Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My personal health story by Dr. Joelle Johnson

Dr. Joelle Johnson is a chiropractor at Family First Chiropractic and Wellness

My story.....

So this is a very hard story to finally write, its been over 20 years in the making and I hope I am finally ready to share my story. We all have a story of what led them in their lives and the lessons learnt (and are still learning).I became a chiropractor in 1999 and I hope that my story has helped me become the best chiropractor that I can be.
March 17th, 1991 changed my life forever..... I have always been a very avid skier and at 19 I was a former racer, a ski instructor, ski coach and in college- specifically in pre-Medicine (funny how your path can meander).
        I was loving the wonderful day skiing with my team- high speed skiing chasing the line between control and out of control skiing 'high' .When on a run I was skiing there fast and I hit some 'chatter' and lost a ski, I remember the feeling as I saw my ski fly off and I knew i was going down and wiping out HARD. It was hard, I fell onto my stomach, spun around several times and  flew into the trees hitting on the side of my right femur onto a poplar tree sideways and tumbling down a steep embankment and finally landing in a pile of stacked trees on the ground. As this was not my first wipe out you do the usual, take a deep breath and try to stand up to shake it off, lick your ego and finish the run. WRONG as I tried to get up my upper body moved and my upper thigh but my knee and lower limb stayed...well a few things went through my head and I was lucky someone saw me go into the tress and I yelled for help as I realised I broke my right femur, in several places. It took a while for the ski Patrol to get there and I slowly saw my thigh swelling to over twice the size. When the patrol finally arrived I was starting to go into shock and I remember them taking an hour or two to get me out of there, cutting several trees down with a chainsaw to get me on a backboard( apparently I landed in the pile of trees straddling another poplar tree).
         I remember asking them to be really careful to not cut my leg with the chainsaw-now its funny to think of but at the time I was serious!. The patrol was amazing, they had to obviously get me out of there alive, into a toboggan and off to the ambulance. It took over 4.5 hours to get me into the hospital in Red Deer from the ski hill which is generally a 15-20 min drive.
           Now the hard part starts... the injury and complications. I had almost every possible complication from a femur possible, except I survived. I finally got in to the hospital and my injuries were assessed it was late into the evening so surgery was planned for the following morning.I remember them telling me the femur was broken so badly my right leg was over 7 inches shorter than the good leg, to stop the quads from spasming and crushing my bone shards they had to put me in traction by drilling a metal pin into my tibia and hanging a weight over the bed to traction the leg.  That was a feeling I will never forget as they drilled into my shin and tapped in the metal bar to anchor it, it might sound horrible but it felt so much better in that traction device.
They neglected to tell me I had also broken my pelvis as well (that fracture was what we call a stable fracture and non life threatening). Did I mention at that time I thought I was invincible and did not wear a helmet? Hence some head trauma, stitches and a nasty concussion, not to mention and cervical trauma and soft tissue damage.
      Very early the next morning several hours after being admitted I felt that an elephant was standing and jumping on my chest, I couldn't breath, move or get any air and I thought I was dying. I was rushed into ICU and placed onto a ventilator for 3 weeks hanging on to life still in the traction device, metal bar in leg with it hanging in the air, weight on the end of the bed. I had thrown several fat/lipid emboli and it was very unsure if I would survive the night or coming weeks. I remember some things from this time- I hated the ventilator and I tried to pull it out many times and had to be restrained-literally my hands tied were tied to the bed rails. I couldn't move because of the pain, every bump, nudge or movement on the bed caused the leg and traction device to bounce and move shifting the bones in my leg. I couldn't cry out because of the ventilator and I couldn't move because of the restraints. It was the hardest thing I have EVER had to go through, imprisoned in a bed by my injury in a drug fog.
      I had many close calls with added infections, respiratory distress, respiratory infections and pulmonary emboli added to the mix. Almost 4 weeks later I was stable enough and  able to do surgery and placed a rod down my entire femur, 4 screws and a few plates as well. To add insult to the injury I had a few more pulmonary emboli and stayed in the ICU a few days longer. In total I was in the hospital/ICU for 6 weeks. I was not able to weight bear on my leg for 3 months and was confined to a wheelchair, then I moved up to a walker and crutches for 9 months and then to a walking cane for another 6 months. I had many many hours of rehab to learn how to walk again, in the pool and on land.It was humbling to learn how to walk , the nervous system and my muscles were not connecting and I found it very difficult to put one foot in front of the other.
I was on many pain medications for the leg, pelvis, and spinal pain as well as injections and medications daily to prevent blood clotting. The pain I still remember vividly-chronic, relenting. I was told there was no way out of the chronic pain except with medication- but that wasn't working. At age 22 I could barely get out of bed with the pelvic, low back, and leg pain. A friend at university told me to try chiropractic care and in 3 weeks my life had changed, the pain had almost gone, I could sleep and I could stop taking pain medications.....WOW. This was a complete miracle in my life, from looking at my future of doom, pain and misery to a bright new beginning. I couldn't believe it and I applied to chiropractic school and was accepted! During school I learnt many many things but the best lesson I have ever learnt is my journey through my major trauma and injury, the power of healing through the chronic pain.Praise God for this injury, I know it sounds strange but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I would not want anyone to go through the pain that I went through but I am glad it happened to me.....
 But our story was not over....I have had to struggle for many years to keep my spine stable and I was told 1. I would never walk with out a limp, if you see me that is not the case. 2. I would never have children due to the trauma, well we have 3 very busy boys, which leads to the next part of the story.
As I stated the Canadian Ski Patrol helped me immensely with my accident and when I moved back home to practise I joined the patrol and have volunteered helping other injured skiers/boarders for s the past 14 years. I was excited when our boys began to ski as we could spend quality time skiing together. One night our oldest Logan  wanted to come and ski with my while I patrolled that evening. He is a smart, handsome and amazing 7 year old and that evening not more than 20 feet away he fell on some rough terrain and broke his left femur right there in front of me. I was in complete  shock, being the mom, the first aider on the scene and a mom was overwhelming not to mention the flashbacks of my life all a the same time. I knew in my heart how severe this fracture was but wanted to deny my diagnosis of the injury. I called my fellow patrol in, and I want into an almost robot like mode, being the mom and doctor all in one taking care of our precious child. When the fellow patrol got there I told them the injury but tried to talk them out of it- denial mode. As you may know this is a very serious and life threatening injury and we needed to backboard him and transport him down the hill to the ambulance.Another flashback for me, the long bumpy painful ride down the hill with unset broken bones and the bumpy gravel road ride to the city.My poor angel Logan, I wanted to stop it all and let it be me again, I felt like we were in a whirling vortex, my mind was spinning between being a mom and being a doctor. I thought I was in a complete disorganised state of mind but I was told afterwards that I was as cool as a cucumber, never panicked took care of Logan's needs, feelings, called for the ambulance, called Dad to meet us and get help at home and worked the scene.It is amazing how your motherly instinct kicks in when its warranted.
Logan needed to be put onto the backboard and since we had limited people at the scene I needed to help roll him, when we did I felt and heard his femur break in my hands, now I adjust the nervous system and spine for a living as a chiropractor and that feeling and noise coming from your baby boy was horrible to experience. After the fast but painful ride down the hill in the toboggan with me skiing alongside Logan talking to him all the way down we loaded him into the waiting ambulance. While assessing Logan's vitals he remained completely normal, no fluctuations in heart rate, respiration and blood pressure, no signs of shock whatsoever. I hope that me being there with him and staying in control cause him to remain stable.Logan had surgery on his femur with 4 screws and a Spica cast for 12 weeks. The cast was from his ankle to his armpits in a reclined bent knee position, he was in a reclining wheelchair for the next 3 months, then crutches for 4 weeks afterwards.
 Logan showed such strong character and strength in this ordeal and I am so proud of him. I hope that my journey helped for his to be that much easier, as I knew how to deal with the many issues he had to face in the small daily tasks as well as the large ones.

Logan has finally wrote his story and here it is in his own words:
I got this scar from....

One Wednesday, Feb 16, 2012 I was out skiing with my mum at Canyon Ski resort near Red Deer. She was ski patrolling and skiing with me. I had asked mum if we could ski the Lemon Drop. She said "okay". When we got to the lemon drop my mum skied around it. Then I went down and then my left leg hit an ice chunk and I wiped out and all of the pressure was on my left leg.
About 2 seconds later I was yelling and screaming because I had broke my left femur! My mum had skied to me super fast! She asked "what hurts?" and I said "my thigh!" She called the rest of te ski patrollers to come down and she told them to bring a toboggan to bring me down. After they got there they took my skis off and made me roll over onto the toboggan. Then, they wrapped me up in blankets. After, a ski patroller took me down on the toboggan. A ski patrol called an ambulance to bring me to the hospital. After about 10-15 min the ambulance came. They put me on a stretcher and in the ambulance.
After I was in, my mum climbed in. They cut off my coat and pants and looked at my left leg. It was not bleeding but the femur was broken!
When my mum and I got to the hospital the paramedics rolled me off the ambulance and I don't remember anything else until I was on a hospital bed with my left leg wrapped up in bandages. I can't remember anything until the nurses rolled me in for surgery. I fell asleep, the surgery took 6 hours.
After it was finished I had a body cast from my ankle to my stomach! A nurse rolled me into a big room that was divided with curtains. he nurse rolled me into a divided part of the curtains. Did I mention that my mum was beside me the whole time? Anyway the nurse rolled me into one of the small parts of the room. After a day or 2 I got rolled into a different room. It was so cool. It had a big TV and lots of space. A day later my family and some of my friends got me get well cards balloons and gifts. Lots of people came to the hospital to visit me. A day later my dad got me a wheelchair, crutches, and a walker. After he got them I got on the wheelchair and my mum rolled me out of the hospital and into te family van.
Logan Johnson age 7

Family First Chiropractic and Wellness, located at 142 Erickson Drive 403-347-3261
One year later Logan and Joelle Ziplined in Jamaica to celebrate

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