Photographer pictures her recovery

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Rumen Lozev still winces when he recalls the desperate attempts he made to coax his only daughter out of a coma.

Sitting by her bedside last summer at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, he spoke to her in her native Bulgarian. He clasped her hand and pleaded with her to wiggle her fingers or toes. When she did not react, he took her most treasured object, a camera, and clicked the shutter in her ear.

But Anna Lozeva - who was critically injured in July when she was struck by two motorists in Stevensville - did not stir for two weeks.

"It was terrible," said Lozev. "At the time, we didn't know if she would wake up in one day, or one year."

Lozev and his wife, Vanya Lozeva, left their home in Bourgas - a sea resort town in Bulgaria - immediately after they heard about the accident. Just six weeks earlier, the couple had bid farewell to their daughter, a 23-year-old photography student who traveled to Maryland's Kent Island for a summer work program to earn money to purchase a new camera.

"It was our first time here in America," Lozev said. "And we were like ghosts, living at Shock Trauma."

After Lozeva regained consciousness and was strong enough to be transferred, she was sent to Kernan Hospital in Baltimore.

6 months of rehab

Yesterday, after more than 10 surgeries and six months of rehabilitation, Lozeva stood in the halls of SKY Neurological Rehabilitation Center in Annapolis, where she has been a patient for three months, marveling at a temporary exhibition of her work.

With wide eyes and a broad smile, she shared stories behind her photographs, which line the center's whitewashed walls and will be on display this afternoon.

"I like color and longer exposures that show movement," said Lozeva.

Lozeva has studied photography for four years, two of them at the National Academy of Film and Theater Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital. Winner of several awards for her photography in Bulgaria, she has worked for the Bulgarian News Agency and two magazines.

Lozeva came to Maryland to see the country, and to work for Kent Island Depot - a gourmet carryout store - to save money for a new camera.

On the misty, rainy evening of July 27, Lozeva was riding her bike to work on Route 8 in Stevensville when, according to witnesses, she rode in front of a sport utility vehicle and was struck. Seconds later, she was struck by another sport utility vehicle.

No one was charged in the accidents that left her in critical condition.

Lozeva - who cannot recall any details from that night - was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center, then to Shock Trauma in Baltimore, where doctors treated her for internal injuries, head injuries, two broken legs, a broken left arm and shattered facial bones.

When she rises from her wheelchair, Lozeva walks cautiously and with a slight limp. After undergoing several plastic surgeries, she bears few visible facial scars.

Last summer, Lozeva's friends and former employer established a fund to help her family pay her medical bills. Beginning today, her insurance plan with the Council on International Educational Exchange is no longer effective. Her family will have to foot the cost of her continued therapy and surgeries over the next three months.

Lozeva is scheduled for operations to treat the scars on her knees and throat, and to heal her left elbow, which she cannot bend.

Therapists say her recovery has been impressive.

"She's really come a long way," said Betty Chan, a speech and language pathologist at the SKY center who sees Lozeva for appointments three times a week. "I attribute that to her determination. A lot of people who come here are sad and withdrawn, but I don't think I've ever heard Anna in a moment of self-pity."

Yesterday, Lozeva talked about her photographs, a collection of more than 30 brightly colored pictures taken in Bulgaria, Spain, the Czech Republic - even the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

"That was before the accident," said Lozeva, pointing to a photo of a couple embracing on a shaded bench at the aquarium. "Everyone was taking pictures of the fish but me."

A 'promising' talent

Visiting the show yesterday was Bob Madden, a photographer for the Discovery Channel who met Lozeva on Kent Island.

"She's a very promising photographer," said Madden, who spent more than two decades taking photographs around the world for National Geographic.

This May, Lozeva hopes to return to Bulgaria, complete her program at the National Academy, and eventually earn enough money to purchase a digital camera. In the meantime, she said, she's focusing on her recovery. When she feels strong enough, she's taking photographs - despite her broken elbow.

When asked how she is feeling, Lozeva smiled and said: "I can lift my camera again."

Lozeva's photographs will be on display today from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at SKY Neurological Rehabilitation Center, 190 Admiral Cochrane Drive, Annapolis.

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