Felicia’s Story

 

motorcyle accident

On Friday, July 24, 2009 my life changed forever. My husband Jake, of five years, (high school sweethearts, we dated five years, for a total of ten years together) and I were riding on our Ducati motorcycle up Town Mountain Road, Asheville, NC. We had an accident that took Jake’s life and I was taken to Mission Hospital. Even though this tragedy seemed like the end of my world, I had to realize that God had not changed and for whatever reason He had a plan that had been in place all along.

the medical rundown

When my mother received that dreadful call Friday afternoon, Mission Hospital told her, “it was in her best interest to get there quick; I’d be lucky to make it 72 hours.” I was in Mission in neuro-trauma ICU for three weeks. I was mostly unresponsive. I went in with an injured brain stem and cerebellum, a broken back at my T7 vertebra, a collapsed right lung, a lacerated liver, both knees cut (sure to scar) and double vision (“crazy eyes” comes to mind).

details – “say what?”

In dictation from the initial ambulance ride, it was mentioned that one of my eyes had no pupil; therefore, it would be blind. I hit the pavement so hard one contact fell out from the impact of my fall. At the hospital one doctor’s dictation said that my pupil appeared. I’m defiantly not blind. Praise the Lord!

During my time at Mission, in my mind I had some out-there dreams that contained little reality. I remember a few people and things accurately but not many. I do remember telling God, (in my mind, as I couldn’t talk) “just let me die.” God told me, “you are not going to die.”

After a couple of days, doctors put in my trach (breathing assistance) and my feeding tube (peg tube; to receive all nutrition and medications). My trach caused me to be on a ventilator which allowed for more air taken in. I couldn’t be emotional without my vent alarm going off. The latter procedure doesn’t tend to go smoothly the first try, but mine did.

One day a nurse asked my mom, “if I did it for her”; Mom responded, “raise her eyebrows?” The nurse said, “no, move her legs.” So, a physical therapist came by my room at the nurse’s request and concluded that my movement was not a reflex but deliberate movement. At that point doctors decided that back surgery was needed. During the surgery, they noted that my spinal cord was perfect, although my bones were broken. Praise the Lord, again!  I don’t know if my spinal cord was healed or never severed; either way it’s a miracle.  Doctors did put in two-ten inch titanium rods and several screws. So, I had to wear a plastic turtle shell (TLSO) brace for six weeks. Then there was talk about me going to Shepherd Center a specialty hospital in Atlanta, GA. All this time I was still not responsive. God had sent my family a peace that only He could give.

blessings in storms

As a shock to many, I am not on any pain medicine and have not been since August, 2009. I’ve only used Tylenol very infrequently. That in itself is a miracle. I also have no memory loss except for the one week prior to the accident. The doctors said it would be best if I never remember that week. I do have a right mind – thanks be to God for allowing me such an undeserved blessing.

I did have blood pressure issues; it would drop or rise at nothing. One night it was two hundred something over one hundred eighty something. Doctors said my brain stem injury was the reason it was acting up. I was on three different blood pressure medicines trying to regulate it. Now I take no blood pressure medicine and my blood pressure is excellent. The Lord – our Great Physician! quentlyin two titaniup

I was using a catheter. Now I don’t – I know when I need to go to the restroom. Thank the Lord. So many so-called little miracles. Things that are easily taken for granted are now big things to me. To me there are no little miracles (I’m sure my Mom would agree).

to Atlanta

So, I took the long ambulance ride to Shepherds Center, a specialty hospital, about August 19, 2009. My mom and grandparents were in hot pursuit down to ATL behind the ambulance. I barely remember the ambulance ride, with the exception being hot and bumpy. My stepdad met us there. No coincidence that my stepdad’s friend owned a vacant house a few miles away where he allowed my family to stay. I was in ICU at Shepherd Hospital for a week. I was then moved to a regular room. Once I was coherent, I started using an alphabet board to communicate because I could not talk. Shepherd’s had my parents in classes to teach them what they would need to know. I also had to take the classes, but none, I mean none, applied to me. How merciful God is! Hospital staff had to use a Hoyer lift to move me back and forth from my bed to my wheelchair.

hard news

My rigorous therapy tschedule was Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Late on a Friday afternoon is when I was told about Jake passing away. They told me on a Friday so I would have the weekend. That was news I was not expecting. Somehow it all still seemed like a bad dream. His funeral was videoed since I was unable to attend services in person.

I miss Jake’s hugs, talking to him and just him in general. I guess that is expected when you’ve bteen with someone almost daily for ten years (married for five of those years). Fortunately, I have many pictures and memories that make me smile.

more medical info

I could move all limbs but my right arm, but my balance and ability to walk was nonexistent. I was fitted for a wheelchair –one custom ordered especially made just for me. It was one I could propel with my feet (visualize crab walking). At first, of course it was hard as learning any new skill is.

outpatient therapy begins

October 28, 2009 I was discharged from Shepherd’s hospital and went with mom to our Shepherd provided apartment for the remaining length of our stay. I was scheduled to begin Shepherd Pathways Outpatient therapy in Decatur, GA. At first I just had Speech, Physical Therapy (PT), and Occupational Therapy (OT), Mon. – Fri., but by Thanksgiving I started the day program where I was there from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This allowed me to have Theraputic Recreation (TR), pool therapy and group therapy.

During this time I had a “plug” for my trach and then a “button”. These devices allowed me to talk while still having the trach; in the beginning it was difficult for me to count to ten. I’d be lucky to have said four out of ten numbers. I was also on oxygen day and night.

Eventually, my trach was out. What a glorious day! Praise the Lord! The doctors thought I would never get that out. I have my little trach scar as a reminder. In time I quit needing oxygen in the day time.

felicia’s favorites

During my continued recovery journey, my thoughtful co-workers saw fit to compile some dessert recipes into a cookbook, Felicia’s Favorites; this book would be sold to raise money for my medical expenses.

right arm

My OT recommended I see a specialist and have an EMG. We found out that my right bicep muscle was the reason my arm didn’t want to function properly. The EMG results said that I would need to have a nerve graph on my right arm.

leaving GA

I was discharged from Shepherd Pathways February 5, 2010. Parting was bittersweet. My Georgia home would be in the rearview. The “new” me was heading home with a wheelchair, oxygen at night, a feeding tube and multiple daily medical prescriptions.

I was so I glad to be in NC and fortunate to have a permanent room at Mom’s home – my new (old) home.

no rest for the weary

On February 8, 2010 I started at CarePartners with an evaluation. My initial therapy schedule consisted of Monday, Wednesday and Friday for an hour each of PT, OT and Speech.

One Sunday after being at CarePartners only a week, at church I went up front to be anointed and prayed for for my right arm. The next day at therapy my right bicep started working and it’s been getting better ever since. Praise the Lord, no more talk of a nerve graph!

As weeks turned into months that turned into years my therapy sessions have been shortened – 2 days per week, then one day a week, now zero days a week. I’m not finished improving; I’m at a point where the “homework exercises” (across all therapy disciplines) have to be done at home daily and when I’ve maxed those out, I’ll be ready to bump up to the next level.

bachelor degree

Meanwhile, amidst my demanding therapy schedule, I chose to continue my education with East Carolina University’s (ECU) online degree completion program. I finally secured my Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education (Magna Cum Laude) December 13, 2013. I was the first in my family to earn a 4-year degree!

volunteering

Since earning my degree, I have volunteered my time at Pisgah Elementary, Monday-Thursday, mainly in a second grade classroom.

vision therapy

I have begun weekly one hour vision therapy sessions; my weekly sessions will continue 40 weeks. They include progress eye exams every eight weeks. At my weekly session, I also receive 20 minutes of colored light therapy (chromotherapy; a newer discipline). I have “homework that consists of different combinations of eye exercises; they involve focusing and relaxing my eyes, judging depth, using peripheral vision and tracking among other visual tasks.

e-stem

Presently, at home Mon. – Fri., I use e-stem (electrical muscle stimulation) on my neck in five various configurations suggested by my Speech Therapist.

the struggle is real

A big struggle for me has been balance and coordination. I’m doing better every day it seems; I used a manually propelled wheelchair 2009-2011; I “graduated” to a walker in Nov. 2011; currently (fall 2015), I use a cane sporadically at home.

I still have my feeding tube for now. I have not had food or drink by mouth since July 24, 2009. I don’t know why the Lord is tarrying about this issue. I’m reminded of the story in the Bible of the blind man; the disciples asked Jesus who sinned – the man or his parents. Jesus answered neither; it was so God could get the glory (John 9:1-3).  I know that God will not put on me what I cannot bear. He has not left or failed me yet. He’s not brought me this far to leave me. I know His work in and through me is not finished. I’ve come far and am still recovering through my continued rehabilitation.

hindsite

As I look back over the months before my accident, I can see God at work – lining up finances, vehicles, insurance and jobs. I prayed for His will in those things, but had no idea about how it all would come together.

God is good all the time

I have soooo to be thankful for. I’ve come a long way in a short time. And I say it’s because of the Great Physician. I know the Lord has a plan for my life; although I don’t know it yet myself. Of course sometimes I get down and depressed and that’s normal and okay. You just cannot stay there; you have to keep on keeping on. My hope and joy comes from Jesus Christ. Without Him I don’t know where I’d be. He is there whenever I call upon Him. He’s not a fair-weather friend; He doesn’t hit the road when adversity comes – that’s when He does His best work. He wants all of us – all the time. When we are weak, He is strong. It’s a sad place to be when you are hopeless. I cannot imagine going through this ordeal without God and His help. I would be a basket case. I will sign off with a scripture that has been given to me numerous times by different individuals.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV)