Disclosure: This true story is part of a series. Please read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three first. Photos in this post might be upsetting. However, I think it is important to include them to bring awareness to the danger of driving drowsy, and how it can be equivalent to driving while intoxicated.
The Recovery Process
I spent 10 days in the critical care intensive care unit of the hospital. After that time I was transferred to Gaylord Hospital, which specializes in rehabilitation after traumatic injuries. I honestly think I was discharged from the hospital entirely too early. Gaylord specializes in rehab. My first day there, physical therapists came into my room fully expecting me to sit up and hang my legs off the side of the bed. I don’t think they were prepared for the condition I was in. I was in no shape to do even that. My neck, although stable with the collar, had to be additionally supported by someone physically holding my head if I was to sit up. Also, both of my legs were in full-length casts. What I could physically do in rehab was extremely limited.
The physicians, nurses, and therapists that cared for me during this time were some of the very best. They truly cared for their patients, and it certainly showed. My days at Gaylord were long. The hardest part was being away from my children. Lincoln was just 5 years old, and Avery, my little baby was only one. My parents would send photos and videos daily, but that’s never enough. They were both so little. I averaged seeing them only 2-3 times per week. Our house was one hour away, and it was in the middle of a brutal winter, making travel conditions difficult. When I did get to see them, it was hard. I couldn’t hold my babies. Lincoln could only hold my hand, and I can only imagine how confused Avery was.
The amount of support I received from my family, friends, the blogging community, and even complete strangers who read about our story, was incredible. There are truly so many wonderful people in this world, and I feel grateful to know so many of them. It seemed like every day I was receiving a card or a care package in the mail. The kindness people showed to my family is something I will always remember, and hope to continuously pay forward.
Because I was so limited with what I could physically do at the rehab facility, after 30 days there, my insurance made the decision that I could no longer stay. I had two options. One being to transfer to a skilled nursing facility, and the other to go home. I was overwhelmed with the thought of going home, being that I was confined to a hospital bed, and I still had a catheter. That being said, I decided to be transferred to a skilled nursing facility, which essentially, is a nursing home.
Throughout this entire process, I was never depressed. I was optimistic and hopeful. When I was wheeled into the nursing facility on a stretcher, that all changed. I felt my eyes fill up. I felt heaviness. I felt despair. This should not be happening. I didn’t belong here.
Nursing homes are not meant for someone who is 33 years old. And honestly, from my experience, no one should ever want to reside in one. My first night there I was 6 hours past the time I should have received my medication because there was only one nurse who could dispense it. The next morning they didn’t have the correct medication for my thyroid. They offered me an alternative, which I declined. I could not stay there. Going home would be difficult, but my mental well-being could not be in that environment. I needed my home. I needed my family.
I returned home on February 15, 2015. A hospital bed was set up in my living room, so I could be surrounded by my family. Visiting nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists were set to visit my home multiple times per week.
Avery was now just shy of 15 months old. I thought for sure I would miss his first steps when I was hospitalized. Wouldn’t you know that my sweet little love bug took his very first steps right by my hospital bed on the day I came home. He waited for me.
Recovery was slow. My legs were not healing and the orthopedist wanted to now place rods in my left tibia and “check out” my femur while I was under anesthesia. I did not like where this was heading. I felt the doctor was unfamiliar with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, so I decided to do some research and find another orthopedist.
Finally I was referred to a recommended orthopedist in Hartford. Thank goodness I trusted my instincts, because while yes, I did need another surgery, the plan was entirely different. Essentially, the work my trauma surgeon did had to be completely redone. While my femur was healing fine, BOTH my right and left tibias were not. It was decided to replace the rod in my right tibia and plate both my right and left tibias. This surgery was in May 2015.
Once I found that orthopedist, my recovery started to FINALLY go somewhere. I was moving in the right direction. Always, always trust your gut. You know your body best. If something doesn’t sound right, you have the power to say NO. You have the right to go elsewhere and get a second (or third) opinion. Had I not done so, I really feel like I would have had numerous unnecessary surgeries, while this doctor “learned” about Osteogenesis Imperfecta. No thank you.
Now that my recovery was moving in the right direction, I could really start the rehabilitation process. After 6 months of being confined to a hospital bed, 4 months of having a catheter, I could finally begin weight bearing. I started water therapy in conjunction with my physical therapy. I was there 3 times per week. I would continue this intensive therapy routine for the next 1.5 years.
The Hardest Part Throughout it All
Needless to say the pain and trauma I experienced was unbearable. But nothing, nothing compares to the time I missed with my children. Imagine being in the same room as your baby, but unable to console him. The time I missed with my children is something that bothers me every day. That time I can never get back.
I know you are all wondering how this all happened. How did our car get hit when parked way off of the road on the highway. The driver was in his mid-twenties. I learned a lot about the driving industry, and more times than not, these drivers are over worked and operating a vehicle while sleep deprived. The driver fell asleep. This is not okay and clearly something that should have NEVER happened. When having the responsibility to operate a vehicle that has the capability to cause such traumatic injuries and even death, there needs to be better standards. These drivers should not be allowed to drive the amount of hours they do. I did have the opportunity to meet the driver, and he was more than sincere. I hope if for some reason he ever stumbles upon this post, he is happy and some how trying to make this world a better place.
But it’s still not okay.
This was my family about 3 hours before the accident.
So happy at Disney on Ice. Do you know I still cannot bring myself to attend another Disney on Ice show? PTSD is a real thing.
And this was in the emergency room a few hours later.
I remember every moment. I remember my husband taking this photo. I remember things from when I was heavily sedated after my life saving surgeries. If you wonder if people can hear you when they are sedated…I assure you, they can. I remember everyone telling me again and again that Lincoln and Avery were okay. I remember it all.
When you look at these photos, it’s truly a miracle that all four of us are still alive.
Our lives today.
Life today is much different from before the accident. I am still not driving. I also have significant PTSD when in the car…especially the highway at nighttime. We now live in a house with my parents. We also have an indoor pool so I can conveniently do my therapy at home. I still have nerve damage, mostly in my hands. My legs are no where as strong as they used to be. More so my left leg due to the compound femur fracture.
Lincoln remembers the accident, although I don’t think he realizes just how bad it was. I know one day he will understand just how traumatic of an event we all experienced.
While our lives are significantly different than they were four years ago, I am forever thankful for the lives of Jared, Lincoln, Avery, and myself. I thought I was going to die. I really, really did. It’s hard to express how you feel when you think you’re about to leave everything you love. It’s a feeling I never want to feel again. There is nothing worse. Those little things we take for granted every single day? Those are the big things. Treasure each and every one. Live your life with no regrets. Take that memorable family vacation, always make time to cuddle your babies, eat the cake, live with everything your heart desires.
And please. Don’t drive when you’re tired. Get off the road. Nothing is worth it. You never know who’s life, yourself included, you will change in an instant.
Thank you for reading this series. I apologize that it has taken me four long years to write the entire thing, but it’s a very overwhelming process. It brings me back to that night. Those emotions are still very much there. I hope somehow my story can make an impact and influence others decisions when making the choice to drive drowsy.