I am a trauma survivor.
On May 13, 2012, at around 2 PM, I fell 28 feet off a roof. I landed in a “bang, bang, 1-2-3-4” manner: lower back, upper back, shoulders, back of head. I broke my lower and upper spine, sustained a concussion, and had numerous muscular and joint injuries. It was a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon in Virginia-until I went off the roof.
Eight firefighter/paramedics arrived and proceeded to work on me immediately. I was initially not responsive, and remember little of what happened at the scene. I was told by my doctors, days later, that the paramedics and firefighters provided amazing and excellent care at the fall site. I was rushed as a “Code” patient to a Level 1 Trauma Center. The first 3 days are still vague, but starting on around Day 4 I have detailed memories of my hospital stay. I remember most the great care and concern given to me, my family, and my friends by an amazing team of doctors, nurses, technicians, physical therapists, and an entire staff of support personnel.
I spent the next 4 months recovering in bed, and the next 8 months after that in physical therapy. The physical therapy was impossibly hard, and all I wanted to do was to stop. The physical therapists taught me to just take one day at a time, one exercise at a time, and that helped me to press on.
After one year, my trauma team declared me healed physically and released me from their care. I was ecstatic….for about 3 days. After being released by my trauma team, I thought I was over and done with my fall. What I did not realize, however, was that my recovery was just beginning. I started to have nightmares, could not sleep, was anxious, could not concentrate, and started to be unable to function. I had no idea what was going on, what had caused it, why it was happening to me, or how I could make it all stop. I could not control it and that scared me even further. I sought help at the only place I knew to go to, my Level 1 Trauma Center.
The skilled and fantastic trauma social workers there introduced me to the Trauma Survivors Network (TSN). The TSN changed me for the better, forever. I talk and listen to other trauma survivors. I am also supported and listened to by trained trauma social workers. I was given the opportunity to participate in peer support and in community outreach. I was trained to provide peer support, where I talk with other survivors while they are still in the hospital. I listen to their fears, their worries, and their hopes. Slowly, with all of the different activities of TSN, my nightmares ceased, the fears and confusion eased significantly, and my anxiety calmed.
TSN taught me (and continues to teach me) MANY, MANY amazing things that help me each day. There are too many to list here so I give you TWO:
- After a trauma, there is FAR more to recovery than the healing of broken bones.
- After (and sometimes during) the physical healing, trauma survivors enter a “new normal”.
- Learning how to live in that “new normal” is the key to mental recovery after trauma.
- I will never be the same again and will carry my trauma with me forever. I did not know that before TSN. The fear, anxiety, and sadness will pop up at unexpected times and in unexpected places, but the TSN has given me ways to handle all that.
- I am in my “new normal”, and I am good. The TSN provided an awareness of the mental aspects of life after trauma, and that is healing. More powerful than awareness are the tools the TSN gave me to deal with the fear and anxiety. As much as the skilled doctors, nurses and physical therapists did to heal me physically, the trauma social workers and peers at TSN have done to help me mentally. I healed physically over the first year-now I heal mentally over the rest of my life. Each day, I get a little bit better.