For those of you who don’t know, Kamen Joshi/Steam Girls member Tomoka Igari was in an accident on 4/11 where a signboard collapsed because of strong wind and fell on her. She was rushed to the hospital, went through emergency surgery, and hospitalized in the ICU. After that, she was moved to the HCU. I wrote more about the first updates here and here if you would like to read. On 5/6, we got our first update from Tomoka. She’s now hospitalized in the general ward and will be in the hospital for about three more months. Her injuries in the accident included a spinal cord injury, which has made it so that both of her legs are paralyzed. She currently has to be in a wheelchair and there is a low chance that she will ever regain movement in her legs. However, Tomoka is remaining positive even in this terrible situation. I translated her blog post to her fans below, where she talks about everything that happened and gives more detail.
DISCLAIMER: My Japanese is nowhere near perfect and there may be errors in translation, but there shouldn’t be anything too major and I think it’s an important read.
To All My Precious Fans
It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?
It’s Tomoka Igari.
I’m very sorry for making many of you worry at this time.
I had an accident where a signboard that collapsed because of the strong wind fell on me on 4/11.
The winds were strong that day. I heard that it was at the level that the strong winds became news in many places in Japan.
I was walking like I usually do on the sidewalk.
Suddenly, strong winds blew and a building’s large signboard collapsed.
The signboard was too big, so I couldn’t avoid it.
I realized that I was pinned underneath the signboard.
I mustered up all my strength and called out, “Help!”
That moment was at any rate painful and I wanted to quickly feel at ease.
After that, I think some things happened immediately.
A passerby lifted up the signboard and an ambulance transported me away.
I was told later that it seems that the signboard covered the entire area of the building’s sidewalk.
After that, I received an emergency surgery and was hospitalized in the ICU.
Afterwards, I moved into the HCU and currently, I am hospitalized in the general ward.
My main injuries are,
- Eyelid lacerations
- A blow to the head
- Bone fractures (legs, ribs, thoracic vertebrae, lumbar vertebrae)
- Injury to my spinal cord
This resulted in both of my legs being paralyzed.
In regards to me walking, of course, my legs can no longer move using my own strength.
The likelihood of recovery is extremely low and from now on, it’s necessary that I live my daily life in a wheelchair.
My physical condition and injuries have gotten better little by little and I can now independently use my wheelchair and am striving to improve in rehabilitation every day.
It’s estimated that I will be discharged from the hospital in about three months.
To start with, I wanted to quickly tell all of you who were worrying about me throughout this whole time, “I’m okay!” I was impatient as the days continued.
But despite receiving the information and grasping the situation, the appropriate time passed.
How can I convey such things, I wonder?
Even though I accepted it over time, when I suddenly use the words “spinal cord injury”, won’t I immediately make everyone who’s been cheering for me sad…?
It took time to accept it myself, I didn’t know what to tell the fans, and when I thought about it, I couldn’t put sentences together and this information has become delayed.
I think that there are certainly a lot of things I don’t know yet in regards to my daily life from now on with both legs paralyzed.
The explanation from my attending physician was,
“There are individual differences with sensation coming back to legs, so I can’t say anything. At any rate, try your best in rehabilitation”.
I was ignorant about spinal cord injuries and,
“I wonder how many months it’ll take to recover?”
“I want to return to the stage smiling and see everyone!”
“If I get the chance to throw the first pitch again, next time they’ll be able to catch the ball without it bouncing for sure!”
I thought about such things while I was in bed.
I couldn’t see a future where my legs didn’t move.
Several days after the surgery, I talked with my father and my older sister.
Sister: “If you’ve recovered, let’s go together to Met Life Dome!”
Dad: “Your dad wants to go with you to Koshien.”
Me: “I wonder if I’ll recover to the point that I can throw the first pitch again.”
Dad: “You can still throw from a wheelchair, can’t you?”
Me: “Ehh? No way! I want to recover and throw the first pitch!”
Dad: “Well, for now let’s do our best in rehabilitation.”
I also talked to a psychiatrist about many things.
For a patient who suffers spinal cord injuries and can’t move their legs anymore, it seems that a psychiatrist is there for them along with their attending physician.
I think that my family, Kamen Joshi staff, and the doctors were very careful to not shock me.
After moving to the HCU, I gradually realized that the situation was different than I thought from the reactions and remarks around me.
On that day, it was time for me to meet with my mother and older brother.
Knowing the truth, I may have been deeply shocked.
However, I resolved myself to ask questions.
Me: “The possibility of my legs never recovering is high?”
Me: “You hid it from me?”
Brother: “Because first you needed to go back to being healthy enough to live.”
Me: “Is that so.”
Mom: “But the doctor said that if you try your hardest in rehabilitation, your legs could miraculously move again. Believe in that and let’s do our best.”
I’m not particularly good at singing or dancing, but when I stand on the stage, perform lives, and see everyone having fun and smiling, because of that, I start to smile…
It’s because of all of the fans that I could become the idol Tomoka Igari.
I love those times.
So of course,
I’m aiming to return to the stage.
But knowing the truth…
“The time you can’t sing and dance = graduation”
I had never thought of it and I couldn’t imagine the Tomoka Igari who couldn’t dance.
Is there demand for me in such a state?
What can I do?
I was in despair.
Until the accident, I thought that I’d always be able to walk normally and dance.
I didn’t imagine that suddenly my legs wouldn’t be able to move freely and would feel like they weren’t mine.
But strangely, I never once came to the idea that I’d have to quit my activities with Kamen Joshi.
When I thought about what I wanted to do in the future, I was naturally imagining my activities as Tomoka Igari in a wheelchair.
I had the impression that everyone around me was supporting me.
“Being in a wheelchair, you can make people happy, give them joy, and become someone’s hope.”
“You’re a girl that can make people have fun and be happy, so I’ll be glad if you can continue that in any form.”
Those were the words from my family.
“Let’s go lots of places together in your wheelchair! Let’s have lots of good times together! Even when we become old!”
Those were the words from my friend.
“With your cheerfulness, please cheer up everyone around you that’s working hard in rehabilitation. Please become everyone’s light.”
Those were the words from my doctor.
“All of us staff members feel like we’re going to always work together with you. If we can do anything for you, please let us know.”
Those were the words from Kamen Joshi’s staff.
“We’ll wait however long it takes. We’ll keep having exciting lives so that you can return at any time!”
Those were the words from the other Kamen Joshi members.
And now, all of my fans.
You lit up the theater with yellow glowsticks, made and held up a banner, and prayed for my recovery.
You put your heart into 1,209 paper cranes.
Just like everyone put their heart into folding cranes one by one, I counted them from my bed one by one.
I was able to read tweets of support under the hashtag #いがともちゃんがんばれ (#Igatomo-chan, do your best).
I think there were definitely a lot of supportive and worried voices even among those who didn’t use the hashtag.
I also received many letters.
Everyone’s warmth saved me many times.
At times when I was alone at night and became anxious, everyone’s words truly saved me.
Your feelings all definitely reached me.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.
At important milestones, I often say,
“I want to become a ray of hope.”
Even now, these feelings haven’t changed.
My legs can no longer move, but I have many things I want to do in my wheelchair.
I want to write lyrics for Kamen Joshi songs.
I want to do speaking work, such as radio, lectures, and chairing events.
I want to continue supporting the Saitama Seibu Lions as long as I live and do baseball work.
To preserve what happened in the accident, I’d like to write a book.
The list is endless.
The direction that I’ve taken up until now will change, but the feeling of wanting to transmit something will not change one bit.
And finally, of course, if “God’s being” or a “miracle” comes into play and my legs work like they did before, I want to dance on stage as an idol.
Fortunately, there are a lot of people waiting for me.
This is my greatest encouragement.
It may take time.
It may be impossible for things to be like they were before.
But I definitely want to be healthy, see everyone again, and say “Long time no see!” with a smile.
The day of the accident, I never expected that I would experience such things.
I’d imagine my family, friends, Kamen Joshi’s staff members, the other Kamen Joshi members, all of my fans, no one expected that I would experience such things.
That day, I was walking by chance on the sidewalk at that time, by chance I was in front of a big signboard, a special strong wind blew, and the signboard fell on me.
If before arriving at the signboard, I had to retie my shoelaces, someone called me on the phone and I stopped walking to talk, I got thirsty and bought a drink at a vending machine, or anything happened that caused me to get there merely a few seconds later, I wouldn’t have had the accident.
I know that if none of these things happen, the various chances pile up and both my legs no longer move.
However, my life was saved.
According to a witness’s story, it was an awful situation and I should be thankful that even my life was saved.
I believe that this alone is a gift from God that cannot be replaced by anything.
I was given a trial to that extent, but I surely wasn’t given a trial that I couldn’t overcome.
In TV dramas or movies, you often hear the words, “We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so let’s cherish the present”.
Up until this point, I intended to cherish those words, but now I really agree with them.
So whatever happens from now on, I’m going to look up like a sunflower, have a fun and happy life, and go forward.
And I want to live respecting and valuing every day.
I’m looking forward.
Don’t worry anymore.
From now on, please continue to watch over me.
And if we can walk together, I’ll be happy.
Now and always, thank you for your support.
Kamen Joshi Tomoka Igari