Brooke Burns used to star as a lifeguard on Baywatch, rescuing swimmers from the deadly Pacific surf. But in November 2005, says Joe Bosso in Smoke, it was Burns who almost died when she took a careless swan dive into the shallow end of her pool. She hit the bottom hard, and found she couldn’t move. “All I could think of was, Oh, no. Am I ever going to be able to hold my little girl again?’’ Fortunately, a neighbor saw the whole thing and got her out of the water. Whisked to the hospital by paramedics, Burns’ worst moment came when they asked her to wiggle her toes. “I was like, ‘I am wiggling my toes.’ And they were like, ‘No, you’re not.’ You could see the grim looks on their faces, and that’s when I started panicking. Suddenly, everything flashed before my eyes and I could remember everything—literally, everything in my entire life—but none of it meant anything to me. All of a sudden, everything seemed so trivial. It was the greatest fear I had ever known.’’ It turned out that she’d broken her neck, but not badly enough to damage her spinal cord. “One millimeter lower and I would have been a paraplegic.” Instead, after an operation to stabilize the area, she recovered fully in just a few months. She emerged with a new perspective. “We all assume we’re going to die of old age at 99, but most of the time that’s not the case. Now, every experience I have that I enjoy is 10 times better.’’
of The Week magazine.