Hopefully a brief background will help you understand the how and why behind my request for help. When I was 16 years old, at the end of my sophomore year of high school, I was hit head-on by a drunk driver. After the initial crash, Mayo 1 helicopter ride, and more than a full 24 hours of surgery, my survivability was questionable for the first few weeks. The doctors, nurses, family, friends, and community didn’t give up on me. After pulling through the first few weeks, I still had numerous life-threatening obstacles to overcome.
During the lifesaving surgeries and reconstructive procedures, I was very blessed with the advances in medicine allowing semi-bionic connectivity to give me mobility, where without it, I would have had none. Some of the advances which allow me to function as well as I do are a titanium rod connecting my leg to my hip, screws and metal plates along my jaw, around my eyes, and across my head, as well as more pins, plates and screws throughout my leg and pelvis. I spent months recuperating first in the hospital and then continuing once I was stable enough to go home. It was a very long, painful, and difficult recovery.
Over time I had to learn how to do many things either completely over again or completely different. However, other activities, especially physical activities, would never be possible. I was told success would not be possible for most areas of my life such as walking, having children, attending and completing college, or even complete independence. My plan to reach my future dreams were crushed. Yet, I persevered, worked hard and managed, through and with the grace of God, to do all of those things. Since then I’ve endured several additional surgeries to reconstruct, replace, and repair all resulting from the crash. One surgery was to replace my left elbow which had been shattered upon impact in the heads-on collision. I was very fortunate to get ten full years of only minimal pain and significant use. The time between the ten-year mark and my next replacement joint was difficult primarily due to pain. The artificial joint had loosened from inside the bones. Finally, I was able to schedule a replacement surgery. I had been through this and thought I had a good idea of what lay ahead.
Unfortunately, my last elbow replacement in March of 2014 did not bring what I had anticipated. From the hospital release to my multiple emergency room admittances, I’ve had difficulties with severe chronic pain and limited use. In October of 2015, I was admitted through St. Mary’s Emergency room and hospitalized for two weeks due to a septic staph infection. During that stay, I had multiple surgeries to remove the infection, debris, and the elbow joint. For the last two years I have been unable to work as I have continued to fight the numerous and recurring staph infections along with developing allergies to multiple, powerful antibiotics. I’ve been averaging a surgery followed by intense IV antibiotics about every three months.
After my last surgery on May 21st, I had a follow up appointment with my Orthopedic surgeon and Infectious Disease doctors. I was not anticipating the news they shared. All of the doctors agreed the likelihood of a successful elbow re-implantation was minimal, there were no statistically successful alternatives to my current status considering all of the complications and chronic infection, none had the inclination to try again, and sitting in the office just 15 days post operation was most likely the best outcome I would ever have.
Other than my revolving door hospital stays, continued PICC line antibiotics, exhaustion from fighting infections and recovering from surgeries, the pain has made small, simple movements and tasks unbearable or impossible. I have not had an elbow joint to separate my arm bones. This has left me in indescribably, horrific, severe, persistent, and chronic pain which has made working impossible.
After struggling more than two years, facing one block after another, and countless blows of discouraging news, I needed a break from doctors and anything medical related. So, once I finished my antibiotics in early July, I went to see a dear friend of mine who encouraged me not only to not give up but to also schedule an appointment with the surgeon who not only created my first artificial elbow but also had worked with me since the car crash. On August 21, I saw my surgeon. He gave me hope for a resolution to the pain and quite possibly make my left arm functional again. This will require three surgeries. The first was October 4th. Since surgery, my doctor has been very positive and truly believes (but cannot promise) my bones, muscles, tendons, etcetera are capable of accepting, growing, and supporting a functional elbow replacement.
I am not close enough to mark the calendar, but the hope of a that has filled me was greatly needed. Our end goal is the successful return to independent functioning, the ability to fully resume teaching (which is my passion), and living!
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