This video gives 23 minutes of interviews and images to more fully describe the early recovery stage through April 2019.
Upon arrival at the University of Utah Hospital, spent the entire night in surgery. As doctors scrambled to save my right hand and left food, family and friends from around Utah, Wyoming and Boston flooded in to town to support Kelly and our scared children. My head was shaved, my trach was secured, and there were long days of painful waiting and no answers.
Two surgical teams worked on my foot and hand. Miraculously, a vascular surgeon, who was not on duty at the time, was on-site and joined the other surgeons. She was able to repair blood vessels to my foot and thumb that were essential to saving both.
When all assessments were complete, they found no damage to my internal organs, (heart, lungs, brain, liver, kidney, spleen.) Another surgeon (a personal friend of my dad) reported that it was extremely rare to suffer this kind of horrific trauma without damage to internal organs or internal bleeding.
I began to gain consciousness, little by little. I will never forget what it felt like to start to hear the beeping of machines and the mumble of voices. I had no memory of the accident, no knowledge of any injuries. But what I did have was an overpowering feeling of comfort and peace, and the instant knowledge that everything was going to be just fine, and that I didn't need to worry. The gift of these feelings I credit to my loving Heavenly Father, and very likely the attending presence of my mother who had passed away 10 months before.
I couldn't speak, so it was difficult to communicate with my sweet husband as he told bits of the story to me. I could only mouth "really? Really?!" in disbelief as he shared what had happened, how long I had been in the hospital, and that my injuries were serious enough to keep us there at the hospital for a couple of months.
I was passed a wipe-board to try to write in response. I had questions, but writing was difficult with severe double vision, and limited dexterity. My first three questions were: "Who saved me? Who else was in the house? What day is it - they are expecting me to do singing time?" (I teach gospel songs along with short lessons to the young children of my church congregation each Sunday)
I was transferred out of ICU into Acute Care, where I would be given specialized care for the extensive burns, and the ability to receive a visitor or two. It was during my stay here that I received the first priesthood blessing since the accident that I was conscious for. The words of the blessing are personal and special to me, and let me know that not only would I be able to survive this, but I could thrive off of it and become more than I was before.
I spent the longest stretch of time in a rehabilitation center re-learning how to do all the most basic things. I had to learn to swallow, talk and chew with my new mouth. I had to learn how to use an adapted set of crutches and a walker (the wheelchair was easy).
It felt wonderful to be able to have the kids visit. It lifted me so high to see them, ‘hug’ them, and tell them each how much I love them. The thought I can’t shake from this time is a scripture from the Bible I have loved for decades. Phillipeans 4:11 says something like, ‘ for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, there with to be content.” I think of it and remember one of my most favorite mottos: I can choose to be happy.
It felt wonderful to finally leave rehab and be home with my family full-time!
KELLY is a professional care-giver now. He wakes up in the middle of the night to get me medicine. He blends my food and funnels it into squeeze bottles. He carries me up and down stairs. I really love this man.
PHYSICAL HEALTH: (head, shoulders, knees, and toes!) Head- My hair really is growing back! And I can see better than ever all those pesky gray hairs that have been hiding - ha, ha! I had a surgery last week to lift the right side of my face hopefully back to where it matches the left side of my face. Would you believe they went in through my eye for the surgery?! So crazy. I have quite a bit of swelling in my face still, especially around the eye, but it is just a matter of time before that goes away. The metal screws and bars have been removed from my teeth and I am learning to use my jaw and teeth again. They do not feel like my teeth. The bone structure, the teeth themselves...they feel borrowed from someone else. Nothing is exactly how it’s supposed to look or feel. But I am mastering them nonetheless. I have taught this mouth so far to eat a pancake doused in butter, some super soft pasta, and a few rice and beans. Those little morsels were heavenly. The pancake, made by Alyssa, made me cry as it was the first solid food in my mouth in 44 days. Oh, THANK YOU, ALYSSA!! As of last week I could honestly say I had not cried tears of anything but joy since the accident. In full disclosure, I cried a little last week as we visited with an oral surgeon. He brought me back to earth for a moment and explained that it will take at least a year to have a full set of teeth permanently in my mouth. The smiling, the talking, the eating...I will miss the normalcy of those things this coming year. I let myself have a sad moment, and now it’s time to look ahead. Every time our family learns about a setback that’s purely cosmetic, we shrug our shoulders and say, “whose even cay-oh-s (cares)?” - (an old joke)
Shoulders- The shoulders work great, but it’s the left hand we are working on. It’s in a light-weight removable cast that allows me to exercise my fingers (well, not my thumb- the bone that’s supposed to be in my thumb is still back at the explosion site) and try to get them wiggling again. We don’t have strong hope my left hand will ever work the way my right hand does, but you better believe I have ambitions to try! Every time I look at my piano it makes me work harder on those fingers.
Knees & Toes - My right leg has been a little stubborn. To avoid medical jargon, the top of my foot nearest the ankles took quite a beating in the blast and the skin won’t heal over well enough that the doctors consider my foot healthy for surgery. We have hopes that perhaps next week, or the week after, we will get the repairs going on the surgery table. We got incredible news(incredible!) last week when the doctors were able to say with certainty that the tendons were in tact! WHAT?! How do you have a foot in such bad shape it ready for AMPUTATION (47 days ago, that is), but have all the tendons healthy and well?! We’re amazed, and very excited for the type of motion it may allow me to have in the future. (*sigh of relief*)
MENTAL HEALTH/EMOTIONAL HEALTH -
Most of us are healing well emotionally, but one of my children is exhibiting classic PTSD symptoms. It’s so difficult to watch your child be afraid. We are getting them professional help and taking the effects of this tragedy very seriously. We hope to see results as quickly as possible, recognizing of course that these deep emotional wounds will likely take the most time to heal. Our house has been almost entirely a joyful one, though. We’re getting fun visits from friends, and beautiful notes with words that uplift and encourage. I wish I could keep up with it and return all the many kindnesses. I have been inspired by the creative and loving ways we have been served as a family. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for the prayers, the love, the help of every kind...we need and appreciate it ALL!
SPIRITUAL HEALTH I really can’t explain my well being without gratitude for a few things that the world regards as spiritual in nature, but I simply regard as true. I am doing as well as I am because I feel peace, joy, sunshine, and LOVE coming to me through the Holy Ghost. I can feel Heavenly Father’s loving reassurance that all will be well, and I trust it. I don’t mean to say that everything that is broken will be perfect once again, but I do mean that however much I heal, I believe I will feel okay about, and I will feel good about the new me. I know I have everything I need to do the Lord’s will for me, even if I don’t heal any more, just as all of us do.
I began using this "torture" device to help crank my wrist back. It wouldn't bend past this point.
Surgery to repair my talus, ankle ligaments and achilles was further complicated by a stubborn open wound that we couldn't get to close.
I went in for surgery on a short list of things around my ankle (broken talus to be repaired, shrunken Achilles to stretch, ligaments to repair around the ankle) and went home from the hospital after just a one-night stay. Four days later I was in a great deal of pain. I was already being careful to elevate my foot, but then it began to get ridiculous.
For the last two weeks I have kept my foot elevated above my hips at ALL times, by necessity. If my foot dropped lower than that, the pain was intolerable and I would shout in agony. Now imagine for just a moment all the scenarios in which not being able to move your ankle below waist-height would be awkward: trying to get into a car, attending to “business” in the restroom, attempting to wear a dress to church services, showering, and dozens of others. If anyone out there would like to take a 24 hour challenge to attempt life like this, there is a king-sized candy bar in it for you.
Doctors (both my surgeon and a specialized wound care doctor) were amazed by the pain I was in, and perhaps even wondered if I was putting on a show for more pain meds (I have video evidence from High School that, in reality, I’m a terrible actress and this ploy would have never worked). More pain meds didn’t help anyway.
Two days ago it was decided by my orthopedic surgeon that something wasn’t right, and he needed to get me back in to surgery to fix what must be an infection.
So here I am, post-surgery, hanging out in a hospital room and waiting to find out what color my germs turn in a petri-dish so the doctors can know what to treat me with.
(*Sigh*) Additionally, if the wi-fi was working it would really help out the cell-phone bill.
I will say that I’m very grateful the problem is being fixed. It feels wonderful to be out of pain. But I hate being away from my family over-night. I really want to squeeze them all right now.
The diagnosis: Staphylococcus aureus
Translation: A staph infection of the easiest sort to fix. “Easy” meaning 6 weeks of PICC line antibiotics and bucket loads of pills. Plus a hospital stay until Monday 👎🏼. Pain level is tolerable. I’ll be very excited to go home on Monday.
It was VERY exciting to have all my wounds closed just in the nick of time to have clearance to swim on vacation! It was amazing to snorkel and feel weightless.
Two more of my teeth had to be removed, darn it. Don't worry, they gave me some fake ones. They're a bit of a pain, but it's better to have something than nothing! And we began the process of bone grafting. The recovery from that surgery was harder than expected, but now that it has been a little more than a week, I'm feeling much better and I can tell the stitches and sores in my mouth have begun to heal. Next step will be posts (6 months from now) and then permanent teeth (like around summer 2020). Be patient, Lori...
It seems I need to treat my health like my full-time job for awhile. I have plans to begin strengthening...well, ALL of me. I need to work on my right calf in particular, which has become this skinny little thing. I need to get it ready so when my doctor tells me I'm able, I'll be prepared to begin trying to walk on it. I also continue to work on strength and flexibility in my left hand, and re-mobilizing my left shoulder which got injured after a fall in May (I'm such a klutz). I also need to spend time rubbing at my scar tissue and trying to get that skin healthy and pliable again.