Trauma Survivors Network - provided by ATS

Pat's Story

On June 25th, 1994 I was getting ready to cross the street when about a 20 mph gust of wind blew off an unsecured section of roof from a building. The 20x25 foot section dropped three stories and hit me like a frisbee. I hit the ground approximately 50 feet down the street, rolled over, sat up and looked down to see my right foot laying on my chest. My first thought was “How am I going to stand up?”.  My left leg was barely hanging on with a compound fracture to both the tibia and fibula and three inches of bone shattered. My right elbow was split wide open as was the back of my head. Part of my left hand was crushed just below the thumb. I didn’t even realize that these additional injuries had even occurred… I just found it unbelievable that my right foot was on my chest. I was taken to a local hospital where they re-attached my foot and took care of stabilizing my other injuries.  I struggled to live for the next five days and was airlifted to Wake Forest Baptist Hospital.  

I was taken into surgery soon after arrival for assessment and 10 minutes later they told my wife they would have to take my leg, it was too infected to save. I spent the next two months in the hospital as they reset my left leg, worked on my left hand and continued to little by little to amputate my right leg trying to get above the infection. Finally my leg started healing and the surgeries stopped. Fortunately I was able to keep my knee.

 

Once I got home I realized that it was going to be a long road to recovery. I had tremendous support from my family and friends.   My newly found faith had given me hope that I could move forward in my life. After being home for a month, I returned to the hospital for a week to have a rod put in my left let to stabilize the broken bone. I thought I would be “on my way” after they put in the rod but just before I left to go home I was told I would not be able to put weight on my left leg for about eight months. This was a hard pill to swallow, it took me a number of days just to absorb the news.  The physical therapist I had in the hospital started doing home visits to start me forward in my physical recovery. It took months to stretch out my left knee and my toes. I have to say that it was a blessing to have Jeff Tucker as my therapist, he pushed me to my limits and always motivated me in a positive way. I continued to work with him until late the next summer when I was finally able to walk unassisted once again.

My motivation to recover included a number of things but was driven mostly by my faith and my family.  My faith gave me determination and hope and my family gave me the reason to live. I had a wonderful wife and a beautiful four year old daughter that I loved dearly and wanted to spend time with growing old. My father had passed away just three weeks after I got out of the hospital.  He was in a motorcycle accident when I was a year and a half old… I never knew him with a left leg. He had lost it just above the knee. I had grown up seeing a man overcome physical obstacles and live an incredibly full life. I was determined that my daughter was going to grow up seeing the same.

I was contacted last year by TSN through Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a part of the peer visitor program and I gladly accepted.  I have talked to a lot of patients over the last year and it is truly fulfilling to bring hope and encouragement into those hospital rooms. I have also had the pleasure to talk to family and support members during family visitation that we do each week.  It is very helpful to get the family’s perspective of the situation as it helps us when talking to patients. Our TSN team also holds a monthly support group for those in the recovery process, including their family and other support members. It is awesome to have an opportunity to give back to those that are broken and hurting due to traumatic injury.

There are many things I have learned through the recovery process.  I have learned to live one day at a time and enjoy each and every day. I enjoy the little things that I never noticed before and I appreciate the gift of just being alive. I have learned the value of faith, family, and friends and how important it is to have a support system. At some point the physical trauma and healing process ends and the mental and emotional process of recovery begins to take place. I believe this is where the real support begins. The TSN provides the support that helps you understand how to move forward in your recovery and helps you to find your “new normal”. I wish TSN had been around 20 years ago when I was injured. I especially like the Next Steps program that gives you the nuts and bolts process of how to deal with recovering from traumatic injury.  As a trauma victim one of the greatest fears is the unknown, of not knowing what will happen next. Next Steps gives you a roadmap to recovery and in my opinion a pathway to victory. When I do peer visits, I stress the importance of this program and encourage them to enroll. I tell patients that they can learn in six weeks what it took me literally six years to learn by experience alone. I believe you have two choices after traumatic injury, you can get bitter or better, you can choose to remain a victim or become a victor.  I am honored to be a part of TSN and help others realize they can get better and be victorious.