February 12, 2011
We were out celebrating Valentine’s Day weekend. My mom was babysitting our two kids and James and I were just leaving the club after a romantic evening of dinner and dancing. We headed down the sidewalk, holding hands, to find a cab. James turned to say something to me, and — in one flashing instant — a cab found us.
Apparently, the driver of the taxi had fallen asleep behind the wheel. His cab veered off the street, onto the sidewalk, plowing into the crowd around us. In all, some 25 people were injured, some seriously. I heard voices crying, “There’s a woman under the car!” That was me.
I recall the impact — and flying through the air — and falling to the sidewalk. I’m told the “falling” sensation was due to my collapsing onto the cement, when the cab driver backed away from the brick wall after pinning me. I heard James calling my name. Someone, a Marine vet, tied a tourniquet on my leg. I started chanting my children’s names. I went into shock.
The next two days are a blur of fleeting impressions. I recall bright lights. I heard a nurse tell the medical staff to cut my dress. I’m thinking, this was one of my favorite outfits! Do you really have to ruin it?
At some point during those early moments in the trauma center, I heard the “amputation” word discussed by the medical staff. I was in and out of consciousness, so I didn’t really “process” what I was hearing. But I did understand, early on, that my leg was in serious jeopardy.
I had two long operations in the first two days — mostly to examine the damage, assess options, and decide on a course of action. On the second day, Dr. Paul Girard took over — the orthopaedic surgeon I now call my “Angel in Disguise.” Dr. Girard treated wounded troops in Iraq, so he was no stranger to “extremity trauma” as I learned my leg injury would be classified. It was Dr. Girard who first determined that my leg was not lost, and who devised the surgical approach to save it. Until then, no one was betting I’d come out of this with two legs.
Those were the first two of nine total surgeries. I was in the hospital for 5 ½ weeks. Dr. Girard led my surgical plan, and the procedures, throughout this period. He continues to supervise all aspects of my progress.
It was months in a wheelchair before I could put even a light weight on my leg. More months on crutches, before I could lean on it. Today, I’m walking short distances with just a cane. A long way from the fitness and activity level I was used to before the crash, but Dr. Girard assures me I’m “ahead of schedule” on recovery performance.
I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t own up to some occasional feelings of depression and even anger. But only moments. James and our two children have led my support team. The crash did more than change my life — it severely affected my whole family, as well. They have been so strong.
Today, I see a wonderful physical therapist three days a week for three hours. The other days, I go to the gym, trying to regain the upper body strength I lost from being inactive for so long. The plate in my leg is still very painful and there is still some swelling. It’s been less than a year since the crash, and I’m told my recovery will take two years.
No one is making predictions — except me. It just seems, if I’m going to spend so many hours each day working so hard, I need to have high expectations for where it’s all going.
My goal is to play tennis again.
Dr. Girard knows what I’m training for. He smiles when we talk about it. I know a part of his smile comes from hearing me talk about getting back on the court, in light of all that’s happened. The other part of his smile comes from knowing I’m going to do it.
Thank you, Dr. Paul Girard. How lucky was I to have an orthopaedic surgeon with wartime experience and special insights on how to treat an injury like mine?