May 18, 2017

Goal setting helps woman heal from traumatic car accident

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by Becki Church

I was driving home on August 5, 2016 after picking up my dog, Nalu, from daycare. I turned a corner onto Redwood Road. That is the last thing I remember from that day before waking in the hospital late that night, confused and groggy, my brother at my bedside.

My brother sat holding my hand, and calmly told me I had been in a car accident. As the story unfolded, I came to realize more and more of my physical condition. My neck was in a brace, my arm taped with an I.V., and my body unable to move.

In South Salt Lake, at around the same time I was driving to pick up Nalu, two men robbed a bank at gunpoint. Police were quickly on scene, and a chase ensued. The robbers ditched their original car and ran on foot. The driver was apprehended right away, while the other man took a different car and sped off again. Police chased him at high speeds up Redwood Road. The robber then took desperate measures and drove into oncoming traffic, colliding head-on with my vehicle.

The crash was horrific, flipping the robber’s vehicle, and causing mine to spin several times (so I was told). I must’ve been knocked out fairly quickly, as I have no recollection of any of this.

The extent of my injuries unfolded the next few days while I was in the hospital. A concussion, punctured lung, broken C5 in my neck, broken scapula, fractured sternum, seven broken posterior ribs, three broken lumbar vertebrae, a sprained ankle, broken big toe, several deep cuts and severe bruising.

Miraculously, my dog didn’t even have a scratch on him, and spent the next two months living with my sister in Idaho. I spent three days in the hospital, and the next two weeks in a rehab center in Salt Lake City, mulling over what had just happened. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t use the restroom by myself, couldn’t shower by myself, and could barely eat by myself. Every little movement caused pain.

I decided I needed to make a goal to work toward. In October, I started looking for a 5K that I could train for, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do more than walk it. I found the “Beat the New Year” 5K in Salt Lake City on New Year’s Eve, and signed up. At that point, I was able to walk on my own fairly well without too much pain, but I knew I’d need to build my strength if I was to make it to the finish line. Once my doctor approved the idea, I started working with my physical therapist to train twice a week.

Considering my ankle was sprained, my lower back and ribs caused aches at every twist, and my neck was still in a brace, working out seemed daunting. My trainer gave me specific workouts to avoid causing pain, and slowly but surely my muscles became stronger. By the time December came around, I was able to do subtle squats, use light weights and walk on the treadmill for two miles.

A week before the race, I felt stronger than I had in months and was ready to face the 5K. I started the race that night 15 minutes earlier than the crowd. My brother pushed along my wheelchair, just in case I needed it. The race was exhilarating. My adrenaline was pumping, and though by mile two I was beginning to feel the pain in my lower back and ankle, I completed the race. I crossed the finish line two minutes after midnight, but did the whole thing without my wheelchair. I consider that a win.

Now that the race is over, I know I can’t stop. Ringing in 2017, crossing a finish line with a body full of healing bones was quite an accomplishment, but I now want to work toward a sprint triathlon. Focusing my efforts on a specific goal has proven to keep me mentally as well as physically motivated. Keeping myself strong after such a traumatic, life-changing event has been an incredibly positive push for me to live life to the fullest.