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Against the Odds

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc

Every day I witness how an accident or trauma can derail someone’s life.  And size does not always matter.  A small accident can have catastrophic results, depending on who it happens to.  My clients, searching for answers, often want dates and timelines to map out their recovery and to try and understand for how long their life might be disrupted.  They are often faced with financial hardship or ruin, jobs on the line, families that are not coping, and independence lost.  They need to emotionally prepare for the road ahead.

In physical rehab, answers are easier – doctors are skilled at predicting when people can weight-bear, when the cast might come off, when they might be able to return to some form of normal function.  But what is difficult to predict, always, is the emotional consequences of an injury, and the length and completeness of a cognitive recovery.

In my world, optimal recovery comes from the combination of many things:

1.    A body that is given the optimal fuel, resources and environment for healing.

2.    A motivated client.

3.    Funding for rehabilitation, including a supportive insurer.

4.    A lawyer (if present) that supports and fights for treatment approvals.

5.    An external environment that fosters recovery (family, friends, employers, financial security, and a suitable living environment).

If one of these things is lacking, the entire process suffers.  So, while I always want to provide hope and encouragement for people in their recovery, I cannot control any of these factors and they can mean the difference between weeks and years of disability.  For some, the odds of these factors aligning are often stacked too heavily against them and the outcome does not look good.

And then there are the people that surprise us all and beat the odds.  Those people that return to work more quickly than we thought possible, can walk when they were told this would be unlikely, and whose family unite and become stronger when faced with a challenge.

Right now we are in the middle of the Olympics.  I thought it would be appropriate to share some Olympic stories of athletes that overcame adversity to fulfill their Olympic dreams (revised from Oxygen Magazine, Winter Olympics Issue):

Betty Robinson was 16 when she competed and won gold in the first Olympics that allowed women to participate in track (1928).  In 1931 she survived a plane crash that left her in a coma for seven months.  It took her two years to walk again.  Yet, she returned to the Olympics in 1936 and won another gold.

Melissa Stockwell lost her left leg in Iraq while serving in the U.S. Army in 2004.  Four years later she completed in the Beijing Paralympics in swimming.

Quanitta Underwood suffered years of childhood abuse by her father.  At 19 she discovered boxing and went on to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.

Silken Laumann was an accomplished rower when she broke her leg badly months before the 1992 Olympics.  After five surgeries and three weeks in hospital, she returned to training six weeks later and captured bronze in the summer games that same year.

So, if you have been injured or endured trauma that has set you back, don’t ever count yourself out.   Odds are just odds…made to be challenged, defied and broken.  While I can’t control anything on the list of things that promote an optimal recovery, you can.

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