Resiliency and Recovery from Trauma

Resiliency and Recovery from Trauma

On April 5, 2011, Patrice Cheselski suffered a devastating trauma. In honor of National Trauma Awareness Monthduring May, she shares her story of resiliency and gratitude.

Patrice was accompanying her husband Jerry on one of his septic system service calls that morning. The truck was leaking oil, so while he met with the customer, Patrice tried to slide a piece of cardboard under the engine to protect the driveway. Suddenly, a gust of wind swept the hood of her jacket into the power take-off shaft, twisting her clothing and pulling her body and hair into the moving system. Her cell phone shot out from under the truck with enough force to catch Jerry’s attention and save her life. As he ran to shut off the truck’s engine, the customer called 911. Jerry couldn’t risk moving his wife, but he cut through her clothes to release her from the truck’s grip. When the first responders arrived, they carefully loaded her into the ambulance and drove to an open field where a Life Link III helicopter was waiting to take them to St. Luke’s Regional Trauma Center.

Survival strength

Patrice woke up three weeks later with multiple tubes running in and out of her body. She learned she had spent 17 hours in the ER and several weeks in an induced coma in St. Luke’s ICU. She remembers her father telling her, “You’re the strongest person I know.” Patrice believes that inner strength comes from her father and has helped her survive two crushed lungs, 47 broken bones and being scalped from her eyebrows back.

Dedicated care team

Throughout her seven weeks at St. Luke’s, she was under the constant care of Dr. Wade D. Kubat of St. Luke’s Plastic Surgery Associates, Dr. John J. Watkins of St. Luke’s Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, nurses and physical therapists. The skin grafts were particularly painful, Patrice says, but Dr. Kubat did everything possible to minimize her discomfort. And before she left the hospital, he made sure she would have daily home health nursing care for the next several months. Dr. Watkins was also integral to her journey back to health, treating her multiple fractures nonsurgically and prescribing in-home physical therapy to help restore her range of motion with less pain.

Living in gratitude

As her muscles, joints and skin heal, Patrice continues to defy the odds in her physical recovery and attitude toward life. “Even though my hair is gone for good, I feel lucky that I’ve still got my eyesight, my hearing, my brain and my family.” A loving family that now includes her new granddaughter (“Pumpkin”) and a couple of stray kittens who appeared one day and soon became part of Patrice’s recovery.

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