Victim of random stabbing set to play benefit concert for Montreal General Hospital
For Smadar Brandes, being able to play the cello again is a small miracle.
"Who gets stabbed in the neck and survives?" said Brandes.
She was walking along Monkland Ave. near Villa Maria metro late at night when a stranger attacked her, hitting her in the neck with what she thought was a punch.
After being hit she crossed the street and flagged down a bus to ask for help.
It turned out she had been stabbed in the neck -- and the knife was lodged in her body.
"I still didn't know my life was in danger. I was just thinking I'm so close to home, as if my proximity to my home somehow meant that this couldn't possibly happen," said Brandes.
She was rushed to hospital in critical condition.
The alleged attacker, Mathew Roberg, had been released from prison several weeks earlier after serving time for manslaughter. He was quickly apprehended and charged with attempted murder, and chose not to request bail.
Her father-in-law, Dr. Mark Berner, was shocked by the attack.
"It was like waking up, like a surreal dream. Like something you dream about in the middle of the night. It doesn't happen to everyday people," said Berner.
Once she made the initial recovery it turned out the wounds and subsequent surgeries had left her with nerve damage to her left hand -- a serious impediment to playing cello, where the left hand is used to finger notes.
It took months of occupational therapy before her left-hand fingers were strong enough to press down on the strings.
"The doctors didn't know if it would get better or if it would get worse. So for a while I thought, okay, I would never play the cello again," said Brandes.
But her father-in-law promised Brandes that she would play again, and that he would join her in concert when she was well enough, and Brandes rather dismissively agreed with the request.
"I said 'sure Mark, we'll do that'. Like as if I'm ever going to be able to play well enough again... But here we are," said Brandes.
Berner said his goal was giving his daughter-in-law some motivation to keep up with difficult work.
"If she were able to start playing cello, the motivation to play would help with the rehab," explained Berner.
Sure enough, Brandes has recovered enough to perform on stage, and will be playing on June 17 at Loyola High School as the final act in a benefit show for the Montreal General Hospital's trauma centre.
"It's important to me because they saved my life. What better reason do you need?" said Brandes.