My life could not have been better in the fall of 2017. All in the same month, I’d met someone and received an offer for a job that I had worked tirelessly to land. One night, in November, a friend and I were celebrating at an engagement party. It went until the wee hours of the morning, and I fell asleep as soon as I got in the passenger seat. When I woke up I wasn’t at home, but in a hospital room. I don’t remember what happened next, actually I don’t remember the next six weeks.
I was told that our car crashed on the interstate. I had several injuries, a few serious: a broken tibia/fibula/femur, 3rd cranial nerve damage of the right eye, and Atlanto-occipital dislocation of C1-C3. I learned a few months later that the kind of dislocation I had was just a fancy word for internal decapitation. However, none of these compared to what my family were told. My parents were taken into a private room where a doctor told them that I was a quadriplegic and that I would need respiratory assistance for the rest of my life. By some miracle, my toes responded to a stimulation test.
Although my spinal cord wasn’t severed, it was severely injured and caused central cord syndrome. This meant that I lost all function in my body from the neck down, but would eventually gain it back. After several surgeries and a stay at a nearby LTAC, I was finally able to start Inpatient Rehab at the Touro Infirmary. Three hours a day of physical, occupational, and speech therapy were tough but doing it while in a cervical halo was even tougher. Luckily, I had three incredibly patient, genuine, and dedicated therapists.
My speech therapist, Maggie, worked with me each day to strengthen my throat muscles. So, I could have the mint chocolate chip ice cream that I had been dreaming of. Until I passed the swallow test, I was fed through a peg tube and only allowed a few ice chips. It took about 2-3 weeks, but I finally passed the test and celebrated with all the ice cream I could handle. Because of Maggie I can eat all of my favorite foods again.
Even though I was slowly regaining function of various body parts, my brain didn’t know how to use my body parts anymore; because of this I needed occupational therapy. My OT, Erin, taught me how to feed myself the ice cream that I wanted. She also taught me how to dress myself and brush my teeth. One of our rehab sessions was spent entirely on practicing applying makeup. She took the time to make sure I felt like a person again instead of a patient. Erin helped me feel like myself.
I was incredibly weak, but I still had to participate in physical therapy to learn how to walk and among other things. Josh pushed me to my limits every single day but it’s what I needed. I went from taking 6 steps, to walking back to my room, to walking to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Some days, I felt like giving up, but Josh was there to push me to increase my stamina. He is the reason why I can walk a few miles at a time today.
After 6 weeks, it was finally time to leave. On my last day, Maggie came to visit me and bring me coffee before I was discharged. Later that day, I was surprised by Josh and Erin as well. They brought me a “Certificate of Completion” along with a graduation cap and gown to wear on my walk out. Erin played the graduation song as I walked out of the hospital while my family cried tears of happiness. I haven’t looked back since.
Because of the fantastic care I received at Touro Inpatient Rehab, it was an easy decision to continue my care at Touro Outpatient Rehab. My nurses, doctors, techs, and therapists all made me feel like they were taking care of a friend instead of a patient. I get the same care at outpatient rehab as I did in inpatient rehab. I consider my therapists to be my friends as well.
Today, I continue with speech, occupational and physical therapy a few days a week. I’m up to walking at least 2 miles at a time. Most importantly, I’m getting back to my old self. I’m thankful that throughout all of the trauma and tears, I never lost the person I was before. In fact, I feel as though I’m the same Taylor just with a pretty incredible story.