My cute, California girlfriend, Diane, slipped on a step and her life changed forever. Getting to know her this year has been inspiring for me. Her injury was so severe that she had to learn to walk again! (Currently, an elevator is being installed in her home, because she hasn't been upstairs in over a year!) Yet Diane's positive attitude, sense of humor, great style and complete faith are so strong, I often forget her physical struggles. Her story is so uplifting, I just had to get the details.
So, here are Diane's thoughts on taking life one step at a time...
1.#1--Please briefly describe your accident, injuries and recovery.
On July 3, 2007, while visiting my sister, I fell down the stairs. I shattered my tib fib plateau as well as my life. I slipped on the third step from the bottom. I sustained a devastating injury as the result of osteoporosis. After being seen at a small local hospital I was transported to the University if Utah. I had surgery to rebuild my knee. Two eight inch plates and nine screws were required to put me back together again. I spent ten days in the hospital followed by four days at a rehabilitation center. During this process I said "At least I didn't break my hip!" I was told that my injury was worse and the Doctor said, " I hope you don't have any plans this year." I thought they were joking when they said it would take a year to recover.
I returned home and began in home physical therapy. A few weeks later I started physical therapy at a center. I was non weight bearing for twelve weeks after which I could begin weight bearing five pounds a week. They actually had me stand on a scale to get the feeling of adding weight. I went from a wheel chair to hopping with a walker then walking with the walker followed by a cane and finally unassisted. I was in physical therapy for eight months.
#2--Are you pleased with the healthcare you received? Did this experience change your opinion about our medical system? I am very fortunate to have great health insurance. Nevertheless, there was red tape along the way. The insurance company wanted to send me to a convalescent home that didn't have physical therapy facilities. My Doctors fought to get me in the proper rehab center. I experienced socialized medicine when I lived in Canada and I'm not a fan of the system.
#3--What was the lowest point of the whole experience and how did you get through it? Where did you turn for inspiration and motivation?
There were a lot of low points over the past year. Days when I didn't think I could handle anymore. I think the lowest point was while I was at the rehab center. I was half the age of the other patients, far from home, and totally dependant on others. I felt helpless and hopeless. I was giving myself a sponge bath and an administrator came in to tell me I didn't have the correct paperwork required to be released the next day. She was yelling and swearing and I was so vulnerable. I dissolved into tears. I got her written up and her job was on the line. I was more concerned that she would treat the elderly patients this way who couldn't defend themselves properly.
I was given a new church assignment in January as Humanitarian Aid specailist. It has been so good to focus on those who are in need. It has helped give me perspective.
#4--Who did you lean on during this overwhelming trial? How did they help you?
My sister, Annemarie, was amazing during this time. She looked after my kids and me all the while caring for her four young children. My husband, Tom, and my kids ,Jordan and Brynn, rose to the challenge.
I honestly don't know which is harder, being the patient or the caregiver. Tom is my rock and he just takes over and handles every detail. I am a lucky woman to have him. We hired my friend Jennifer to be my caretaker to take some pressure off the family members. She cooked, did laundry and drove me to all my appointments.
I have great friends who provided distraction, humor and support. The blogging community has helped get me through many long and lonely days. Most of all, I have had to rely on my Savior to get me through the dark times.
On December 23rd my older brother died unexpectedly at the age of 48. Just when you think things are starting to look up, tragedy strikes. My favorite scripture this past year is D&C 81:5 "Succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees." This quote from Marvin J. Ashton has also been important to me. "Life is never easy, and we cannot escape our own feeble knees from time to time. It is thus essential that we love and support one another."
#5--How do you feel now? What issues remain these days? How do you deal with discouragement and stay patient through each phase of recovery?
I am really happy with my recovery. My kids have noticed that I don't limp much anymore and I can walk faster. I still deal with pain and stiffness. I recently saw my Orthopedist for an evaluation. He took new x-rays and said my bones still look soft.
The good news is that he told me in another year I should be able to forget this ever happened. I've come a long way and don't want to take it for granted. I still have to wear sensible shoes, this may be why I'm obsessed with shoes.
I can't walk up stairs, kneel, run or jump. I can't sit on the floor and get up. I think these skills are overrated and don't see the need to work on them. My Physical Terrorist, I mean Physical Therapist said I need to sit on the floor when I have grandchildren to play with them. I think my future grandchildren can sit on the couch with me.
As far as discouragement and patience go...I'm not very good with them. I have other chronic health issues and just try to accept the "new normal." Everyone has challenges, many far worse than mine. I have an 8 year old nephew with leukemia. He will be in treatment for two more years and has already endured a year. My neighbor lost his wife at the age of 43. His children lost their Mom. I try to be grateful.
#6--You always look so young and hip! We all know that when you look good, you feel good. So, what are your top style tips for someone who is hurting or healing?
While I was in the hospital my sister, Annemarie, was my personal shopper. She bought me nightgowns and a lovely, hee-hee, housecoat. She ordered clothes sent to my house. I had to wear skirts because my brace went from the top of my thigh to my ankle.
Never underestimate the importance of getting your hair done. I couldn't wash my hair for the ten days I was in the hospital. I used these dry shampoo shower caps a couple of times. When I got to the care facility my first stop was the hair salon. It was the best. When I got home, my hairstylist came to my house and washed and styled my hair. Once I could shower I still had friends come and blow dry my hair.
My friend Sue came and put bling on my brace and my walker. It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you look playing the game. Even while laying in bed, I would wear a bracelet, necklace and earrings. It helped me feel more normal.
#7--What have you learned from this trial? How have you surprised yourself? What would you say to someone facing a similar challenge?
In the beginning I learned bitterness and new swear words.
I have learned how loved I am. I know that relationships are the most important thing. When your calendar is suddenly cleared you learn that the world can go on without you. It is nice to live life at a slower pace. Priorities fall into place quickly.
I've been surprised to find that I am stronger than I thought I was. I can do hard things. Be careful when you pray for strength. I stopped. Now I pray for courage.
To anyone going through something difficult, let your friends and family help you. It's hard when you are independent. Ask for what you need. People want to help and sometimes they don't know what to do. Hang on to your faith and lean on the Lord.
You are remarkable, Diane! Hope your body is soon as strong as your spirit. Thank you for the inspiration!
Diane writes at Little Bits of Nothing. Her Tuesday-Shoesday feature is almost as fun as a trip to Nordstrom!