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Gabrielle’s Story: Staying Strong and Overcoming New Challenges

Gabrielle Sholes walking with crutches

“She wakes up daily with a purpose, knowing she’s here for a reason and there is a job that needs to be done. She never settles for mediocre and always stays true to her extraordinary self. She is determined and focused. Whatever she wants, she conquers, no matter how long it takes. Her hustle is impeccable. Her energy is contagious. You can’t tell her what to do, or get in her way. She is a work in progress. Every day that goes by, she moves forward with light and betters herself and that is where she gains her strength. The more and more time and effort she puts into herself, the better she gets! She has a mind of her own, and missions she knows needs to be completed. You may watch her shine, love her, envy her, but one thing you will never do is stop her.” – Melissa Molomo


Everything in life is temporary. Emotions, thoughts, people, things, scenery.  I am reminded of this every day, and it has been an effective way to increase my gratitude for the present moment.  It also reminds me that time is also not temporary, it goes on.

I have made reference to time in my blog the day that I was getting on a plane to go to New York. I have learned a lot about time these past few months, and this past week I was reminded once again that it doesn’t stop. I hadn’t been reminded of that until I went in my office and saw the pile of mail that had accumulated on my desk, and the bills I needed to pay. I also checked my email and had quite a number that had come through, which needed responding. For me and my life right now, my only focus and number one priority has been myself.  I do not see it as being selfish, it’s necessary.  I need to devote all my time, effort, and energy into my recovery. So it slipped my mind that life outside of my home still goes on. Bills still need to be paid, emails still need to be responded to; the outside world still exists.  It is just such a weird feeling to me, because although essentially for “me” my life has stopped, the rest of the world’s has not.

During this past week, I have been thrown some major obstacles.  For starters, my wheelchair never made it on the plane and was left behind in New York. We had to go through quite a number of people within our airline to get it back. I have become very reliant on that wheelchair, and to not have it made things quite difficult. I also sustained a fall. I was walking down my hallway, and my crutch gave out and I lost balance and plop! I fell face first flat down. My instincts told me to lift my leg, so other than a welt on my head and some scratches on my arm, I was okay. On another occasion, I was sitting out in my lanai, and when I went to elevate my foot, I hit it on the table and OH MY GOSH! The pain I sustained from that was beyond anything I could ever accurately describe. Every single pin vibrated, and each bone was throbbing. It was awful. Lesson learned was to be more aware of my surroundings. Although I have this 12 pound contraption on my foot, I tend to forget how much space it actually takes up.

I need to start being more careful.

I also have found that I have developed somewhat of a social anxiety, combined with post-traumatic stress. I was told this was very normal, and often times people who have gone through a traumatic experience, this will happen. It is the scariest feeling ever. I feel different in a way that is indescribable. I don’t feel like myself, I have difficulty engaging in conversation, I shut down, start shaking, crying uncontrollably, I get dizzy and lightheaded, and become reserved. Anyone who knows me know this is NOT me. I am outgoing, lively, sociable, unreserved.  I find this only happens within a large group of people. I was told to start working on stimulation. To put music on while at home, watch action movies, and play with a beach ball. I hate feeling this way, and I know it’s all a part of the recovery process, but I just feel this is another piece of me that I have lost that I need to regain back.

However, while there have been some new obstacles I’ve also made great strides with physical therapy!  Since receiving clearance from Dr. Rozbruch that I do not have any restrictions other than my 50lb weight baring limit, we were able to add on a lot more exercises.  Hamstring curls, leg lifts, and leg curls just to name a few. I even added ankle weights to my left leg to really increase the resistance, and make it a real workout!  It felt great! And let me tell you, the next day my abs were on fire. As the week progressed, I was even able to get outside and for the first time start walking on pavement.  Then when Jennifer, my physical therapist, told me what we were about to do (we were to start walking on the road, starting with going from one mailbox to the next, which was about 50 feet.), I thought she was nuts. There was no way I would be able to do that. I was a bit overwhelmed and thought the task at hand was impossible, but I took a deep breath and off I went. It felt so weird, so unnatural. I found myself being less aware of nature, the color of the sky, a rabbit in the grass, the sounds of the birds chirping in the sky. I was so focused on making sure that there was nothing in my path that might make me stumble and fall. I finished one lap, sat down, and then made it a second time through! I was impressed, I couldn’t believe it. Jennifer said that moving forward, she would like me to start doing that every day, and depending on my pain level that evening, to increase the distance every day. I am very excited about that! The one thing I need to work on is to know my limitations, and not to push myself.  I am finding that I am able to do all the exercises given, and I keep going without stopping.  I push myself to the max, but then I truly and fully pay for it later on that evening.  Although I am capable of doing it, does not mean I should be.

I am so fixated on succeeding, and being perfect that there is no option for failure. I have set very high standards for myself. What I need to remember though is that success is all about progress, not perfection. I may not be where I want to be today, but just so long as I am moving forward that’s what matters. So to sum up this past week… yes I needed to cry… I needed to struggle…and yes I learned that I need to give my body the time to heal…but in no way does that mean that I need to give up.


This series is by Gabrielle Sholes, a patient of Dr. David Levine and Dr. S. Robert Rozbruch, at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). This weekly series documents her experience  as she experiences a unique ankle fusion and limb lengthening surgery 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.