Prince Joachim and Princess Marie gave an interview recently to the magazine of the Danish Brain Foundation in order to raise awareness about blood clots and strokes as Prince Joachim suffered from a blood clot in July 2020. Read more below.
The interview took place via Zoom, at the Danish Embassy in Paris, as Prince Joachim and Princess Marie are living in Paris and could not travel to Denmark because of the pandemic. The couple said they wanted to do the interview to raise awareness about blood clots. As always, I can’t translate the entire article but I have translated all the quotes. A note on Princess Marie’s fashion: she wore a new jacket over a knit top, black trousers and her ufo black ankle boots. Also note that at the end of this post, you’ll find ressources related to blood clots/strokes that could be helpful for you and your loved ones in the future.
Before starting talking about the accident, Princess Marie explains how difficult it is for her to talk about it: “We were looking forward to talking about it, but when I started thinking about what I wanted to say, it was actually really hard to go back to it. I did not know I would be affected by it again, but I was.”
Prince Joachim and Princess Marie first explained what happened the evening of Joachim’s accident. As we’ve come to learn after the accident happened, the couple were at the Chateau de Cayx in Cahors, France and had given an interview that afternoon to a local French newspaper to discuss their love for the region.
In the evening, they were joined by Prince Joachim’s cousin whose family lives in nearby. As Prince Joachim starts talking to his cousin, Princess Marie notices something is very wrong: “I could hear him talking nonsense. And when you know my husband and know how he speaks and articulates himself, then you know that it is completely unusual. For a second I thought he might be teasing, but when I look at him, I immediately know that it is very serious”.
As Princess Marie asks him to repeat himself, Prince Joachim doesn’t understand what’s happening: “I did not feel anything. When you have thought a sentence, you have already heard it formulated inside yourself, and therefore it appears clear and distinct. So I am confused when she asks me to repeat. When I look over at Marie, I can clearly see from her expression that something is wrong. But I can not feel anything.”
Princess Marie continues: “I knew right away that there was something seriously wrong with his brain. I could see his facial paralysis, it was – it was very, very awful. These are images that are in my head forever.” Princess Marie and Prince Joachim’s cousin immediately realized the emergency and called for an ambulance. However, she explained that she got very scared when she was told there was no ambulance nearby as she was painfully aware that every minute counts in situations like these. Thankfully, a rescue vehicle from the fire department was nearby and was redirected so Prince Joachim could receive first aid.
Prince Joachim explained that he remembers everything from the 30 minutes drive to Cahors’s hospital: “The striking thing is that I can remember everything. I have no pain and I have no blackouts. I remember hearing the ambulance coming, them coming up to me, I’m being put on a stretcher and strapped on. They put measuring instruments and drips and talk to me all the time. We drive at full speed to Cahors, and I know that trip like the back of my hand, so while I’m lying there, I know exactly which route we’re driving.” Princess Marie was with him while Prince Joachim’s cousin looked after Prince Henrik and Princess Athena at home.
During the drive to the hospital, Prince Joachim is asked to alternately move one hand and the other, but he had completely lost the feeling in the left side of his body and down to the foot. They arrived at the hospital in Cahors between 9pm and 10pm, and Prince Joachim was immediately rushed in for a scan. Prince Joachim says: “I can remember that too. And then it became clear to them that they did not have the capacity to treat me in Cahors. They told me that it was very bad and very serious and that I will have to go to the emergency room with the specialists in Toulouse immediately. At this point, it was probably 11-12pm in the evening, and I went by ambulance to Toulouse. I also know that route inside and out, but during the first maybe 10 minutes I doze off. And then I was out ”
Princess Marie couldn’t be in the ambulance with Prince Joachim during his transfer so she had to follow by car: “It was really awful. I could not be in the ambulance and I had no car in Cahors. Therefore, I had to find a car as soon as possible so I could drive after him. I was quick to give them my cell phone number so I could know a little bit about what happened when I couldn’t join. They told me his condition was getting worse and when I asked them what was the worst thing that could happen they would not talk too much about it. But they were very worried.”
Prince Joachim arrived at the hospital in Toulouse at 1am and was in surgery from 2am to 8am where he underwent a thrombectomy. According to the Brain Foundation, a thrombectomy is “an operation in which a catheter is inserted through the groin, all the way up to the brain, where the blood clot is located. Here you grab it and pull it out so that the blood supply and oxygen supply are restored.” The magazine explained that Prince Joachim had ” a conical blood clot, three millimeters in diameter and 13 millimeters long, which sits four to five centimeters after the first branch of the carotid artery. It has shut off about half of the blood supply, but it is in fact unfortunate that the plug is so large: because it enables doctors to grab it and pull it out.”
Princess Marie explained how difficult the night was for her as she had to wait in the hospital with Prince Joachim’s cousin while her mother took care of the children at home: “When it happened, I needed to be focused and in charge. But suddenly I just had to sit and wait. You get really upset because you can see the images of the accident for yourself over and over again. And you’re a person who is completely helpless and who can do nothing. I was afraid we would lose him as a person. His physical paralysis worried me much less, and what was important was to save his brain. His ability to speak and think.”
When Princess Marie received good news at 8am after the surgery, she explained she went to see her husband immediately: “I knew he could not react immediately, but I just had to see him. So I went to him and stayed with him for two minutes. He doesn’t remember it, but I asked if he could smile at me – and when I saw that he could smile with both sides of his face, it felt as if I could finally breathe again.” She also said: “It was SO close to a tragedy that could have changed our lives forever. We are very grateful to be together today and to be able to talk to you about it. I am so grateful that he can smile and recognize me “
While Princess Marie informed their family in Denmark about what happened during the night, she only explained what happened to the children in the morning when she was sure she could tell good news: “The children are – yes, you have to be careful with the children. There is no reason to scare them with the prospect of bad news if it ends up going well.”
When Prince Joachim fully woke up after the surgery, Princess Marie was by his side: “I had no sense of time at all. As Marie said, I can not remember the first time she was inside the room with me. But when I woke up at noon the next day, Marie was standing right next to me – I remember that. It was a very special moment because even though I had not fully understood what was going on, I was well aware that I had moved on a knife-edge. The first thing I said to her was, “You saved my life!” I was unbelievably lucky ”.
Prince Joachim also praised Princess Marie for how well she handled everything: “I have experienced how Marie, with an immediate overview, handled the situation, and that she, with her quick intervention and actions, was the one who took charge until I was handed over to the ambulance drivers in Cahors and sent on to Toulouse. She was amazing! She went in soldier’s mode.” Talking directly to his wife, he said: “One thing is that you managed the emergency situation. But everything that with a military language is called logistics, you also handled in the days right after. So: the children had to be looked after for at least six hours a day when you were down in Toulouse, the dog had to be cared for, food needed to be bought, etc. Within 12 hours of the incident, you had gotten in touch with your mother, and you were in control of the situation ”
When Prince Joachim said that Princess Marie was “both superman and an octopus at the same time”, Princess Marie protested and objected that it is a common female trait to be the octopus in a relationship, but Prince Joachim insisted: “Yes, you were. And I know that with Marie I have a resourceful, loving, caring, and confident support ”.
Prince Joachim stayed five days in the ICU and then five more days of hospitalization before he was discharged and could see his children again which was an emotional moment for him: “It was only when I was discharged that I saw people other than Marie. So to come home and see the children – it was… Of course, I knew that they were in the best hands, but to be able to see them, hold them, touch them – yes, recognize them and talk to them. If it had gone wrong, they would have gotten a patient home on a stretcher – or at worst, they would have to go to the hospital forever to visit their father, right? It was good luck that I could still hold on to them, touch them – show them that I was back… ”
Prince Joachim started his physical rehabilitation at the Chateau de Cayx with his wife by his side. He couldn’t do much at first but he and Marie took small walks around the castle each day. However, it was difficult for the couple to forget the fear of what happened. Princess Marie explained: “In relation to how we felt afterward, it was actually a bit tricky. I was afraid to leave him alone. I was afraid it would happen again. Because what if it happened when he is alone? It was not easy. And every time I looked at him, the images went through my head. All the while, I saw the images from the accident before me. It was hard.”
She also explained that she needed to be the strong one in the relationship to help her husband: “Usually, Joachim is the strong Viking, who is never, ever sick. But all of a sudden, the one who has always been the strongest is no more. Now it was actually me who was supposed to be the strongest. It was strange, but also good because it is part of being together: you must always be there for each other.” Prince Joachim added that “switching roles can actually bring something positive.”
Prince Joachim explained that he has no lasting injuries but he thinks he was very lucky: “I have been unusually lucky, and perhaps that is precisely why my post-traumatic phase has been protracted. I’m not talking about stress symptoms or the like, but there are thoughts that keep coming back. There are things from childhood, adolescence, and experiences that come back in a new light because it has now settled down in a different way. And then the certainty that you can not calculate the probability of how lucky I have been: from how Marie reacted to the accident to the surgery and how we were luckily close to some of the greatest specialists in exactly this field in France, if not the whole world. Everything has been a result of good, happy circumstances. Everything was up to a higher entity. The experience of being surrounded by the right people in every phase of the process – the experience of, well let’s just say it as it is – pure luck. All this is part of the post-traumatic experience”
The couple also explained that they knew how lucky they were and that they were convinced that Prince Henrik, Joachim’s father who passed away in 2018, watched over and protected Joachim in this difficult time.
Prince Joachim stressed the importance of taking symptoms of blood clots or strokes very seriously: “You should NEVER think it’s just over. One simply must not think that it is just dizziness. If you are able to do it yourself, call 1-1-2 or call for help in some way. Do not think that it can be shaken off or slept away. You owe it to yourself and certainly also to your loved ones to take it seriously “
By their own admission, this experience was very difficult for the couple but they were supported by their children and their family in their mental healing process. They stressed the importance how having someone to talk to in situations like these, especially for such intimate situations as explained by Princess Marie: “It helps a lot to be able to talk about it, but what is strange is that it is difficult to talk to a person who has not experienced it themselves – who has not been in the situation. It really has to be someone you know well. Because it is very intimate to talk about something like this, and it is incredibly important that you get hold of someone who understands what you are talking about “
Prince Joachim hopes that by talking about it it will help them and other people as well: “On a micro-scale, there may also be some form of therapy for Marie and me in talking about this day and the whole process in this way. We hope to be able to help shed some light on things, but it can also benefit ourselves.” At this point of the interview, Princess Marie – who at the beginning said talking about the accident was difficult for her – said she felt better now.
Prince Joachim and Princess Marie were touched by the support they got from the public. Princess Marie said: “It was very touching and a huge support for me to hear all those who immediately expressed sympathy in the general public. We were not alone and there were many people who thought of us – it was absolutely fantastic and a really big help.” Prince Joachim added: “Yes, it was very, very heartwarming. Also that there was immediately someone who said, listen now – he is the patient, but there is also a loved one next to him who suffers too.”
Prince Joachim and Princess Marie concluded this moving interview by thinking of the families who were less lucky than them, those who also suffered from blood clots but were left with far more injuries, and how important it was to support the patients and their families. Prince Joachim said: “It’s hard not to think about what could have happened, and I think we have learned that it is terrible for the person who is affected, but right next to them there is loved ones, for who it is just as terrible. You must never forget that.” Princess Marie added: “The families – you have to think about the families and be there for them”.
Supporting families is one of the Danish Brain Foundation’s mission as noted by the Prince to end the interview:“Precisely! An organization like Hjernesagen has a big role to play, and it is an important message to bring forward ”
- The full interview is available in Danish here