One Step At A Time
In October 2005, Maria Senne was involved in a horrific car accident. Using the Jaws of Life, emergency workers extracted Maria from her vehicle as she faded in and out of consciousness. She was airlifted to a trauma center where it was discovered seven bones in her body were broken including her pelvis, tailbone, collarbone and two vertebrae in her lower spine. The doctors told her family she was incredibly lucky to not have been completely paralyzed.
After one week at the acute care hospital, Maria was stabilized and her physicians explained that she would need an intensive physical rehabilitation program to help her regain her strength and abilities, allowing her to recover. As a patient care technician in a local hospital, Maria had encountered several individuals who had been admitted to Marianjoy for rehabilitation. Based on its reputation, and the positive experiences these individuals had relayed to her, Maria chose Marianjoy.
Upon arriving, Maria was mostly bedridden. Because of the broken bones in her pelvis, tailbone and spine, she could sit in her wheelchair in a reclined position for no more than 15 minutes at a time. The pain was excruciating.
Being left handed was yet another struggle to overcome. Due to an injury to her left shoulder, Marie’s arm was in a sling, forcing her to learn to complete her daily hygiene, dressing, and even steadying herself, with her non-dominant right hand. Her left side remained bruised from her shoulder to her feet.
“By nature, I’m a very optimistic person,” explained Maria recently. “I am always trying to find the good in everything. But during my rehabilitation, I had periods where I was down and really struggling. I realized I was going to have to fight for everything. And you don’t realize the things you take for granted—like rolling over in bed or getting yourself dressed. I was starting all over in just learning basic tasks. It was a very difficult time.”
Maria remembers once moment in particular, two weeks into her stay. With the help of her therapists, she was learning how to get herself up and dressed. One morning, without calling for help, Maria struggled to get herself washed, dressed and transferred into her wheelchair. It was a huge accomplishment.
“One of the most humbling things you realize in rehab is that you need to ask for help to get in and out of the bathroom and on and off the toilet,” Maria notes. “My mindset throughout this whole process was that I didn’t want anyone to do anything for me that they first wouldn’t allow me to try myself. I knew I didn’t want to use a bedpan anymore, so my therapist and I spent an entire session practicing just the simple walk from the doorway of the bathroom to the toilet. For almost 45 minutes I struggled to get there and at one point, with only a few steps to go, my therapist suggested that I was getting too tired and that we should try again later. I was emphatic. I had come this far and I wanted to do this! I pushed myself and finally made it to the toilet. Something so small, but to me, it was an incredible accomplishment!
“That’s one of the things about going through an experience like,” Maria continues. “When you’re in rehab, it’s stunning to realize how much physical control you have lost. It makes you vulnerable and it humbles you. I wanted to get it all back, right then and there. But my therapists kept telling me to be patient, keep the faith, and work towards the small goals. They were right.”
By the time Maria was discharged from Marianjoy’s inpatient therapy, she could pull herself up using her right hand and was using a hemi-walker. She continued to bear all her weight on her right side as she worked to rebuild the strength on her left.
After inpatient therapy, Maria returned to Marianjoy for outpatient therapy. After six months, she returned to work. Today she is married and working to finish her nursing degree, something she had started prior to her accident.
“I really believe there is a blessing in everything,” she confirms. “God put my fiancé, my family and friends in my life for a reason. They loved and supported me throughout this whole journey. This experience will undoubtedly make me a better nurse as I can now completely relate to my patients in understanding their fears, their pain, and their limitations. It’s amazing the view you get when the tables are turned on you. The accident helped me to realize what I am made of and how strong I really am."
“Marianjoy gave me hope, love and the drive to recover,” Maria reflects. “Without the therapists, there would have been days that I wouldn’t have had the will to go forward and the setbacks that I encountered would have consumed me. The staff is exceptional, wearing their hearts on their sleeves. The entire rehabilitation process is centered on the patient. They are there to give you physical, emotional and spiritual support. They treat the whole person which was key in helping me to get to where I am today.”