This may be quite lengthy, but I'm going to treat this entry like it is my first, as I anticipate many new readers coming from my Help Katy back to Rehab Facebook page. It is a very detailed account of my story. Hopefully, my whimsical wording will keep you entertained enough until the end. I'd like to begin by thanking each and every one of you for your interest, support, kind words, and prayers. Without such a great family, friends and strong support system, I would not be nearly as far along. With that being said, let me take you back 10 months ago to the day of the accident.
It was a hot June day and finally the weekend I've been looking for to have arrived. A year prior, I made a rash decision to move to New Orleans, LA, leaving behind my best friends and people I considered family. This canoe trip was a group of 15-20 Olive Garden coworkers/friends, many I had not seen for over six months. Despite the fact I had been counting down the days, when Saturday, June 12, finally arrived, I felt funny. Not ha ha or he he- just like something was amiss, yet I could not put my finger on it. For a split second I debated on not going, simply because I worked as a waitress, usually 40+ hours a week, and still living from shift to shift. Regardless of my financial situation I decided I needed a break and left for Hattiesburg. I enjoyed a quiet evening with close friends and went to bed early knowing the next day would be a long hot day out in the sun.
Up until the time of the accident, the day had been perfect. We had been taking our time at Little Black Creek, slowly making our way towards the rope swing at the end. We docked off at a point called “The Gator Hole” so we could cut into a watermelon and rest up a little before the last leg of the trip. There was a large sandbar and a drop-off point, meaning where we parked our canoes was about 2-3 foot deep and then drastically dropped to 6-8 feet deep. I plopped down in the sand about 20 feet from the water with a small group of friends. The next thing you know a friend and I began running towards the creek to jump in. When I saw people shoulder deep in the water I assumed they were afloat; however, before I realized they were sitting in the shallow end, it was too late. Mid-air I knew. As soon as I hit bottom my whole body instantly went numb while I remained conscious. It was undoubtedly the scariest moment of my life. While my mind ran 1,000 miles a second, my body lay still face down in the creek. I knew my friends knowing me would think I was being the jokester I so commonly came off as. I immediately begin praying that someone would pull me up in time. After what seemed like an eternity, when I thought my lungs could take no more, a friend pulled me out. It was not until the moment I was able to speak that my friends knew something was wrong. They carried me to sandbar and stabilize my neck. At one point, I had convinced myself it was just the pinched nerve and not wanting to ruin the trip for everybody told my friends to just put me in the canoe and keep on going. Luckily, they knew better. Park Rangers were stationed along the Creek and fortunately one close by saw what had happened and reached us within minutes. Although inside I was scared and panicking on the outside I remain calm, cool and collected. I relayed all the information they needed to know to contact my family and before you knew it there was a helicopter to airlift me to Forrest General Hospital. Soon enough, I was surrounded by doctors and retelling my story of what had happened. After x-rays and a CAT scan, my doctor said I immediately needed surgery for my c5 spinal cord had been severed and they needed to remove the fragments. This would be my last memory for the next two weeks.
When I finally came to, two weeks later, I was flabbergasted by everything. It turns out I had been on a drug called Versed which does not allow you to make memories. My family began to fill me in on the events of the last two weeks, they had come from the coast, along with many family friends, loved ones and people I've never even met to come and show their support and pray for me. I learned that I've had pneumonia in my lungs, placed on a breathing tube that I kept trying to pull out, and although I could not remember the last two weeks, I had been awake and always kept a smile on my face, unable to speak but expressing my emotions through my eyes. By the time I could remember, they had done a tracheotomy to help me breathe, however, meaning I could not talk-one of the worst things you could do to me! Not that it stopped me; I ran my mouth a mile a minute and people just had to learn how to lip read. At this point, I cannot move my arms pass my biceps nor did the doctors think I ever would. These doctors don't know Katy Blake. I spent a little over four weeks in ICU, I never stopped waving around my arms as much as possible to regain my muscle and I never stopped smiling. By the time I moved into a room on the sixth floor, I was able to at least scratch my nose. My right arm, which is my dominant, progressed three times as fast as my left. I spent one weekend out of ICU before horrible Monday when a mucous plug caused my breathing to almost stop and resulted in a code blue. On top of this, my neck brace which was promised to come off had been put back on for an additional month. It was not over yet. During the next two weeks back in ICU, I became extremely stick. Unable to eat and running a high fever, I went from a healthy 135 pounds to 110 pounds. It was soon discovered that my feeding tube was not properly sealed and emergency surgery would be needed. After these two weeks, I was finally back on the sixth floor for good, little did I know the length of time I would be there. While in ICU, I had developed a pressure sore on my backside that refuses to heal. Because of this I had to stay in the hospital for another five weeks before minor skin flap was done to make it heal.
Finally, September 5th, I was ready to go to Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center. Mississippi Medicaid was granting me a mere two weeks of rehab. I have had Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance my entire life prior to the 10 months before the accident. My mother had been put on Medicare and could no longer afford my insurance payments. As much determination that I had mentally, the first two weeks I was not able to physically push myself as much as I wanted. After being bedridden for three months, the pain of reusing and regaining my muscles deterred me from making much progress. The entire staff of an MMRC had been talking to me about vocational rehab. Now, you would think in the state programs you sign up once and it distributes to all the disabled programs in Mississippi. This is very far from true. At the last minute we applied for vocational rehab. In order to qualify you must be able to be rehabilitated enough to be a functional member of society. And to the surprise of everyone at an MMRC I was denied. Let this be a lesson, you don't poke the bear. Long story short, many phone calls later, my angry mother had gotten me vocational rehab and the night before I was supposed to leave, I was granted another two weeks of rehab. I put forth 110% of my effort and strength in order to strengthen and be able to adapt my new lifestyle. In the four weeks at rehab I learned to feed myself, put my shirt over my head, paint, play the Wii (which is a great workout), put makeup on the right side of my face, and learn the tools I needed to be able to use the computer and my cell phone. During the last couple of days of rehab I was finally strong enough to be able to try and stand, however, lack of time prevented me from doing so.
Upon arriving home in Pascagoula, I began outpatient therapy at Singing River Hospital. Despite my determination, I was unable to work as hard as I wanted due to lack of proper equipment for spinal cord injury. After the New Year rolled around we had to reapply for Medicaid in which I was denied. All therapy came to a stop and my prescription medication tripled in price. We have learned this lesson once, don't poke the bear. A long and frustrating to and a half months later, I was granted limited Medicaid. While it covers my prescriptions and general doctor visits, it does not include dental, vision, etc. nor any additional rehab. During this time, things seemed so bleak yet there were a few happy moments. Vocational rehab purchased two Bioness hand units, at $6500 a pop this never would've been possible otherwise. The Bioness stimulates the muscles in my hand to open and close, allowing me to use them in normal everyday functions and eventually retraining those muscles to do so on their own. About a month ago I began outpatient therapy in Ocean Springs. They have been very hands on and working with me very diligently. As wonderful as it has been, six hours a week of therapy cannot compare to the six hours a day of the inpatient facility. Without the proper equipment and therapist my recovery can only go so far.
From day one, I never felt sorry for myself. Even as a child I always remember believing mind over matter. With hard work, determination, and a positive attitude you can achieve anything you put your mind to. The first time I cried in the hospital was when my family read my Caring Bridge posts. The overwhelming support and love from people I knew to people I've never met was incredible. I felt like the entire world was behind me. God truly answers prayers and he was very busy in June 2010! Regardless of my situation I felt like I was invincible. Miracles happen every day and I intend to be one. I know I will walk again if I get the proper rehab. But let it be known if I never make it back to inpatient rehabilitation I am forever grateful to just be alive and inspiration to others. My injury could have been so much worse, it could have been complete, it could have been a c1-c4, or it could have been a brain injury. I have always believed everything happens for a reason though we may not know it for quite some time. I feel like I was forced to grow up fast- I lost my father at age 11, dealt with people close to me having addictions problems, suffered many heart aches, began working at age 14 and moved out on my own at 18. Looking back, it seems like all my trials and tribulations were making me stronger in getting me ready to deal with the greatest obstacle of my life. I live without regrets and I learn from my mistakes. Life is a beautiful thing many of us take for granted and many of us do not realize it until it is too late. I am not perfect, never pretended to be and never will be. But I'm honest with myself and others and believe there is good in everybody. I always tried to live my life by the Golden rule “Treat others as you would have them treat you.” I always believed in karma and now it seems like it is coming full circle. All the years I put others before myself and now people are selflessly reaching out to help me. May I spend my whole life returning the favor. Once again, thank you for reading and supporting me and God bless.