Imagine your current life plan for the next year or two: where you will live, what your job will be, what hobbies you will participate in, and what muscles your body will use to do simple things like walk.
Now, throw 75 percent of that plan out the window, and think only about the people you love and your personality. This is exactly what I went through on May 29, 2015 when an upright piano being moved out of a pick-up truck slammed into my back, shattering one of my vertebrae, fracturing my sternum, and paralyzing me incompletely from the waist down.
Up until that moment in my life, I volunteered as an EMT with Colchester Rescue Squad, danced at Elan Academy of Classical Ballet, ran half marathons like the Vermont City Half Marathon Relay, and worked as a Clinical Specialist with Medtronic at the UVM Medical Center. Within mere milliseconds I went from being an active female to being in excruciating pain without any ability to help myself.
Having worked in the medical field for eleven years at that point was both a blessing and a curse. I knew that I was critically injured and that I would likely never walk again. However, I also was able to stay relatively calm since my brain went into EMT mode and I was familiar with everything that was happening to me. The paramedics with Colchester Rescue had the unfortunate responsibility of discovering my spinal deformity and of medicating me on the way to the UVM Medical Center Emergency Department.
Upon arriving in the Emergency Department I had quite the welcome committee of the trauma code team and radiology technicians. A whirlwind of activity ensued, from x-rays to head-to-toe physical examinations to blood draws to administering pain medication. I alternated between cracking jokes at my own expense to having minor freak-outs that I could not feel or move anything below my waist. The last thing I remember from that Friday is returning from CT scan and being given a concoction of drugs to ease my pain and keep me from remembering how scared I was prior to surgery.
I woke up the next day, my 25th birthday, in the Pediatric ICU surrounded by my family and discovered that a spinal surgeon by the name of Dr. David Lunardini had worked on me the day before for eight hours. He gave me the tangible presents of titanium rods, screws, a steel cage, and human cadaver. The team he worked with in the Operating Room the night before gave me – the ability to walk again, to dance again, and to lead a happy and healthy life.
Three days in the ICU, fours days on Baird 6, and a four-hour ride with UVM HealthNet Transport taught me how wonderful, thoughtful, and skilled the nurses, LNA’s, paramedics, and doctors are at UVM Medical Center. From the small things such as lip gloss from my SICU nurse, getting my hair washed, and the trauma surgical resident who gave me tips on popsicle flavors to the big the things such as adequate pain management, intelligent bed linen changing, and extended visitor hours, I could not have asked for better medical treatment or compassion from the staff.
My time at UVM Medical Center laid a strong foundation for my successful rehabilitation at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Journey Forward down in Boston. Over the past year, I have re-learned how to sit, stand, walk, do stairs, swim, and ski upright. There is no crazier yet more appropriate way to celebrate my one-year paraplegic anniversary than to participate in the Vermont City Marathon Relay on Sunday, May 29, 2016. My team will be wearing teal shirts with #endpianoviolence on the front and designations for how they cared for me after my accident on the back. Oh, and you can spot me as the one using crutches and orthotic braces on my lower legs for the first 3.3 miles of the race.
If you would like to donate to UVM Medical Center through my team’s fundraising page so that other patients can receive comprehensive care and rehab to be able to return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life, please click here.