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The Long Awakening: A Memoir

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Overview

Lindsey O'Connor is an author, a freelance journalist, and a speaker who has contributed to public radio's Weekend America, WashingtonPost.com, the Rocky Mountain News, Writer's Digest, Guideposts, and others. She has reported internationally, is a former broadcaster, was a finalist for an Audie Award, and is a member of the Association of Independents in Radio and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
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Overview

Lindsey O'Connor is an author, a freelance journalist, and a speaker who has contributed to public radio's Weekend America, WashingtonPost.com, the Rocky Mountain News, Writer's Digest, Guideposts, and others. She has reported internationally, is a former broadcaster, was a finalist for an Audie Award, and is a member of the Association of Independents in Radio and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/23/2013
Suffering a catastrophic blood loss after the birth of her fifth child, the author (If Mama Goes South, We're All Going With Her) is kept in a medically induced coma for 47 days while her husband, family, and friends fear she won't wake up. She does, but coming back from that "other world" somewhere between life and death isn't easy and, in many ways, a nightmare begins with the awakening. Using her skills as a journalist, O'Connor reconstructs what happened to her during those missing days by interviewing those who took care of her and the family. She discovers caring friends and a strong, loving family along with an increasing awareness that she no longer is the same person. She struggles with being physically and emotionally unable to resume her life or mother her infant. Her quest for meaning in being a "walking miracle" is honest, lyrical, and riveting – especially when she relates what she heard and thought while in the coma. The telling of the story can be at times long-winded, however, for the same reasons that people are sure you want to hear every detail of their recent hospital stay. (Oct.)
The Barnes & Noble Review

Fourteen years ago, when I was pregnant with my second child, I lapsed into a coma and nearly died. As things took a turn for the worse, my daughter was born after twenty-four weeks' gestation. Her chances were very small, and mine weren't too good, either.

As a Renaissance scholar, I know the harsh statistics that women in the 1600s faced with regard to childbirth. One of the earliest memoirists, Elizabeth Joscelin, wrote The Mother's Legacy to her Vnborn Child — specifically, she was afraid of delivery. The book was published posthumously in 1624; Joscelin died a few days after giving birth to her daughter Theodora. Even so, I never considered that death was a possibility for me.

But pregnancy can be deadly to this day, for both mother and child. Even though maternal death rates remain at historic lows, childbirth still kills hundreds of mothers every year in the U.S. alone.

Lindsey O'Connor's memoir, The Long Awakening, revolves around the same condition I developed: ARDS, or adult respiratory distress syndrome.

I woke up in a few days, but Lindsey didn't wake up from her coma for two months.

When she finally opens her eyes, her husband has a simple question: "Lin, do you remember that you had a baby?" She doesn't. When she holds her daughter, she wonders when the baby's mother will come to fetch her. She can't walk, feed herself, or get out of bed. She can't read. She was a journalist, but she no longer remembers how to type.

On one side, O'Connor recounts a story we've read before: a traumatic, harrowing journey back to health, whether the memoirist is recovering from a coma, a stroke, or cancer. The story, of course, is particular to each person, and yet it's general in the fear it brings the reader. We remake the memoirist's personal suffering in our own image.

But the tale in The Long Awakening is not just of O'Connor's own recovery: it is enmeshed with the story of her daughter, Caroline. When O'Connor wakes without a bond to her daughter, her first response is guilt. Her grief on being discharged from the hospital is not merely that she comes home "old," as she calls it: shuffling behind a walker, tied to her portage oxygen, nauseated and exhausted. It's that she cannot take care of her baby, and even more, that she's not in love with that baby. She hasn't just lost time and memory: she's lost her love for her child.

The best memoirs are unflinching in their respect for truth, and O'Connor does not indulge in either an elegiac tone or spiritual blandishments. She does not feel like a "miracle," as many address her. She didn't see any angels while in the coma, and she feels peevish when another "miracle" regales audiences of hundreds with stories of seeing heaven. She is irritable, if not outraged, when her skills don't immediately return — until she finally reads the report that says in black- and-white that she has suffered permanent brain damage.

Nostalgia pervades The Long Awakening, a longing for the time when skills and emotion came easily. The journalist in O'Connor has accurately recorded the ways in which the brain mends and where it doesn't. The text itself reflects her loss of focus and even vocabulary. To be glad to survive does not mean that one doesn't mourn what was lost.

This is a memoir with a happy ending, in that O'Connor is a journalist once again, traveling to Thailand, taking care of her daughter, dancing with a new son-in-law. But its darkness also stays with the reader, the sign of an honest — as opposed to a heart-lifting — account. Learning how to handle a fork again is one thing: learning how to fall in love with a child is entirely different.

My daughter Anna is now fourteen: hormonal, irascible, intelligent. She drives me crazy on a regular basis. The Long Awakening reminded me of what I was fortunate enough not to lose: time, love, my child-my life.

Eloisa James is a New York Times–bestselling author of historical romances, as well as a professor of English literature teaching Shakespeare at Fordham University. In addition to her novels, she has written the memoir Paris in Love.

Reviewer: Eloisa James

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780800718763
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/1/2013
  • Pages: 237
  • Sales rank: 292,995
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lindsey O'Connor is an author, a freelance journalist, and a speaker who has contributed to public radio's Weekend America, WashingtonPost.com, The Rocky Mountain News, Christianity Today, Writer's Digest, Guideposts, and others. She has reported internationally, is a former broadcaster, was a finalist for an Audie Award, and is a member of The Association of Independents in Radio and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She and her family live in Colorado.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

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1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 6, 2014

    Interesting and informative

    I was clueless as to what it is like to emerge from a coma. I applaud Lindsey and her family for sharing this long,perilous, and difficult journey with us. Of particular interest was the author's ability to portray the events so we could see what it was like for them individually

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2014

    Got me

    Just an amazingly raw story...couldn't even think of giving less than 5 stars when this streaming mass of words and thoughts and emotions and nightmares came from the heart and soul of the person who lived them...review by CherishD

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2013

    Lindsay O'Connor went into the hospital, gave birth to a baby gi

    Lindsay O'Connor went into the hospital, gave birth to a baby girl, and shortly afterwards began hemorraging. She lost so much blood doctors knew there would be brain damage... and there was. This is her story. 




    What a frightening time in the lives of Lindsay and her family. The book opens with Lindsay coming out of a 47 day medically induced coma. Her husband standing beside her asking again and again "Can you hear me?". Lindsay hearing but floating in and out of that sea of darkness. Her husband is absolutely wonderful, never giving up on her recovering. Remembering she had a baby who is now two and a half months old and wondering if she would be able to bond with her. 




    A story of faith and the will to live. Sad to read at times but I had to rejoice with her as she passed each stepping stone. 




    I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2014

    I have not read the book yet, so I can't give an honest review.

    I have not read the book yet, so I can't give an honest review.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2014

    Insightful

    Great book. I enjoyed reading it. Emotional at times. Very insightful. Highly recommended.

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  • Posted April 24, 2014

    This is not for someone that is pregnant, or their relatives. It

    This is not for someone that is pregnant, or their relatives. It is about hat can go wrong, and does. However I could never give up on someone in a coma, and I am glad that no one in this book did. This is really a story about faith and love. There is a lot of sadness mixed in. I recommend reading this book with tissues near by. I am giving this book a 5/5. I was given a copy to review, however all opinions are my own. 

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  • Posted March 31, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    "The day our baby came into the world was the day I left. A

    "The day our baby came into the world was the day I left. A day that began all smiles and excitement and anticipation and joy ended with running and panic and blood and tears. And then coma."




    The Long Awakening is the true story of a life-threatening coma, a miraculous awakening, and the long quest to regain what was lost. Readers who have known someone with a brain injury or who has been in a coma will especially be drawn to this book, but I believe it's a story that anyone can relate to. Tighter writing would have moved the narrative along better, but I still enjoyed Lindsey's writing and was caught up emotionally in her story. So many elements come into play - finding oneself totally dependent on others, having to relearn the simplest things, questioning God, the effect of chronic illness on a spouse, making tough medical decisions, accepting a life that will never be the same. Lindsey's story touched me and I'd like to share a few quotes that made an impact.




    Jacquelyn, struggling with her mother's crisis, thought of what it might be like to forget about God:  "In her mind she literally saw a dirt trail with hills in the distance and the trail forked into two distinct paths. Down one path was her life if she chose to abandon faith and abandon God. The other path was her life with God. And she realized, both paths had pain regardless. . . . And from her life at that moment in its seeming hopelessness, she saw nothing different on either path. . . . Lord, as hard as this is with you, I don't want to do it without you."




    Seeing her baby after coming out of a coma, Lindsey reflects:  "I understand - this was my baby -  but I wonder when her mother's going to come get her."




    Tim had patiently and faithfully read to Lindsey during her coma, and she later says:  "I'm so grateful that Tim believed and defended one piece of advice he'd been given: hearing is a sense that can remain after all others are gone. He'd been the sentry enforcing his order, for the two months I slept, that no one should say anything in my comatose presence that they would not say had I been awake."




    Tim, trying to make a medical decision:  "God can save. God can create miracles out of things and this is an opportunity for God if He so chooses to do it. It's His opportunity for a miracle and for me to step in and take away that opportunity was not a choice for me."




    And in the continual questioning, Lindsey finally realizes:  "I'd been looking for God in the fireworks and the feelings, and He'd been in the comfort, and in the peace in room 4273 and in questions, in community and their sacrifices, in the transcendence, all along, hiding in plain sight." I can't help but think how often I've found God "hiding in plain sight."




    Anyone who has been associated with chronic illness or brain injury can relate to this story, but I recommend it to any reader looking for a true story of survival and recovery.




    Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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  • Posted March 27, 2014

    It has been quite some time since I have read a nonfiction book

    It has been quite some time since I have read a nonfiction book that captivated me so thoroughly. As a mom I cannot even begin to imagine the journey that Lindsey and her family went through. I found myself just aching for all the battles they faced and then rejoicing over even the small triumphs.




    Can you imagine one minute anticipating the birth of your fifth baby and then the next utter chaos? It's hard to think about being in a medically induced coma for 47 days. Normal day to day activities would continue all around you while in essence your world would stop. But those 47 days were only the beginning of a long road to recovery. With eloquent honesty Lindsay shares about the struggles and the victories that she and her family journeyed through. 




    One of the most interesting aspects about this book is that it is written by Lindsey. Many times we read a story such as this but it is written by a friend or family member not the actual patient. To read the account and understand what she went through is to see a miracle unfold. This is a story that will leave you with no doubt that God has a unique plan for each of us and He is the one that will determine how we will go about accomplishing it.




    I encourage you to get this book and enjoy reading about not only a miracle, but a group of faithful family and friends that journey together to make a beautiful life out of what appeared to be tragedy.




    I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review. 

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  • Posted March 27, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This book is being reviewed at this time in honor of  Brain Inju

    This book is being reviewed at this time in honor of  Brain Injury Awareness Month.
    In  2002 Lindsey O'Connor gave birth to a little girl, their family's fifth child.  Soon after she hemorrhaged so severely that she needed multiple transfusions, and subsequently was placed in a medical coma.  For 47 days, Lindsey's family did not know if she would recover.  Doctors felt there was no brain activity and prepared the family for the worst.  Development of ARD (acute respiratory disease) complicated her care and recovery.  The Long Awakening documents lengthy and difficult adjustment to life after the coma.  As she emotionally describes, being in a coma is nothing like the movie versions.  Her awakening was a dragging into the consciousness, a combination of fog, terror, and pain. Memories of nightmares plague her reentry into the world of the living; a disconnect between herself and her newborn daughter plague her for months.  When friends from her church tell her that she is a miracle, that their prayers were answered, she does not feel the same.  An avid reader and broadcaster, Lindsey finds that words are a meaningless jumble on the page.   A full year or more after her lengthy rehabilitation, Lindsey and her husband realize she still cannot cope with daily life -- parenthood, shopping, etc.
    As they seek help, they receive the diagnosis - post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep apnea, indicating  her brain injuries were more prevalent than anyone thought.




    Lindsey says that writing this memoir was a difficult, emotional task.  Virtually absent for the first months of the journey, she needed to interview family and friends, and years later, began to understand how each coped (and didn't cope) with the possibility of her death. Readers will have the objectivity to see the strong bonds that held their family intact and the love that her church and friends expressed through their actions.  
    For the first weeks, they "mothered" the new baby until Jacqueline, the O'Connor's oldest daughter dropped out of college to care for the infant.  The church had a rotating meal delivery system that continued long after Lindsey's return home. Perhaps most painful was Lindsey's discovery that her husband had during one crisis signed a DNR order.  Acknowledging his decision helped her understand just how ill she had been.

     I think O'Connor's story is told with an unequaled quiet, frankness.  There are no single day epiphanies, sudden cures, single savior doctor.  This is the truth of a woman's struggle to be whole, aided by her extended family's devotion. Reading The Long Awakening will help all of us better understand brain injury and medically induced comas. Perhaps it will prompt us to be more attentive and caring after a patient returns home.  Release from a hospital (especially these days) does not mean a return to normalcy.  I do wonder how families who have experienced brain injury would react to this book.  My own experience here is limited.  Recently, a young couple in our neighborhood had a similar birth experience.  We all felt prayers were answered when the mother survived the emergency transfusions, hysterectomy, and medical coma, and ultimately was able to take their new son home within a week.  Reading this book makes me all the more grateful for their happy ending.




    I received a copy of this book from Revell Nonfiction for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

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  • Posted March 13, 2014

    I am reviewing this book in honor of Brain Injury Awareness mont

    I am reviewing this book in honor of Brain Injury Awareness month.

    This book sounded really interesting to me and it was. But I really struggled to follow it. The thoughts seemed very random which as first I understood. You are reading the book from Lindsey's point-of-view and of course as she comes out of the coma she is confused.

    Then the book bounces around a lot to different people, different times. This made it hard for me to stay engaged while reading.

    There is a lot of beauty in this book, as Lindsey's husband stays by her side and as you realize she hasn't seen her baby in over a month and doesn't even know if her baby is a live. I can't even imagine going through that or what her older children had to experience not knowing when or if their mom would come home.


    Even though I didn't love this book you might and I always encourage you to make your own opinion. If the book sounds interesting you might want to give it try.


    A copy of this book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Posted March 11, 2014

     Probably one of the best books I'll read this year, and certain

     Probably one of the best books I'll read this year, and certainly one of the most moving. If the idea of this book intrigues you at all, you would do well to check it out. It's the story of a life-changing-event story, it's the story of a miracle, it's a story about what-happens-after-your-life-changes, and it's a warmly human story.  The way Lindsey tells this story is riveting. You'd think the account of a woman who goes into a coma the day her fifth child is born would be too terrible to even read, but there is such a sense of love in this book amidst the tragedy. Such a strong sense of family and caregiving and care-receiving and comforting each other and grieving together and the bonds between us that never let us go. 




    She recounts so many of her family's experiences in this book, giving us multiple windows into that time. We read about the way Lindsey's eldest daughter returned home to become sister-mother to newborn Caroline, and how Lindsey rejoiced that her baby had such good care and yet mourned that she didn't know her own infant's languages. 




    She tells us about the conversations that went on behind the scenes, as her family lived without the ability to grieve fully or the ability to completely hope. 
    It was like they were all underwater, her in the coma and them in the aftermath of uncertainty and fear. The worst thing I can imagine is having to look at children's faces while they ask "What is going to happen to Mom?" 




    Yet Lindsey keeps a little humor and hint of irony in her storytelling too. When she was released from the hospital at last, and all her friends and family would cry with happiness every time they saw her, she nicknames herself The Human Onion. 




    Chapter 21 may be my favorite chapter of all, as that is the one where Lindsey begins to look back and ask God what on earth was the meaning of all of that, and where was He in it. I was underlining quotes throughout this book, and I found some of my favorite in those pages. 




    Again, if you think this book may be for you, it comes highly endorsed by Eric Metaxas and many other well-spoken voices of our day. I would suggest you try it. 




    Thank you Revell for my review copy.

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  • Posted March 3, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This book is the story of a woman who went into a coma shortly a

    This book is the story of a woman who went into a coma shortly after birthing her fifth child. She was out for close to two months, and this is her story. While the reader obviously knows that the author is fine and alive and well (how could she not be if she were writing the memoir?), the bulk of the book is depressing. Yes, there is talk of hope, redemption, answered prayers, friendship, help from strangers, compassion, and other great things. However, a good chunk of the book talks about tears, hospitals, diagnoses, despair, emotional trauma, confusion, suffering, and other depressing topics. This book does not focus on dreams the author had in her coma or any sort of extravagant near-death-experience. Rather, it is a collection of the author's memories, her husband's and children's reactions, and thoughtfully events she recalls in between consciousness. I applaud the author for living through such an ordeal, but I warn readers that this is not a book you want to read before going to bed.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 14, 2014

    Powerful read

    Harrowing story........heartbreaking, disturbing, but ultimately hopeful. An amazing woman, Lindsey O'Connor, you will not soon forget her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2013

    In depth memoir - very good.

    As a mother who's son was comatose for three-and-a-half months, I found the story to be somewhat enlightening as to what was going on in her mind during the coma; also, the situation regarding her immediate family was interesting. A fascinating read.

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  • Posted November 27, 2013

    The Long Awakening is such a moving story of a mother who awakes

    The Long Awakening is such a moving story of a mother who awakes from a medically induced coma and the long, slow struggle of recovering from the trauma not only for the mother but for the whole family.    Their faith gets them through this even in the times when they struggle to believe.




    This book not only gripped my heart and my emotions, but it also helped me to understand what it would be like to go through something like this.   I believe this book would be of encouragement to others going through situations such as this.   




    I am so grateful I read this book and know it will be one I would read again and share with others.




    Lindsey O’Connor is a great and gifted writer.

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  • Posted November 11, 2013

    Lindsey O'Conner's memoir of the time she was in a coma after th

    Lindsey O'Conner's memoir of the time she was in a coma after the birth of her child is heart-rending, yet so positive and uplifting at the same time. Reading this had a great impact on my life, and not just because my Mom was in this type of a situation for two weeks after she had an infarction to her large intestines. I could readily identify with those around her who had to deal with the stress and anxiety of having a loved one so close to death's door. And through her eyes I can more easily understand the one who has been there.  As with Lindsey, my Mom is also deeply thankful that she did not leave her children orphans (though we are considerably older than the O’Connor family). 
    It is amazing and awesome that Lindsey is able to tell so much of what she went through in such a clear and articulate manner. Truly an eye opener for me. I recommend this story to those who love to read true stories and memoirs, but also to those who would rather pick up a fiction to get lost in. 




    I received this book free from Melody at Graf-Martin and Revell Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. A positive critique was not required. The opinions stated are my own.

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  • Posted October 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Lindsey O'Connor in her new book, "The Long Awakening"

    Lindsey O'Connor in her new book, "The Long Awakening" published by Revell gives us The riveting true story of a life-threatening coma, a miraculous awakening, and the long quest to regain what was lost.




    From the back cover: The riveting true story of a life-threatening coma, a miraculous awakening, and the long quest to regain what was lost.




    The day our baby came into the world was the day I left. A day that began all smiles and excitement and anticipation and joy ended with running and panic and blood and tears. And then coma.




    I lay suspended in the deep, my newborn unknown. Nothingness. Layers where dark pulled from below, light called from above, and me, trapped in between, longing to break the surface.




    To live.




    Forty-seven days later when I first saw my husband's face leaning close to me, I knew where, and who, I was. But other things took much longer to know. Learning to restitch life-and love-when everything's changed, and finding who we are afterward, can be the longest journey of all.




    I'm Lindsey O'Connor, and this is the story of my long awakening.




    Forty seven days is a long chunk of someone's life to lose. On August 30, 2002 at the age of 41, Lindsey O'Connor experienced childbirth complications and received over 20 units of blood, two times the amount of blood in her body, while giving birth to her daughter, Caroline. Doctors put her into a medically-induced coma to allow her brain, lungs and body to heal. Initially her doctors did not know what was medically wrong, and there was no promise she would wake up. While in a coma, Lindsey suffered multi-organ failure and was close to death several times, leaving her family on an emotional roller coaster. For 47 excruciating days her family waited with Lindsay's expected death looming. Miraculously, she woke up. With no memory of the time spent in a coma. Ms. Lindsey gives a personal account of what it was like for her from the moment she came out of her coma until the time when she was able to regain the time of her life that had continued to flow by her while she was out. This is a wonderfully told book that will have you crying in spots and cheering in others. "The Long Awakening" is a book of the mercy and grace of God and the prayers of our loved ones.




    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."




    Available October 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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    Posted July 1, 2014

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    Posted July 25, 2014

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