Sometimes we are tested….
I’ve been an equestrian for most of my life. I love the feeling of connecting with horses, in all their grace and power. To me, riding feels like freedom. In my free time between running the business of CenterBarre, training instructors and clients, and teaching classes, I took respite by riding our beautiful, well-trained thoroughbred.
June 30, 2017 everything changed. For reasons unknown, our horse went from perfect to crazy in an instant, exploding into a series of violent bucks. In a split second I was hurtling through the air. As all riders know, getting tossed is an inevitable part of the sport. I’ve experienced it dozens of times, but this time was very different. I heard my back break on impact and the pain in my left hip was excruciating. I couldn’t move.
Within 15 minutes, I was surrounded by medics and carried off by stretcher into an ambulance. I must say the ride was disappointing. I expected it to be fast and loud but, I guess because my injuries weren’t life threatening, we drove without the scream of sirens and at speeds well within the law. I was given morphine for the first time in my life as was surprised at how little it did to ease the pain.
The ER was a blur. The good news was that if you arrive by ambulance you get a room immediately. I was again quickly surrounded by medical professionals asking questions.
“What’s your pain level?”
“Can you wiggle your toes?”
“Are you allergic to any medications?”
“Did you hit your head?”
On and on. Someone had scissors and announced they were cutting off my clothes. I was wearing my favorite CenterBarre tee-shirt and leggings.
“These are $100.00 pants” I protested.
“Not anymore” said the the scissor lady with a snip.
A CT scan revealed the damage of that horrible split second – two pelvic breaks, a fractured L- 2 in my back, and three fractures in my femur. The pelvic and back fractures were both stable and would heal in time but the femur was another story. By 7:30 pm I was undergoing surgery. The surgeon bolted a rod from the top of my femur down to my knee.
The rest of that night and the next day is a blur except for an intense migraine. The pain in my head took precedent over my broken body. It turns out, my body doesn’t react well to narcotics (silver lining: I’ll never be a drug addict). So, no more pain meds stronger than Tylenol for me.
Day three was my first physical therapy (PT) appointment. It was a big failure. Not only could I not stand, I fainted twice just sitting up in bed. This caused some concern and more tests. It turns out that I had lost a lot of blood during surgery and had a very low hemoglobin count – a healthy count being 12, mine was 6. I had my first blood transfusion that day and another one the next day when the count again was too low. It’s amazing how much better you feel with the right amount of blood in your body. Transfusions take about three hours and it feels like watering a limp plant. With a higher level of blood pulsing through my body, I felt clear headed and strong. At my next PT appointment, I was walking like a pro – if that pro was creeping at a snails pace using a walker!
The doctors, nurses, and therapists commented constantly on my fitness level and strength. I have always believed in the amazing benefits of our program at CenterBarre but now they became even clearer. My core strength impressed all and was a great help in supporting my broken back and pelvis. My upper body and thigh strength put me well above the norm when it came to walking, and by day 2 of physical therapy, I was travelling up and down stairs – unheard of!
It’s hard to feel good about anything when you’re laying broken in a bed most of the day. Being fit and surpassing the expected targets given my injuries was a big help. But I was most excited each day when the nurse came in with my stomach injection and couldn’t find a soft enough entry point – thanks CenterBarre ab sets!!
After nine long days I was released from the hospital and came home, although my husband managed to make home look a lot like a hospital room. With new results from the MRI, I was given strict instructions to halt the PT appointments until my bones began to heal. Bearing weight on my left leg could inhibit the healing of my femur so, to my despair, the fastest and safest route to a full recovery was bed rest for several weeks.
If you know me, you know that I am not a patient person. My exercise program is designed to get the most out of each exercise without wasting time. Each movement strengthens, lengthens, and/or stretches. Each movement has meaning. Impatience is a good quality when it comes to developing an exercise program. It is not a good quality if you need to sit still and let your broken bones heal.
In my classes, I talk about growth and change. I try to inspire my clients to work towards something beyond the perfect body. The answers we’re all looking for are not in the mirror. Feeling great about the way you look is important, no doubt. But even more important, is facing your fears, challenging your expectations, and breaking through the barriers that hold you back from living your best and happiest life.
I’m getting a crash course in my own teachings. I’m facing the fear of pain, the challenge of sitting still and the barrier of staying positive through this experience. As a lifelong type A-personality, I’ve learned to let go and trust my heroic staff who have stepped up without hesitation to keep our amazing studio running strong. With the love of family, friends, and my amazing CenterBarre community and staff, I am back stronger and more determined than ever to make a difference.
Janet is the founder of CenterBarre, lead instructor, and the designer of the CenterBarre workout.