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.
9 thoughts on “Lifelong Rehabilitation”
I feel privileged to follow your blog. I thought what the construction worker said was utterly horrible and judgemental. People not knowing better or sometimes foolishly. They don’t see the inner pain and scars assume because the physical is getting better. That all must be perfect. That is far from the truth sometimes. Thank you for sharing your journey.
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Wow! You still continue to amaze me as you share more in depth. Some things that one cannot imagine, that you’ve gone through. You are an inspiration to others to take that first step in whatever their journey to healing. Love n prayers
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Hi Maia I am a friend of your Uncle Jimmy.. We went to school together. He told me about the horrible accident you and Pat endured. I praise you and Pat for your strength! Keep sharing so others who are in or have been in similar circumstances can see that they are not alone…. When I read your blog, I immediately wanted to share two incidents with you. First… After a full career in Tourism management, I am now semi retired and am tutoring English at our local college in Campbell River on Vancouver Island. I’ve had many students over the past 2 years but my current student is special… Just as you are. At the age of 22 and in college, she was struck by a drunk driver while riding her bike to classes. She was in a coma for 18 months and when she finally awoke she couldn’t speak, eat or remember anything. She went into intensive mental and physical therapy to assist in her recovery. Maia that was 23 years ago! She is still fighting back and is studying to complete her degree. She is such an inspiration to me and everyone who meets her. She too is in lifelong rehab and I feel blessed to know and help her. By the way, she is going to complete her degree with flying colours!! The other story is more personal… And I’ll make it short… That terrible comment from the construction worker reminded me of how people used to say things to me, as I remained childless, like Why don’t you have kids? Or “It’s so selfish not to have a family” and so on… What they didn’t know was that I endured 4 miscarriages, the last one, and the worst one, in my late thirties. I was 5 months pregnant with a tumour growing inside my womb with my baby. The doctor was hopeful he could perform a caesarean if I could make it to 7 months. The miscarriage occurred after my then drunken husband fought with me(I won’t go into detail) and a I went into labour. My baby boy was stillborn. And I couldn’t have more children. The physical pain is over but my emotional rehab continues. I am now 68 and I have been blessed with a wonderful husband who had 2 little boys when we first met(his wife had died from cancer) Today those boys are 32 and 35 and we’re hoping for grandchildren. Life is all about how we handle the challenges thrown our way and the great people we encounter because of those challenges. Remember you are an inspiration. Keep sharing. Life will reward you too. Pray for the mean unthinking people in the world but put your efforts into those who love and support you. Onward and Upward
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Wow, Brenda. Just wow. I cannot thank you enough to share your stories. You are a true fighter, and I will continue to fight just as you have.
As usual Maia, I feel honoured to have you share your story. You so eloquently describe the inch by inch painful process of healing and building your strength and flexibility. With such severe injuries your journey will take time but even through the pain and challenge I feel the strength that has brought you this far and that will take you where you need to go. Comments that are hurtful reflect on the person who says them not on you.
I also want you to know that I had a severe ankle break and after20 years and arthritis I now have a fused ankle. I know your injuries are different but just want you to know my fusion is great and I am mobile with little pain.
Thank you for opening our eyes as we share your experiences
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Thank you to Toni for sharing her ankle story. That is good info for Maia.
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Tony, thank you so much for your kind words, and for the information on the ankle. It is such a difficult decision and I have little to no information on how well a fusion will work for someone like myself, but reading your comment gives me hope. Thank you!
I am coming up on my 1yr anniversary of my life changing hit and run motorcycle accident. i would love to talk with you.
Heather, I would love to chat with you! Why don’t you send me an email at email@example.com and we can get connected. Hoping to hear from you!