For Lindsay Ptacek, life is about packing as much as she can into each 24-hour day. Lindsay telecommutes for the Marriott Corporation as part of the national group sales team. Working from home allows her quality time with husband Dean and their three children — Reagan, 8, Carli, 5, and 2-year-old Griffin.
The Ptaceks are an active family. On Sept. 9, 2011, while the rest of her family camped at Two Rivers State Park near the family’s home in Waterloo, Neb., Lindsay stayed back to finish a work project. Near dusk, Lindsay was enroute to the park to meet her loved ones when a deer jumped out in front of her car. The impact rolled Lindsay’s SUV into a ravine and threw her onto the floorboard of the passenger side. Disoriented, Lindsay wondered why she couldn’t pick herself up and then blacked out.
At 2:30 a.m., passersby saw the headlights from Lindsay’s vehicle shining from the ditch and called 911. Hours of lying cramped in an awkward position caused massive trauma to Lindsay’s body. She suffered third degree burns on her legs as they pressed against the heated car seats. Doctors at the University of Nebraska Medical Center stabilized Lindsay’s neck where her C5-C6 vertebrae fractured, resulting in an incomplete spinal cord injury.
Lindsay’s legs suffered from compartment syndrome — a serious condition that involves increased pressure in a muscle compartment. It can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow.
Two weeks later, Lindsay admitted to Madonna’s Long Term Acute Care Hospital (LTACH) her body fragile, but her smile and positivity intact. “Everyone said Madonna was THE place to go for rehabilitation,” said Lindsay.
Her low blood pressure, common with individuals who have sustained a spinal cord injury, was a major concern.“Honestly, my main goal was not to pass out!” joked Lindsay, grateful for the LTACH team’s encouragement and education. Her gains came from maintaining a sense of humor and “can do” attitude. “Lindsay’s optimism has been a great influence on her recovery,” said Rob Noack, occupational therapist. Lindsay progressed from sitting up to performing slide board transfers with assistance. “It was all about getting used to my new body and adapting.”
Following three months of wound healing, the young mom moved to Madonna’s Acute Rehabilitation unit. Performing transfers independently was high on her list of goals. “It’s all about regaining that lost independence,” said Lindsay. “Finally, one day, it was like somebody flipped a switch and I got my rhythm down.”
Lindsay refers to her occupational therapists as “mad scientists” who introduced her to the world of adaptive devices. Now she can brush her teeth, eat, put on makeup and cook. “I like to be independent with the things I can control.” Lindsay quickly learned the benefits of adaptive physical fitness through use of a hand cycle. “It is fun, and I still get to bike with my kids.” She is looking into purchasing her own cycle. Linda Ohnoutka, Adaptive Sports and Recreation program leader, explained the cycle provides a creative workout for the upper extremities, trunk balance and endurance.
Physical therapy sessions have made Lindsay stronger. But another kind of strength — her faith and determination — will support Lindsay through outpatient therapy. “Don’t ever let anyone say you can’t.”