Introduction by Billy Polson In my 15 years of training, I have seen clients with devastating injuries which both physically and emotionally challenged them. Frequently, the emotional weight of no longer being able to participate in the same activities, or moving more slowly, often with pain, can be the most difficult part of the recovery. A couple years back when my client Michelle Draper had a traumatic ATV accident and suffered severe injuries, she taught me an extremely valuable lesson on how important positive thinking and focus can be in physical healing and recovery. When Michelle called to tell me about her accident, even with a collapsed lung, shattered vertebrae, broken scapula and broken displaced ribs, her voicemail started with, "Hey Billy! I hope that you are well and had a great weekend! Things are great here, we just had a small accident...". The tone of her voice sounded like she was kicked back on a beach in Hawaii, not in the prisoner's recovery room of a Nevada hospital (another wild part of the story!). If that is not the power of positive thinking getting you through a situation, I don't know what is. From day one working with Michelle (we began training together over 10 years ago!), she has always been a shining force in my life, but her incredible focus and drive during this recovery, smiling all the way, truly showed me the unparalleled power of mental strength. I recommend reading through Michelle's story below. Her journey from laying injured in the desert sand alone for an hour waiting for ambulance support, to regaining her full strength, range of motion and function again, is an inspirational story to say the least. As we all have challenges come before us, let her story remind you to dig deep and continue charging ahead for better days. Thank you Michelle for sharing your story with us!
Author Michelle Draper
Life can change in an instant. Just like that. No warning. And no rewind button. That used to sound like a cliche to me until I lived the truth of those words.
A few years ago, my husband and I started out on our annual family camping and riding trip. We stopped en-route, in the middle of no where Nevada. Before heading onto our destination we took out our ATVs for "one quick ride" in the sand dunes.
This is the point where it would have been nice to have a rewind button. The only way I can describe the next 20 minutes is -- random. We rode those dunes many times before and knew what to expect. We headed out on what looked to be a straight run of flat sand, but what looked flat really had about a ten foot drop to the right. I found that out for both of us, the hard way.
I later learned I flipped to the right, and my 500-pound ATV followed, bounced off my left side and then rolled down the dune. Luckily my husband was nearby - but there was no one else around for miles. After getting me stabilized, he headed out for help. I lay in the sand and waited for close to an hour until he got back, and then another hour until a life flight arrived to get me to a trauma center in Reno. Little did I know I had 19 broken bones; 14 broken ribs - 6 broken clean apart, 4 broken vertebrae - one was a severe burst fracture, a broken scapula, and a collapsed left lung. I was crushed, literally, and in the most pain I had ever experienced in my life.
I spent a week in ICU, had surgery to reconnect my ribs with titanium bands, and another week in a rehabilitation center before I was stable enough to travel back home to San Francisco.
It's been a long journey to recovery. But I am so grateful to be one of the fortunate ones where getting back to my pre-accident condition was only a matter of time and focus.
What trauma taught me:
Strength matters. I was told time and time again by my doctors, nurses and physical therapists that I was having a much speedier recovery due to how strong I was going into the accident. My muscles knew what they needed to do during recovery, they just needed some awakening. I truly believe this was due to my years of personal training. I'm not a world class athlete by any means, but I was strong, both mentally and physically.
Recovery involves the mind and the body. I found that I needed to keep myself in a positive place. It is REALLY scary being injured, especially severely injured. You go from independence to a state of dependence in a flash. Dependence on doctors, nurses and your family. I had to admit I wasn't in control. I needed to let each day unfold and be in the moment instead of wishing for 'this to be over.' I needed to celebrate the small victories, like moving from confinement to a hospital bed, to use of a wheel chair, then a walker and then a cane.
You need your own pit crew. I learned I needed lots of help. This would come from both the professionals that would oversee my recovery, to my friends and family that would encourage me along the way. Recovery is not linear. Some days you will have set backs especially as you are pushing yourself to get back to your pre-accident condition. It helped that my professional crew (doctors, physical therapist, personal trainer (Billy Polson) and massage therapist (Joel Banuelos)) were connecting with each other to determine the best course of treatment to get me to the next level. You have to ask for that. If you have a great team, they will be willing to work together on your behalf.
I am happy to say I am back. My crushed core is fully healed. I went from not being able to lift my left arm above 45 degrees, to raising it above my head. From having limited body movement, to being able to lift little more than my body weight, to eventually doing my full body strength workouts and fully functional movements again!
Postscript: people ask, are you riding again? The answer is yes, both my ATV and my motorcycle.