Readers’ Choice: Lori’s Story — Winner Against the Odds
Lori grew up on a grain farm in rural Saskatchewan. She has always been governed by innate bravery and was the only girl who raced her snowmobile against the men and she loved to work alongside her parents. She suffered two accidents in her teens that would dictate her winning spirit for the rest of her life. When Lori was 15, she was in a single-vehicle roll over accident and thrown from the pickup. The impact crushed her shoulder and pelvis and required long, determined hours of rehabilitation. Because of the extensive pelvic injuries she sustained, Lori was told she would likely never have children. Two years later, Lori was riding her motorcycle at dusk and hit a crack in the road, breaking her back.
After being told she may never walk, or be a mother, Lori was determined to prove her doctors wrong. I am here today because of her determination and courage. This is her story, in her own words, of the battle she has fought with herself and a medical profession that did not understand her ailment. She came out on top. She beat the odds …
I have been asked to detail what is like to live through the darkest time in my life and must first say that I am always amazed at the human spirit. Some of us can endure unbearable pain, day after day and year after year. Yet, we decide to stick around. I am one of those people.
Seven years ago, I was stopped at a red light and was rear-ended on an icy street by a young man traveling too fast for the conditions. Nothing has been the same since that severe whiplash injury.
The pain in the months, and then years, following the accident was unbelievable. My head felt like it would explode every day and I was unsure of where my feet were with each step. I could not turn my neck and if I looked up at anything above eye level, I would nearly pass out. My hair was only shoulder length, but I couldn’t stand the weight of it. My husband cut it all off every three weeks. Sitting was impossible and felt like a knife surrounded by chunks of glass.
Needless to say, I had to give up on almost every plan my family made. I was unable to sit down at my son’s graduation or at my mom’s funeral. Utterly degrading, I laid down everywhere, even in the waiting room floors of the many doctors I saw.
Over forty specialists from Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto investigated my pain but none had any clue what to do. They all concluded I had developed severe chronic pain.
Neurosurgeons told me I was the worst case they’d seen. I was diagnosed with a condition that causes constant freezing and burning sensations. They grew worse over time. I read in a medical journal that most patients with the condition commit suicide and when I read there was no cure, I cried for two days. My excellent family doctor sent me to every expert she could find to help me; her perseverance was astonishing and heartfelt.
Chronic pain took over my life. I knew I was very lucky to have an incredible husband and wonderful kids and many dear friends, but I just couldn’t see a way to keep on living when the pain was there 24 hours a day with no end in sight. The decision to end my life was undertaken with great thought: what if I never got better?
I began to plan how to go out without leaving too much of a mess for my family and contemplated the right day. The panic would hit me like a shot as the time grew closer and the actual day would come and go. I was unable to go through with it. One day, I asked my husband if he’d forgive me if I committed suicide, and he said he and our kids would never get over the loss. He forbid me to do it and promised we’d find a way to make me pain-free. My parents had never used the word “quit” in their lives and my husband has never heard of the word either: How could I?
However, I couldn’t help but feel like a failure. I was not getting better. I was unable to end my own suffering. My eyes were two dark stars of grief and I could not remember my old life. I wondered if it had ever existed or if I had dreamed it all.
Trying to remain tethered to reality was the biggest battle I have ever known. At the end of my rope, I was extremely fortunate to find an amazing procedure with a success rate of over 85 per cent. It was being performed by an equally amazing surgeon, Dr. Ake Nystrom. He operates in the University Medical Centre at Omaha, Nebraska.
In June, 2008, I had a procedure called surgical fasciectomy. Dr. Nystrom released the compressed nerves, responsible for years of agony, from the surrounding tissues on the outside of my central nervous system. Dr. Nystrom has successfully performed the procedure on over 1,500 patients, who come to see him from all over the world. It literally saved my life.
For more information, please visit Dr. Nystrom’s website at: www.whiplashinjury.net.