Monday, April 1, 2013

Broken Neck -- Part 2

If you missed part 1, read it first.

Mmmkay, where was I?  Oh yeah.  My butt.  It really really hurt from lying on the boards for hours.  And I cried in the ambulance.

I don't remember arriving at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center but I do remember watching the ceiling tiles go by as they rolled me on the stretcher to the MRI room.  Before I got the MRI my other grandma was there and gave me a kiss.  She had already had 3 strokes so she was a little slow moving and it took about 10 seconds to bend down to kiss me on the forehead, puckered up the whole time.  Super slow mo.  She was like my bestie and I still laugh a little thinking of that kiss.

The MRI took what seemed like forever.  So many bang bang bang, clang clang click sounds.  They kept telling me not to move and I tried but my butt was still hurting.  And hey, in the end guess what.  My neck was broken! The x-ray was right!

The first butt relief I got was when they transferred me from the stretcher to a bed.  They lifted me up and the pressure point on my butt was pretty much crying with happiness.

I didn't stay in the bed for long.  The doctor wanted me to be in a special bed that had to be transferred from a hospital in Salt Lake City (either Primary Children's or University of Utah).  The bed rotated and had an appendage that screwed into my head.  Super comfortable.  I think it was to prevent fluid from pooling in my lungs if I could only lie on my back for a week.
The doctor shaved the sides of my head about an inch above the hairline and put screws into my temples.  They numbed me but I could feel pressure and hear the bones crack.

Annnnnndddd, enter Morphine.

That big blank space is the next 5 days.  With the exception of a couple of dreams about being a cheerleader, washing my hair, and some sleep medicine that had the opposite effect on me, I don't remember them.

The next thing I do remember is after surgery.  I had C5&6 fused and some screws inserted into my neck.  The doctor went in from the back and, from what I understand, cleaned it out through the front.  So I have scars on the back and front of my neck, although the front has faded so much it's hard to see.

My recovery was estimated to take a couple of months -- and that was just the in-the-hospital part.  Surgery was in the morning of August 12 and the physical therapist had me standing that evening.

It may seem like 5 days in a bed is no big deal, but let me tell you, when your nervous system has just had a major shock, your muscular system has been at rest for 5 days and partly incommunicado with your nerves, it's kind of a big deal.  I was exhausted.  Standing up was as hard as running a marathon for a normal person. It hurt.  It sucked.  But it was a HUGE accomplishment.  

I stayed in that part of the hospital (pediatric ICU, I think) for a couple more days.  One of the hardest times was when I got to take a shower.  I was in a wheelchair and my mom took me to the shower.  The hard part was that I couldn't hold my head up by myself for longer than a couple of minutes.  My neck muscles had atrophied and my head weighed so much that my neck couldn't support my head.  My mom had to hold my head up for me.  If you think Jillian is bad, try losing the strength in your neck muscles and building them back up.  Burn, baby, burn!

The next step of my recovery was rehab.  I no longer needed pediatric ICU so they moved me over to the rehabilitation wing of the hospital where I had a grueling schedule to get my normally functioning body back.  
It started around 8 or 9 AM and ended at 4 or 5 PM with a small lunch break where I made my own food in the rehab kitchen (the last time I craved bologna sandwiches with processed American cheese and mayo).  It's not like a vacay spa.  They want you out of there!

I had a lot of visitors and I loved when people came to see me.  

Then school started and it was just me and my occupational and physical therapists, basketball, the mall, and a few days of strep.

Three weeks after I started rehab I went home and did outpatient rehab at my local hospital.  I was out of there in half the time the doctors anticipated.  Wanna know why?  I was young.  I was happy.  And I had a very positive outlook.  I was never negative.  I don't remember being discouraged.  I knew that I would get better.  Don't get me wrong.  It was a lot of hard work.  It was frustrating to think "fingers, just squeeze" and not being able to squeeze.  

It's not always mind over matter.  Obviously.  The nerve that goes to the triceps goes through C5&6 and mine is permanently damaged.  I will never be able to do a boy push up.  I just deal with it.  I can walk!  I can run!  And I know too many people with spinal cord injuries who can't.  I am so so so lucky!  I know that.  I've always thought that I have to do something with my experience.  I'm not sure what yet, but maybe it's to motivate people to get off the couch.  Because. They. Can.  


  1. Wow. two of my daughters "liked" this on fb and so I had to read. Thanks for writing this. So glad you are OK~~

  2. You are such a little miracle!! (And the last picture made me laugh...such enthusiasm!!)

  3. Wow, this story is a miracle. And you are so strong! thanks for sharing


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