They Said I Would Never Walk Again…At Least Not How I Did Before

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I woke up to the blurred images of people frantic on their cellular phones and their fingers on my body feeling for a pulse. Suddenly it came back to me, I was hit by that silver jeep. I lay on a bed of glass in overwhelming agony wondering, is this it? Did I work this hard only to be paralyzed or worse, to die at the age of 27? My mind was intact and I was able to assess the seriousness of the situation. My body, however, was no longer my own, it was at the mercy of those around me. I was worried for my dignity, my physical body, and my future. Then everything went dark again.
I opened my eyes, but this time to bright lights and loud machines. I was at the Grenada General Hospital. I looked down and my body was completely exposed and there was nothing I could do about it. My mouth was unable to generate a coherent chain of syllables to express what I wanted. I wanted my dignity, but it was gone. I was a piece of flesh lying on the steel gurney under evaluation. I could hear the technologists speaking to each other about the damage but I was unable to respond. They were moving my body causing excruciating pain. My mind knew what it wanted but my mouth didn’t move. I couldn’t consent. I couldn’t refuse. I couldn’t direct. It was dark again.
I was awakened by pain and wondered how much damage had been done. I had numerous pelvic fractures, my arm was broken, my blood levels were dangerously low and they were contemplating whether or not to remove my uterus. But I was awake, and alive, and I began to muster the courage to face my diagnosis and potential for recovery. After I was stable enough for transport, I was harnessed into a medical transport helicopter and off we drifted into the clouds.
In Toronto I underwent surgical reduction and fixation of my fractured arm. I had to let the pelvic fractures heal on their own. I felt stuck. I was at the mercy of the health care providers around me for weeks and weeks. I was told at the very outset that I likely will not walk properly again and worse, would likely not be able to finish medical school. I was told the severity of my concussion may have long lasting effects permanently affecting my short and long term memory. I cried and cried. I felt so hopeless. Had no interest.
A few weeks later, I knew if anyone spoke to me, they would diagnose me as having major depression. I had a great support system which helped but nevertheless, the sad and hopeless thoughts did not escape me and they would come in waves when I had set-backs. I experienced what our patients experience every day. I woke up to ten white coats surrounding my bedside, to individuals disrobing me to insert Foley catheters and perform physical exams, to nurses drawing blood and providing fluids and pain medications. I reflected – I am a patient and I will forever have this bond with my patients. I was prescribed physical and occupational therapy. I was sad and hopeless that I would never get to where I was before the accident; however, I pushed myself to make my way downstairs to the rehabilitation room every single day per orders. It was hard. I didn’t want to do it.
However, over the course of several weeks, I began to see a return in my strength and saw improvements in my memory and recall. It took a while but in talking to my friends and family and internally coping with what happened, I began to feel in control again. I knew what my body was capable of. I could make it move. I could make it turn. I also knew what my mind was capable of. I felt as though I had the control to make myself heal. They continued to tell me I likely would not walk without certain deficits. This time my sadness turned into determination. I did not accept this. It only made my fight stronger.
I was eventually handed my first set of crutches. I had a new set of legs to stand on. Despite what everyone said, two months later I was back in medical school. This was my personal lifetime achievement. I promised myself that I would treat my patients with sympathy and relieve their emotional suffering, which would contribute more to their recovery than any drug I could ever prescribe. I had a clear calling as I looked ahead.
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