. The health scare tested her on an emotional, physical and psychological level.

On what got her through those dark days, she says: “Our sons, Nathan and Noah. They didn’t ask to be born, therefore, I owe it to them to ensure they are raised in a somewhat solid structure with both parents.

“They were both way too young to lose a mother and as much as I wished for death when I suffered from a pulmonary embolism, I knew this was a selfish thought.

“Having said that, the pain that I experienced made me forget about my responsibilities as a mother. 

"I felt hopeless. I thought to myself, what is the point of living? Why should I even fight? I felt defeated and I didn’t care.

“Physically, I have to make peace with this T-junction scar that starts from underneath my breast area all the way down to my bikini line and across.”

There is a point in the book where she breaks down and prays to her late father.

“Matthew had accidentally administered a double dose of gastro medicine and this caused me so much discomfort and pain. It felt as though my oesophagus was on fire. We had an argument about this and I got into bed.

“I looked at a photo of my dad on my bedside table and I called out to him, asking why he allowed me to experience such pain. I thought: ‘You are supposed to be my guardian angel, where are you? Why can’t you take this pain away?’ ”

Matthew never left her side and her boys were a much-needed ray of sunshine.

She said: “My husband is my rock star, my Chuck Norris. He nursed me and he was patient (no pun intended). My mom and dad (stepdad does not apply in my culture) are my pillars of strength, they encouraged and motivated me daily, to this day. For that, I am indebted to them.

“Nathan and Noah’s smiles and hugs gave me the warmth I needed to stay positive.

“I am not sure about the impact on our youngest son Noah, but Nathan was very much cognisant of my pain and struggles. He made a speech about my survival at the school’s Mother’s Day assembly this year and that brought tears to our faces, mine and hundreds of other moms’. I will never forget that; the joys of motherhood, the joys of parenthood.”

There’s a quote by Joel Osteen in the book that also talks about a harsh life lesson.

He says: “You’re going to go through tough times - but that’s life. But I say: ‘Nothing happens to you, it happens for you’. See the positive in negative events.”

Purging herself of superficial friends was that positive.

Booth said: “It is only now that I get to appreciate what I went through, because now I know where I stand with certain individuals.

“What’s interesting, though, is that I actually got support from those I never expected, while the ones I considered close enough to care pretended not to even know I was in ICU.

“At the time, their absence and silence made me bitter, but now I realise why the universe kept them at a distance. 

"Funny thing is, prior to my health scare, I prayed and asked the universe to get rid of phoney, pretentious people out of my life and, boy, did the universe open my eyes and ears.”

“I met ‘mom’ Bonny when I went for a CT scan and she treated me like a daughter, she had a soft spot for me.

“She went the extra mile during my hospitalisation and for that I am eternally grateful. I also received a note via a friend from a complete stranger.

“The message was to encourage me, and it was important for me to include it in my book as a way of saying: ‘The universe will send guardian angels in different forms; just open your eyes, heart and mind, and receive blessings that are surrounding you. Blessings and miracles are not packaged in a way we envision’. ”

What did she learn from this experience? She said: “I learnt that self-pity won’t make the pain and suffering go away. Use these times and experiences to self-correct, self-reflect and introspect. 

"Be positive and realise that surely something extraordinary or spectacular has to follow after all of that. The depth of your struggles determines the height of your successes.”

* Surviving ICU retails at R200 and is available at Exclusive Books/Skoobs(Montecasino) and African Flavour Books(Vaal and Braamfontein).

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