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Car Accident Victim Travels Road to Recovery at Good Shepherd

September 22, 2015

A beautiful afternoon in May 2015 is one that Anne Belzecky does not remember but cannot forget. She remembers looking both ways before driving across the busy intersection near her home in Allentown. Fortunately, she does not remember the other car crashing into her.

The force of the crash left her with a broken femur, fractured pelvis, radius and ulna as well as a broken neck. She was transported to a local acute care trauma facility, where she was placed in a drug-induced coma and ventilated.

When she came out of the coma one month later, she had undergone numerous surgeries on her neck, legs and arms. She had survived MRSA and pneumonia. She awoke with a feeding tube, in a strange place, with no idea what had happened to her or where she was.

The day she woke up, she was transported by ambulance to Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Allentown to begin her long road to recovery. She arrived with one arm in a cast, one leg in a rigid brace and her neck in a brace. It took three Good Shepherd staff members to transport her to a wheelchair.

Anne recalls being somewhat overwhelmed by all that had transpired and wondering what the future held for her.

“When I arrived at Good Shepherd, I did not know if I would go home in a wheelchair, walker or on my own two feet,” said Anne. “I was still trying to understand what had happened to me.”

Good Shepherd began therapy that same day. Anne’s therapists began with basic skills, teaching her how to transfer from her wheelchair to other surfaces. They also worked to strengthen her uninjured side, as she had experienced some atrophy from being in a coma so long.

Anne made great progress, and within a month, her orthopedist approved removing her leg cast, shortly followed by removal of her arm brace. Still an inpatient at Good Shepherd, her therapy team worked with her to improve her range of motion and strength in these limbs. She went home using just a walker in August. An active crafter, Anne said it was wonderful to come home and be with her family and pets again.

“After three months, it was so nice to be home,” Anne said. “I especially appreciated sleeping in my own bed and using my own bathroom and to do things on my own again.”

One of the keys to making Anne’s transition home possible was Good Shepherd’s In-Home Outpatient Program (IHOP). The goal of in-home therapy is to help patients maintain a healthy lifestyle and to help them develop the needed skills so they can stay home. As part of the program, Good Shepherd therapists visit patients’ homes to provide physical, occupational and/or speech therapy services.

Good Shepherd therapist Stephen Vandenberg, PT, DPT, arrived at Anne’s home within a few days of discharge to help her safely navigate her home environment. Together, they worked on everyday activities, such as bathing, transitioning the walker from one flooring surface to another and feeding her cats. Steve focused on her leg strength and endurance to help increase Anne’s independence. He taught her how to safely pick things up and how to re-arrange her kitchen so she could cook safely again.

Thanks to the In-Home Therapy Program, Anne transitioned to outpatient therapy at Good Shepherd’s Health & Technology Center in Allentown. There, a team of occupational, physical, recreational and speech therapists continued to help Anne down the road to recovery. Over the weeks that followed, Anne did countless leg lifts and steps to rebuild her lower body strength. She relearned how to eat, swallow and hold utensils and worked to improve her balance and memory.

“If I had a bad day, my therapists always encouraged me,” says Anne. “They told me that they would help me to get better and stronger.”

When she was ready, Anne went through Good Shepherd’s driver evaluation program, to ensure she was safe to drive again. Through the program, she received helpful recommendations on what features would be most helpful to her when buying a new car.

These days, Anne says she feels good. There are still the occasional reminders of that terrible day, but she is back to doing all of the things she enjoys, especially doing crafts and babysitting her grandson.

“I was lucky,” says Anne, “very lucky.”