Posted at 1 p.m., Nov. 26, 2013

Black ice, broken body

How one moment tried to take my life...
...and how I refused to let it.

By Vycktoryja Selves
Photo Editor

Every day is a new challenge.

Each morning I wake up and ask myself: “Will I fall today? Will I be able to get through the day without an accident?” And the biggest question, “Will I ever feel normal again?”

The answer is always the same.

I don’t know.

Throughout the last year I’ve learned no matter what, I must try each day. The metal infused with my spine and the scar that runs down half my back are permanent fixtures in my life now. I may never again be able to jump an inch off the ground or embarrassingly attempt to mimic my best friend’s dance movement.

But this doesn’t keep me down. I just have to figure out something else to do.

The message of P!nk’s song “Try” is a relationship continues to fall apart and repair itself. In a sense, this is what I do day after day with myself. Between my physical self and my mental being is a constant war with few periods of peace.

During my two-month stay at Cheyenne Regional Medical Hospital, I focused on healing my damaged body, a body that had been ejected from a truck Nov. 10, 2012, during a rollover accident at mile marker 4.1 south of Cheyenne. Without a fastened seatbelt to keep me in the vehicle, I was lucky even to have survived. My body snapped in half so fast that my spine almost succeeded in detaching itself.

In the beginning, I had so much nerve damage from fracturing my back, my left leg would not move. Coupled with the nerve damage in my left arm and the fracture of both sides of my pelvis, I was immobile for the first week. My only working limb was my right arm, which I used for my Facebook status updates on my iPod touch.

However, the most painful moment I experienced throughout my whole recovery was the first time the nurses put me onto my Thoracic Lumbar Sacral Orthotic (TLSO) brace, less than five days after the accident when the doctors needed X-rays of my broken back.

Four nurses surrounded my hospital bed. Slowly, they took a hold of the sheet under my body and proceeded to roll my body as gently as possible to the side so they could place the back piece on me. The mere shifting of my body ached as I tried to keep quiet. But, that was only the beginning. Once the front piece was strapped on, my bed and I were taken down for X-rays.

Pain I'd never felt before

I remember a dark room with few lights. The nurses told me I would need to sit up at a 90-degree angle for the X-rays. I knew it would hurt. I just wasn’t expecting how much.

As they slowly lifted me, my nonexistent spinal ligaments protested to support. The farther I was lifted, the less I could hold back the pain. I remember asking them to stop because it was hurting me too much. They couldn’t. The only way to take a proper X-ray was for me to be sitting up.

Trying to hold still while they took the X-ray was excruciating. By the time the nurses laid me back down, tears were streaming down my face.

Photos by Selves' family

After six weeks of intense physical therapy, I was finally ready to begin to relearn how to walk.

The results came back the next day.

I would need surgery; my back could not heal itself properly.

Each morning and afternoon after the surgery, I struggled through physical therapy. It pushed me to my limits and left me exhausted. The simple task of trying to lift my left leg off the bed required assistance from the therapist. I practiced holding a spoon in my left hand and sat in a special contraption called a cardiac chair that painfully helped increase my endurance of sitting at 90 degrees.

The first time I sat in a wheelchair, my physical therapist took me to a room called the solarium, a large area on the hospital roof with windows, allowing me to see downtown Cheyenne.

The moment I felt the sun’s warm embrace on my skin was amazing. I realized I hadn’t felt sun in 15 days. The simple act of feeling the sunshine was a sensation I never thought I would miss so much.

As the days turned into weeks, I progressively regained more body functions through physical therapy. I was able to brush my hair and teeth by myself. Transferring from the bed to my wheelchair became easier. I was able to eat my food without help from a nurse.

On Dec. 31, 2012, my doctors discharged me. After 51 days, I was going home to my family.

As the time got closer to my release date, I made sure to take pictures with many of the nurses to whom I’d grown close. They had become the surrogate family I needed while I was in the hospital.

Since then, adjusting to everyday life has been an obstacle.

Just as P!nk relates in her song: “Funny how the heart can be deceiving, more than just a couple times. Why do we fall in love so easy, even when it’s not right?”

Falling, getting back up, laughing it off

I have moments when I feel as if I can walk without constantly thinking about keeping my leg straight. Then, as soon as the thought passes through my head, I fall to the floor. During the moments I’m lying on my back, I think of how happy I was not to think about my leg for those few seconds even if it did cause me to fall. Then it’s time to get back up and laugh it off.

I don’t want the people around me to see how much the fall affects me.

Again, I relate to the lyrics “Ever worried that it might be ruined, and does it make you wanna cry? When you’re out there doing what you’re doing, are you just getting by?”

It is now a constant cycle of self-loathing and self-reassuring that life will get better. My body has come to a point where it can heal only so much, and I must learn what I can do.

During the summer months, I found I could still swim well, granting me a welcomed feeling of normalcy.

More than a year has passed since the accident, and each day I am thankful for the life I am able to live. My doctor has told me multiple times 95 percent of ejected victims don’t survive. I am one of the few lucky survivors.

In the long term, I will most likely experience the normal aches and pain of aging sooner than most, but I have people in my life who believe in me.

P!nk’s song continues to motivate me every day:

“Where there is desire, there’s going to be a flame. Where there’s a flame, someone’s bound to get burned. But just because it burns, doesn’t mean you’re gonna die. You gotta get up and try.”

Seatbelts saves life; don’t repeat my mistake.


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