As soon as I was capable of walking on both legs, without any visible casts or scars, people would state “I am so glad you’re okay now”, or when questioning me about the crash would ask, “But your okay now, right?” Some others would question my physical state even with the visible injuries. After discharging myself from the rehabilitation centre, I returned to University of Calgary in an electric wheel chair; however, the only injury that was visible when fully clothed was my left ankle due to the cast. On one of my first days returning to school, I was attempting to get back to my dorm room after a traumatic first day of classes (not all rooms were wheelchair accessible). A construction worker saw me, and yelled, “Wow, I wish I could just zoom around in a chair all day after hurting my leg! Lazy b*tch!” Today, fully clothed, rested, and on medication, I look like your average 23 year old woman. Strip the clothes, bring in the insomnia and chronic pain, and take away the medications, I am the woman who was hit by a vehicle. So when my wellbeing after the crash is questioned, I answer with, “I am much better now”, because the truth is, I am not okay now. I believe I will never be the “okay” that some people think, because my rehabilitation process is lifelong. I have previously discussed how I live my life day by day, because every morning when I wake up, I feel mentally and physically different than the day before. Today I would like to share a bit of my rehabilitation process four years ago, now, and what the future may have to hold. Presently, I see progress that I never believed I would reach during those hospital months, and that’s pretty incredible.
To my left you see a photo of me, taking my first step ever on my right leg, 7 weeks after the crash. It was an incredible moment, but also a painful one. Additionally, the weeks leading up to this day were also extremely agonizing. As I have previously mentioned, I have very limited memory from the first few weeks. I dealt with issues with my left thigh burn from the air bag, I had complications with illness from my immune system being so low, issues with my bowel surgery, and I even struggled from an illness due to the catheter (possibly a story for another day), all while laying completely still in a bed so my fractures that didn’t require surgery (pelvis, right foot, left clavicle, left rib) would set. When I finally was allowed to move parts of my body, a team of physiotherapists would visit my room for the much needed aid. I must admit, there were days where moving even my toes felt impossible. At times I wanted to yell at them, and I even refused to participate. However, there were many days where physiotherapy was what I looked forward to. One morning I was told I could try sitting up without the bed support, just with the aid of my therapist. Some time later, I was able to sit without the help, and was told I could attempt dangling my legs over the bed. I remember my dad being there for this moment, because it felt as though my freedom was only a step away. I never imagined what it would feel like to lay for weeks, and then bring your legs to the ground. The blood rushed to my feet, my nerves went into shock, and my femurs throbbed. The pain was unbearable. I never wanted to try again, but the next day we did, and the day after that. I would cry, but they continued to push me until I wanted to push myself. With the proper medication and the desire to get better, I got to the point of being able to put weight onto my right leg.
In the first year of my rehabilitation journey, I had physiotherapy up to four days a week with home therapy every day, hand therapy two days, burn clinic once a week, as well as doctor and surgeon appointments weekly. Those numbers slowly went down, and some of the appointments even were eliminated from my life. In the hospital, my father and I were both told that I would be dealing with pain for the rest of my life, and that the left ankle will be a serious issue in the future. Today, I am aware of both my lifelong pain and the problematic ankle. However, I also am aware of the positive changes that are occurring. As I continue to fight for my health with physical exercise, getting help for my mental health, as well as discovering issues with my digestive system from the crash, I see progress that will aid my future. I have been told by multiple foot and ankle surgeons that my ankle will need a fusion, but that the fusion is not guaranteed to work and will take over a year to heal due to the decaying bone. I have then been told by surgeons, physiatrists, and physiotherapists that my ankle will eventually need an amputation anyways. This future is frightening; however, when I think about it, I am excited for what these surgeries can provide me that I cannot have currently. The future is something I will always think about, and I believe most of us do, and yet, all we can really do for ourselves is make the present as positive as it can be. This will then make the future brighter. I am not “okay”, but today I am stronger and healthier than I was last year. Today I am much better.