Nevertheless, days before Christmas, on a -16°F day in Yellowstone Park, it became my reality.
Suddenly, I’m on my back on the ice and snow-covered ground. The 700-pound snowmobile I’d had ridden all day was now resting on top of my 125-pound frame. As it was pulled off me, I opened my eyes to find a circle of people peering down at me—all with a similar “Oh @#$!” expressions of on their faces.
While I was a bit disoriented, the seriousness of the situation was never lost on me.
They ask me a series of basic questions in rapid succession: What is your name? Where are you? What is the date? Ten minutes later, the series begins again. I knew the significance of having the answers.
Having a reasonably muscular torso, an artifact from my endurance mountain biking days may have provided the cushion to avoid a crushed pelvis or worse. Still, my body was broken.
After a series of images, I discovered the severity.
I had sustained three spinal fractures and a lumbar disc tear. Every cervical disc was herniated, and two had slipped. The impact left my left side pretty much out of commission; severe bicep tendinosis, a nearly foot-long contusion on my thigh, and frozen shoulder had returned with a vengeance.
While the experience was exceedingly frightening, my story is not a tragic one—it could have ended far differently.
Shockingly, I walked (albeit slowly and tentatively) out of the emergency room. But the painful months that followed were plagued with uncertainty, a seemingly non-stop schedule of specialist visits, imaging and physical therapy punctuated by home care, and pain management.
Seven Things I Learned While Healing from a Traumatic Injury
I hope my readers never experience severe physical trauma, but as I learned, you never know when it could happen to you.
Over the course of my healing process, I learned many valuable lessons. If you, or someone you love, is experiencing a traumatic injury, here’s what my experience taught me
No. 1 Don’t be an island.
I’d been athletic my whole life.
From running marathons, adventure racing, river rafting, and mountain bike racing to mountaineering and rock climbing, I thrived on outdoor athletic challenges. So, while I was walking, I had strong concerns I would not ever fully recover.
Despite having a very close family back in Seattle, I didn’t tell my folks about the accident for weeks. Since I was not in a critical state, I didn’t want to worry my parents or disrupt their holidays. Or, at least that’s what I told myself.
The truth of it was I simply couldn’t deal with my fear. I might never be the same physically active person again. Rather, I could be facing a life of pain management and the limitations that brings. Of course, I finally told them. Then, I told friends.
And just like that, everything seemed to get much easier.
No. 2 Don’t be too afraid of prescription medications.
Doctors prescribe painkillers for severe physical trauma patients. They prescribe them because they are needed. They have their place.
Fearful of their addictive power, I stopped them after one week. That was a mistake and the pain began to keep me from the sleep I needed to heal.
Eventually, my sister convinced me that if I needed painkillers to sleep, I should take them. I shared my prescription plan, what I was taking and how much, with a few loved ones. This gave me the peace of mind to take the meds temporarily to give me the pain relief and the sleep I required for healing.
No. 3 Don’t be too reliant on prescription medications.
This one is rather obvious—and may seem contradictory to the above point.
Bottom line, take the pain pills when it’s critical. Once the acute phase starts to pass, be open to natural alternatives that can help manage and resolve the pain, inflammation, and sleep challenges following a traumatic injury without the addiction risks associated with narcotic pain medication.
Before I traveled home, I found tremendous short-term help from the knowledgeable staff at a local health food store. Once home, I adopted a protocol of professional nutritional supplements. See lesson learned #5.
No. 4 Don’t try to solve it on your own.
Even though I’m a nutritionist trained in functional nutrition protocols, I knew I couldn’t trust myself to be my own clinician. I had too many other things on my mind.
So, I reached out to some trusted individuals at my company who recommended supplement healing protocols for healing bone and soft tissue, as well as reducing inflammation.
Reach out to whatever resources you have and be open to new ideas. One new experience which paid off was osteopathic physical manipulation. It provided the structural adjustments I needed in the only manner I could tolerate; delicate and gentle.
No. 5 There’s immense healing power in nutritional supplements.
Supplements were integral to my recovery. In fact, my doctors seemed surprised by how swiftly I recovered, which I felt was due in part to a targeted nutritional protocol.
I used Metagenics products—and I couldn’t recommend them higher. See the actual protocol I followed below, at the end of the post.
No. 6 Gratitude makes a difference.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed, stressed, or depressed after a traumatic injury. But I tried to focus on things I was grateful for, which helped immensely.
Obviously, I was—and am still—most grateful to be walking. I was also incredibly fortunate to be blessed with an exceptional medical team, the support of my loved ones, and my employer. I kept a gratitude journal to keep me focused on the good and the small ‘wins’ of my recovery, such as graduating beyond my “don’t lift anything weighing over 2 pounds” restriction. Coincidentally, another friend sustained a disabling injury at the same time. In our mutual support, we helped each other and ourselves.
No. 7 Food matters. So does flexibility.
As a dietitian and functional nutrition consultant, I know the healing power of foods—even before this experience.
I viewed nutrition equally important as physical therapy or any other healing modality. But the pain effected my appetite and made it harder to eat; I tried to make every bite count nutritionally.
Ironically, my whole foods, plant-based, mostly vegetarian diet, almost became a hindrance. Due to its low caloric-density, I was losing about a pound a week. When I had lost more than 10% of my body weight and considerable muscle mass, I became concerned.
In response, my osteopath encouraged me to be open to cravings to awaken my appetite. “Expand your diet,” she said, “even if that means temporarily eating gluten and dairy.”
Beyond getting enough calories to heal and restore my lean body mass, my daily anti-inflammatory beverages became even more vital. Every day I tried to consume ginger, turmeric or both. The G & T Healer (Ginger & Turmeric link) was and continues to be my daily staple.
Today, I can’t sit for extended periods. Otherwise, I’m grateful and fortunate to consider myself fully healed.
I still have some minor pain, but I don’t mind those occasional twinges of discomfort; they keep me in a state of gratitude for my mobility and overall health.
Further, the experience has given me a new lens through which to view all of life’s challenges. It was traumatic, but not a tragedy. I hope the awareness of—and appreciation for—the meaningful difference between the two will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Bone, Joint, and Soft Tissue Support After Traumatic Injury Support
- CalApatite Bone Builder Active: 3 tablets per day
- Ostera: 1 tablet per day
- OsteoVantiv: 1 tablet per day
- Glucosamine Sulfate 750: 2 tablets per day
- D3 10k with K: 1 tablet per day
- UltraPotent C: 1 tablet per day
- OmegaGenics 720: 2 soft gels per day
- Specialized ProResolvin Mediators: 6 soft gels per day
- UltraInflamX 360 medical food: 1 serving per day
Have you experienced a traumatic injury? If so, what lessons learned can you share? Please leave a comment below!