Many of my friends and family would consider me “injury prone.” I have undergone two major surgeries for sports-related injuries and have suffered numerous broken bones in my lifetime. While these injuries seemed overwhelming with uncertain outcomes at the time, they have given me a unique opportunity to learn about healthcare from a patient’s perspective and have presented unique circumstances that would have otherwise been unavailable to me. These injuries have better equipped me with the ability to empathize with patients and have taught me important lessons in overcoming adversity.
My first major injury occurred when I was only 15 years old. I was struck in the face by a baseball during practice with my high school team in Massachusetts. I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance where I learned that I sustained a tripod facial fracture. One week later, I was being prepped for surgery. The idea that the structure of my face may be permanently damaged, or the functioning of my left eye may be impaired, still brings about a feeling of sickness in my stomach. I was lucky enough to receive care from a leading trauma surgeon in the Boston area who had an excellent reputation. The surgeon presented an anatomical model of the skull, described the surgical procedure, and assured me that I was in good hands. The surgeon sat with me answering every question my 15-year old mind could muster. Through learning about my injury I began to develop an interest in human anatomy and professional healthcare. This was my first experience with excellent healthcare as a patient. What I most admired from the medical professionals throughout this experience was their calm, comforting demeanor and the heir of professionalism that was always present. Not only were they able to relieve my fear and anxiety surrounding the injury, but they also demonstrated extensive knowledge and the ability to communicate effectively in a friendly way. I had never appreciated the work of a professional in such a way.
My most recent injury occurred sophomore year of college where I sustained an open compound tibial-fibular fracture while playing intramural basketball. I was devastated. As a result of my injury, I was forced to crutch from one side of campus to the other on a daily basis in order to make it to class on time. It became commonplace to have cuts on my hands and underarms from months of using crutches at a time. I would arrive home drenched in sweat from the Florida sun, discouraged, and physically exhausted. I was unable to play the sports that I had always loved. Many days I was confined to my apartment, slowly, but persistently, trying to regain the function of my right leg. Although this specific injury resulted in one of the most difficult semesters of my college career, it turned out to be one of the greatest learning experiences outside of the classroom. Unlike my experience as a 15 year old, this injury allowed me to encounter both positive and negative treatment as a patient. What I ultimately learned is that everyone should be treated as a person, not a name on a checklist. The healthcare professionals that were most effective in my healing process were the ones that possessed not only the expertise in healthcare, but truly cared about my well being. Through the stages of my progression I was lucky enough to work with an incredible Physician Assistant. His understanding of the human body, professional nature, ability to work as part of a team, and optimistic outlook on life is what made me respect him. I first connected with him as his patient, but he later became a mentor and educator.
The adverse circumstances of my injuries gave rise to opportunities. I received the opportunity to experience a multitude of healthcare settings. I received the opportunity to observe a wide variety of healthcare professionals. I received the opportunity to experience outstanding healthcare especially when the long road of recovery ahead was so discouraging. The compassionate care that I received is what gave me the power to recover and the courage to continue progressing. This compassion is what I hope to share with the patients I am lucky enough to help at Prairie Spine & Pain Institute. In my case, I was able to leverage adversity into opportunities. These opportunities helped shape who I am today, what I value, and what my goals are. Over the last several years I have become more confident in my choice to become a Physician Assistant. Being a patient has reminded me that the little things you do can make a huge difference to someone who is sick, injured, or in pain. Prairie Spine & Pain Institute has given me the opportunity to give patients the same care that I appreciated so much as a patient.
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