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Gabrielle’s Story: Staying Positive and Never Giving Up

Gabrielle and Physicians

“Somewhere between what she survived, and who she was becoming, was exactly where she was meant to BE. She was starting to Love the journey. And find the comfort in the quiet corners of her Wildest dreams. They say people don’t change.. Well, she wasn’t always this way. Even if she didn’t change the entire world, she would change her part of it. And she would affect the people she shared it with. A butterfly whose wings have been touched, can indeed still fly. Whether something was meant to be, or meant to leave, didn’t matter as much anymore. She would soak up the Sun, kiss the breeze and she would fly regardless.”

— J. Raymond.

Independence and reliance is something I’ve mentioned often because it’s been two of the hardest things I have had to forfeit while recovering from surgery.  When you take someone who lives completely on her own 50% of her time, food shops, cooks, cleans, does yard work, drives every day, goes to work, maintains an extremely active lifestyle .. When you take all that away and take the ability to drive, forced to rely on someone around the clock to not only care for you in the physical aspect of recovery, but also with the daily maintenance of life such as food shop, cook, laundry, etc. that is a huge transition.

It was when my mom had gone to run some errands and I was sitting out on my couch, out of water and very thirsty that I realized I had enough!  For goodness sake I said to myself, I can’t even get a cup of water!  This was unacceptable!  Still not having a solution, the following day my mom and I had to go the Medical Supply store to pick up some items for wound care.  As I walked in, I saw her from a distance – she was a beauty! Shiny red finish with brand new crisp black leather seating ~ it was love at first sight for sure.  I know I had posted prior to my surgery about getting a knee scooter, unfortunately I had to return it because I was unable to bend my leg and apply pressure to my knee.  I have been using crutches to get around the house, and a wheelchair when I traveled.  It wasn’t until I saw the mini scooter that it dawned on me; why couldn’t I get that?! I spoke to the saleswoman and expressed my current concerns and reasoning for wanting to get it.  She agreed with me that this would give me a lot more help around the house.  I was able to rent it for a few days to give it a trial run, before committing to a full monthly rental.  I thought what better time than now when I go up to New York!? So I signed the papers, and off I went in my new Pride GoGo Elite Travel Scooter.  The nice thing about it is that it disassembles into 4 parts and is very user friendly!  My mom was able to take it apart no problem, as well as assemble it back together.  It definitely allows me more freedom in the house, not to mention it being safer than the crutches.  It comes with a little basket up front, so when it times to refill my water, I’m able to put it right in there and scoot my way back to the couch.  It also worked out perfect for our trip back up to New York.  My mom didn’t have to push me around everywhere, fuss with getting in and out of doors, elevators, etc., or run the risk of someone bumping into me.  I love it!!!

…And just like that, it was time to return to the Big Apple.  Since I last wrote, I returned back up to New York for my second follow up appointment. During my visit with Dr. Rozbruch, my other doctor, Dr. Levine, even stopped by which was a great surprise!  It was really nice to have both my doctors who are responsible for my remarkable procedures there during my check-up. Swelling was at a minimum, scars are healing nicely, and the infection seems to be under control.  We have a backup plan if it continues to get worse, so that made me feel better.  I am still at 50lb weight bearing, and was told that would not be lifted for another 3 months or so.  Most importantly, I am continuing to grow bone.  I can’t tell you how remarkable it is to see an image of YOUR leg, with YOUR broken bone, growing! It is one of the most extraordinary moments! Dr. Rozbruch and Dr. Levine are pleased with my recovery thus far, and I meeting their expectations on exactly where I should be.

I know I still have a very long journey ahead of me, but looking back on this past month alone I can’t believe how far I’ve come; although there are days I doubt myself and feel otherwise. I often find myself asking, “Should I be in a more advanced stage?” Am I really pushing myself to my max?” Every day I truly do give it my all and go beyond what I did the day before, but is that good enough? Maybe I do it because I think that I can hurry the process along, when the reality is this takes time, a lot of time!  When I think back to when I was in the hospital I still remember the excruciating pain I was in every time my leg would touch the ground from the rush of blood flow – now I wake up and place both feet down with no pain at all. The crazy thing is I remember asking my physical therapist if this would ever go away because I could not bear to live with this. I also remember not being able to place any weight on my foot at all, and here I am up to 30lbs; can’t wait to reach 50lb! Even how far I have come with physical therapy.  Oh my gosh!  On day one, I was only able to perform 9 sit to stands, where now I am at 22.  It’s not until I actually think back through all these things that I realize how far I have come just in the past month. Though they are little things, it’s the little things that add up to the greater moments, and it’s taught me that I need to be patient and trust the process.  Looking ahead, I have set goals for myself.  I want to be able to walk around my neighborhood in one try.  I want to get back to the gym and start mobility exercise on the stationary bike.  Now with summer soon approaching, I want to incorporate aqua therapy to my sessions.

As human beings, I think it is important to know that we are not alone.  That there are other people out there who feel as we do, think like we do, and can truly relate to certain aspects in our lives. We are all carrying around our own “stuff”.  It’s when you hear the things people have gone through and realize that you have gone through the same, it provides an amazing amount of relief.  It gives us hope, and that is that I want to give others.  The hope that it will be okay!  The number one reason I wanted to share my story and my journey through HSS was because I wanted to inspire people.  I wanted to show others who either may be going through a similar situation, or just going through a difficult time in their life; medically related or not, that regardless of how hard things may seem at the time they too can get through it.  From the medical side, I wanted to be an example and teach others what it was like to go through such a unique surgery.  I wanted to share that I was faced with only two options, and God knows I was scared, but you have to go with what feel right and take risks in life.  That life will never present itself with the perfect moment to move forward; instead we have to take the moment and make it as perfect as possible. Because life goes on…whether you choose to move on with that decision of the unknown, or stay behind, locked in the past thinking of what could of been.

From the general side, I wanted to share my attitude towards life.  That no, life is not easy.  We are thrown things that truly outright suck.  They break us, change us, make us fall, but we are the only ones who can brush that off, get back up, and continue to fight.  We cannot let the things we have no control over, control us.  We have to learn to take the good with the bad.  Nothing in life is perfect; nor does anyone have the perfect life, but we have to believe and hope that every day will be better than the last, because nothing lasts forever.

It has truly been an honor and a privilege welcoming you into my life, and sharing with you my story and my present life, and I look forward to updating you on my progress in the future.  It’s important that we share our experiences with other people, so I encourage you to share more.  Your story may heal not only you, but someone else.  It’s an incredible feeling to free yourself of your story that you may of been holding back for years, and it also allows others permission to acknowledge their own story.  So if there is something I leave you with it’s this: in your journey you will meet all walks of people.  People who possess all different traits, wonderful, loving kind, broken, hateful, rude, the list goes on and on.  Regardless, it is not our place to judge them.  We don’t know their journey.  So I say love them a little more, and show that there are some of us who care.  Never give up on them, because when we give up, we destroy a reflection of ourselves.

This series is by Gabrielle Sholes, a patient of Dr. S. Robert Rozbruch and Dr. David Levine at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), who is documenting her experience  as she goes through a unique ankle fusion and limb lengthening surgery and rehab that will allow her to walk pain-free and improve her quality of life.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.