What injury did you sustain?
Multiple fractures: left pelvis (4), left distal radius(multiple FX, which required surgical repair), right ankle (avulsion); achilles tendon damage; sprains to right calf and ankle, right knee bruising and swelling.
I fell about 15-20 feet while painting my house. My right foot and leg slid between the rungs when the catch gave way. I was pitched off the ladder and landed on my left side. After I fell, I was unable to move due to the injuries to my left arm (the forearm looked like an accordion and was bleeding), left pelvis, and right ankle. It was horrible to feel so helpless. All I could do was shout for help and hope family in the house or a neighbor would hear me. to top it off I was covered in wedgewood blue paint!
When did this injury occur?
How long was the recovery process?
16 plus weeks
What provided you the motivation and drive to press on through the difficult times after sustaining the injury?
Prior to the fall,I had always been an active person and in good shape. In college, I swam, then played baseball and was very active in Taekwondo (won several trophies), hiked, and loved to travel. In short, I was a healthy, active adult.
Immediately after the accident, I was suddenly dependent on everyone around me. I was helpless.
I had always been a self motivated and competitive person and I used this “inner core” ( some call it pure stubbornness) to focus on “getting better”. I also used humor to deflect the overriding helplessness I often felt. I spent a scary 5 days waiting for the final surgery on my left forearm, not knowing if it would be successful or not. Having the ortho surgeon and his residents check on me every day kept me going. My two adult (very young adult!) daughters were there every day, and were quite taken with how tall and good looking all the residents were, which made me laugh, even if it hurt to do so.
I found that talking to the hospital staff, even the transport personal helped take my mind off the pain and helped me feel like a person…not just another patient.
Once my final surgery was done (5 days after my initial injury), I started to focus on “doing what I had to do” to get back home.
My ortho surgeon recommended transfer to the Rehab Unit and gave me the best advice of “don’t refuse anything (services) you are offered”… because they may not be available later, if you refuse them. Great advice, because one does not always understand what some injuries entail or the kind of help you might need.
The ortho surgeon came to my room after 11 pm and told me that the surgery had gone much better than expected and I would probably get “95% or more” use of my hand and arm if I worked at it. That was a huge motivator! ie. I could get better if I tried! It meant a lot that he had come to my room after the 4 hour surgery and took the time to talk to me in person.
Once I was in Rehab. I made my family go home.They just visited in the evening, so I could concentrate on getting better. The mind set of “getting better” was now foremost in my mind.
The rehab unit at KU is very old and out of date, so I asked my family to bring in posters for the walls and a digital photo-frame. This kept my mind occupied and made my family feel closer to me.
While in rehab the staff were always encouraging me and even the smallest milestone was made a great deal of. I was proud of myself that after 3-4 days, I was finally able to lift up my left leg while sitting 1/2 an inch. I worked and stretched my fingers constantly, and was even able to type a bit after 1 week post surgery.
Sometimes I felt so helpless and emotionally fragile( I couldn’t even pull up a sheet to cover myself with my left arm), that I cried. I asked to be placed on an antidepressant and to have an anti-anxiety medication and sleep aide available as needed. Sometimes one needs a bit more than just determination. Admitting that you need help emotionally may be hard to do, but you cannot rely on people intuitively knowing what you think or need. For me, just knowing I would be able to get to sleep or take something if I was too overwhelmed helped relieve my anxiety to the point that I rarely availed the meds. The antidepressant in the long run was much needed, as I knew the holidays were coming up and I was almost at the bottom of my emotional reserves.
Every day I noted improvement in Rehab, even if it was tiny. This in itself, was a great motivator. When I was able to sit in a wheelchair and maneuver a little, I made an appointment with the beauty salon at KU and had my hair washed for the first time in 10 days. I would reward myself with an M&M or jellybean if I could pick it up with my left hand and put it in my mouth. I tried to find small things to “reward” myself for pressing on. Rehab paid off and I would never have been able to have a small measure of independence and self confidence if I hadn’t gone.
How did the injury you sustained shape your character in who you are today?
I did not realize I had changed very much, until my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas. My answer was that I really hadn’t thought about gifts for myself. I was too busy thinking of every small step I needed to take to become independent. I found myself thinking that it was gift enough that I was able to freely move my fingers, hand, and wrist and that by the New Year I would be able to stand up and walk on my own two feet. Until then, I never fully appreciated how wonderful it is to just do the everyday things one does.
On a more humorous note, I find that I am now very resentful to people that “abuse” the handicapped parking! Several times my daughter had to find a parking area big enough to accommodate transfer to a wheel chair and I would see people hop out and run into the store without difficulty. I have become quite intolerant of these individuals.
Since the injury, how has life changed for you?
My family and I have become closer, especially the relationship with my daughters. I was very lucky that all my injuries are healing well. I will now,:only have are a few scars; and set off the metal detectors in the airport!