You know that feeling when you are waking up from a dream? When you are between sleeping and awake? The neurological phenomenon is called Hypnagogia and it is often a terrifying time. I thought that was what was happening to me.
In late August 2015 I was involved in an accident that would forever change my life. Early in the morning I was driving my moped to work, which was probably only about 5 miles from where I lived at the time. The problem, or maybe the good thing, is that I don’t remember anything about that morning, that day, most of the day before, or even the entire next week.
I woke up choking. I felt something deep in my throat and I couldn’t breathe. I tried to pull it out but I couldn’t. I couldn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t hear. Everything was fuzzy. I didn’t know who I was or where I was or what was happening. My brother would later tell me they had to strap my hands to the bed and kept me heavily medicated. The accident was on a Sunday and if I recall I woke up the following Sunday or Monday. Thank goodness when I woke up for good they had removed the breathing tube.
When I woke up I was in so much pain. I cannot describe it. Everything hurt. I opened my eyes and saw my mom first. She told me that I was in an accident. I remember saying I hurt and let out a moan, the nurse came in and gave me some medicine and I was fast asleep. Over the next week, I slowly learned what happened. Things were still really fuzzy at this point however, probably because of the pain and pain medication. I was told that my lower right leg was basically shattered, my hips were broken, some vertebrae in my lower back were fractured, that I had a traumatic aortic disruption, traumatic brain injury, broken ribs, multiple lacerations, broken teeth, and my blood levels were still low so I needed to have another blood transfusion, this time while I was awake. Which if you have never had that experience, it is interesting and weird feeling. The nurse basically walks in with a bag of blood, like in a clear plastic IV type bag, and they connect it and you can see the blood going down the tube and into your body. Thank you blood donors.
Over the next month or so I stayed in the critical care unit. I had to be helped with everything, literally everything. I’m very thankful for all the staff at the hospital though because they made some of the embarrassing and painful experiences, a lot easier. I had to do a lot of uncomfortable and difficult medical procedures to help me heal. After CCU, I was moved to a normal room while I was waiting for a room to open in the rehabilitation.
The rehabilitation unit is where I would learn how to move from my bed to a wheel chair and vice versa. One day I was in my room, silently coloring, and a guy walks in wearing nurse’s scrubs and carrying a wooden board. He immediately asks, “are you ready to get up today?” I remember first thinking, ‘wow he has a nice accent and then thinking, yeah, yes, I do’! He would show me how to set up the slide board (a slick wooden board) between my bed to a chair and how to use either a person or the bars near my bed to pull myself into position to slide. The idea was to slide from the bed to the chair without standing on the floor because I couldn’t stand. The first training session was just sitting up in the bed and it was incredibly painful.
Over the days, we slowly added steps until finally, with help and a lot of struggling I was able to slide from my bed to a chair. My work using the slide board continued and even use some resistance bands so I could regain some of my strength. I still couldn’t do any exercises with my legs. The physical therapists were awesome though, I learned a lot and healed a lot. In this unit I would also visit with a neuropsychologist as well as an activity therapist and even played some Wii with some of the other patients on the unit. At the beginning the therapists would come and get me up and help me slide out of bed into the wheelchair but soon enough I was allowed to, and able to, get out of bed myself and wheel around the unit a bit. I loved going to the therapy room and just staring out the huge, floor to ceiling windows towards downtown Orlando. It was here that I really started pushing myself. I did as many exercises as I could and was allowed to do, and some that I wasn’t. My next stop after the rehabilitation unit was home care, basically we had a hospital room set up at my grandma’s house with a hospital bed and all the things I needed close by plus a nurse and physical therapists coming daily to do exercises and to change my bandages.
The first steps of my recovery were to get me out of the house. So, my brother would take me to the mall or to my favorite coffee shop so I could wheel around a bit and get some exercise and fresh air. It was a long trip dragging myself out of bed, across the slide board into the wheel chair, and then out of the house and down the ramp that my dad built, then trying to climb into my brother’s SUV. It was a long process but really helped a lot with my physical recovery and mental health as well. For months, my daily routine would be to wake up, nurses and physical therapists would come and help me take care of my ADL’s (activities of daily living) as well as exercises to regain some of my lost strength and my evenings were spent at the mall or coffee shop. It was a long process but I needed the rest to heal, I usually spent about 18-20 hours a day in bed at this point.
Fast forward and I kind of rushed myself by playing a little football and baseball last season, including playing with TEAM USA Women’s National Team as well as traveling to Australia to play. I could barely shuffle, let alone run, it was a mess. I suppose it is good to have that push it mentality to a degree but an important thing that I have learned is to be patient. Your body will tell you when it is ready.
Part 2 to follow…