After Trauma Story is the story of mine when I was injured in a car accident and left hope to recover. On the evening of January 28, 2015, at around 6:30 pm, my life took a dramatic turn as I found myself involved in an accident that would forever alter its course.
Inspired by the courageous stories. I write this article in the hopes that my own journey can provide you with the strength and self-belief needed during the early stages of rehabilitation.
My recollection of that day is limited to leaving work to attend a 6 pm beauty therapy appointment. As was my habit, I phoned my husband from the car while glancing at the car’s clock, noting that I was running 10 minutes ahead of schedule. However, beyond this point, my memory fades into darkness, and I have no recollection of events until I awoke eight days later in the Intensive Care Unit of Southampton Hospital, bewildered and frightened, with my family at my side.
Inspired by Hope: Sharing My After Trauma Story:
The details leading up to this point have been pieced together through the accounts of my family, friends, therapists at the beauty shop I visited prior to the accident, and the dedicated nursing staff at Southampton Hospital.
It was a cold but clear evening, the moon casting its soft glow across the sky. I was on foot, crossing a small village road to reach my car, which was parked in a small lay-by connecting two villages. Clad in black,
A Mysterious Blackout: The Night of the Accident:-
I believed myself to be near my car, but tragically, the driver failed to notice me. Initially, he did not stop, but fortunately, he had a change of heart, suspecting that he had struck something.
My therapist, Kayleigh, heard a loud impact just as I left the shop and turned her attention to her car, also parked in the same lay-by. To her shock, she discovered her windshield had been shattered. In the process of calling the police, Kayleigh and her colleague ventured outside and encountered the driver, who admitted to his suspicions of hitting something or someone.
A Brush with Death: The Accident Scene Unfolded:-
To their astonishment, they noticed my car still in the vicinity, with my handbag lying in the middle of the road. Their search led them to find me on the opposite side of Kayleigh’s car, deep within the woodland. I had been struck by the moving vehicle, landing on her car before eventually coming to rest in a wooded clearing.
My body bore the brunt of the impact, resulting in a multitude of intricate injuries, yielding an injury severity score of 64 out of a possible 75, with a mere 6.1% chance of survival predicted. These injuries encompassed fractures in my neck (C2) and back (L1 and L5), a broken shoulder, shoulder blade, elbow, every rib (some with multiple fractures), a fractured pelvis, and two broken legs (with one leg break going unnoticed and undiscovered until five months later).
Recovery Challenges: The Critical Days in Southampton:-
Additionally, I suffered internal injuries, including lung trauma and a pancreatic bleed. One of the specialists attending to my lung injuries remarked that in his three decades of medical practice, he had encountered similar rib damage only in the context of treating soldiers injured in bomb blasts in Afghanistan.
My injuries were extensive, and initially, my prognosis appeared exceedingly grim. Nevertheless, the medical team managed to piece me together sufficiently to embark on the journey that I am now able to recount.
My husband was alerted to the scene and was by my side before the emergency services arrived. After initial treatment by a paramedic at the scene, I was transported to Southampton General A&E, the designated Major Trauma Centre for our region. Remarkably, I remained conscious throughout this ordeal, engaging in conversation and attempting to stand up from the floor.
The shop employees who had called for emergency services answered questions to assess my condition, a factor we believe may have influenced the prioritization of the ambulance and the police, especially since it was shift change time.
Upon my arrival at Southampton A&E, the medical team promptly attended to my injuries. The situation was initially confusing for my family, as information was scarce in the early stages. My injuries were so severe that during the first 48 hours, my family was prepared for the worst.
However, I managed to defy the odds, becoming stable enough for a seven-hour operation on January 30th. Despite the grim prognosis, my family was informed that even if I survived, a long and arduous recovery awaited.
Approximately eight days later, I regained consciousness in the Intensive Care Unit at Southampton, bewildered and with a tube down my throat. My family had been by my side unwaveringly. During my recovery,
I vividly recall a peculiar dream. I believed I was in an opulent hotel lobby, surrounded by voices that resembled receptionists and guests. In this dream, there was a dinner party at our home, attended by friends. My husband, surrounded by U.S. soldiers who had suffered amputations, attempted to “bring the house down.”
Two Indian-looking ladies were also present, one of whom had a distinctive black and gold-spotted face, calling me towards safety. I now recognize that Indian lady to be my daughter Stephanie, who never left my side. Stephanie has freckles on her forehead, which I now realize were the gold and black dots I observed on one of the Indian ladies in my dream.
The photograph below captures a “joyful” moment on February 4, 2015 – the day I awoke and had the breathing tube removed. My husband shared this image with me just before I left the hospital three months later, as I was grappling with depression. I now use this photograph as a reminder of how far I’ve come on this remarkable journey of recovery.
Building Strength: My Rehabilitation Journey:-
I recall being very frightened as well as confused and desperate to know what was going on and where I was. I couldn’t communicate due to the tube and was offered a pen and pad to write my questions down, which were illegible apparently.
I remember hearing a lot of voices, conversation, and people crying. I thought at one point I had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and remember asking my husband to be honest with me. I now know this crying to be visitors of one of the patients in the bay next to me who had died after taking his own life.
It seemed to take a long time before I could get any comprehension of what had happened, why I had something stuck down my throat. I almost felt that people were not being honest with me – either that or I just didn’t comprehend and was confused.
In the 10 days I spent in Southampton General, I received exceptional care from the consultants who operated on me, the dedicated nurses, and my family and close friends, some of whom stayed at the hospital and took turns sitting by my side.
My daughter appears to have overseen much of the activity and coordinated family and friends’ visits while ensuring that the nurses were attentive. She and the nurses grew a strong bond. I still feel the guilt of putting my family through all that stress and upset.
The medication played some unpleasant tricks on me, and I recall the pain, especially when I was moved in my bed. However, I remember fondly the hair washes, endless creaming, and the love and care given by the nurses – I especially remember my nurse Sally, who had a ‘bag of cream’ that she had bought with her own money to use on patients.
I vaguely remember being sat up for the first time in the ‘Barton’ chair and having a hair wash. I thought I was moved to an area without any walls, which overlooked the sea – of course, I had not left Bay 2! I love hearing the sound of the sea. The physiotherapy began almost immediately – oh, the pain the first time I sat on the edge of the bed… but to Fiona (the physiotherapist), I will always be grateful. Physiotherapy became my best friend and still is.
Communication played a major role in my rehab, both positively and negatively. The lack of it, and sometimes the way it was delivered, caused many issues. Despite being told by the clinical professionals that my stay in Southampton would be a minimum of 3 weeks due to the complexity of my injuries and assured it was the ‘best place’ for me, at approximately 7:45 pm on the Friday, February 6th, we were informed I was being discharged and transferred to Basingstoke Hospital.
This was a very difficult and confusing time for myself and the family. Eventually, at about 11 pm that evening, we were told that the move was not taking place due to the late hour and cold weather, and it would be postponed until the following week.
The next day, Saturday, February 7th, I was transferred to Basingstoke HDU by ambulance, accompanied by my nurse Sally and my daughter Stephanie. Confused and concerned, I was greeted by a friendly team and welcomed into what was to be my new home.
My recollections of HDU included an insufficient experience of staff in moving me and confusion regarding my pain relief upon admission. My case study was used in the recently published NICE guidelines on Trauma – I am pleased to say that Communication was identified as one of the 5 key factors affecting the treatment of major trauma.
While there were some communication issues, there were also areas that worked well for me during my rehab. These included having the support of a Trauma Coordinator Nurse who coordinated matters and came to update me daily as to what was going on. This key role was introduced in recent years to support improvements in the support of Trauma treatment in the UK.
One of the things I needed to do was to ‘plan.’ I have to plan – that’s how I tick. I can recall meeting my first consultant in Basingstoke and asking him for a plan, and he reminded me that I was called a ‘patient’ for a reason… ‘to be patient.’ No one could give me that plan I craved to maintain belief in my ability to conquer this terrible ordeal.
I needed to know when I could walk, when I could dance again, get on a plane to a sunny destination, and return to work. Six weeks in, however, I was fortunate enough to have the most wonderful consultant, Nigel Rossiter, who coordinated my care and treatment. Not only has he provided expert treatment and care, but he has also given me the opportunity to become an advocate for trauma, allowing me to share my story within the NHS, both nationally and locally, with the hope of making a difference for other trauma patients – my way of giving back.
I was fortunate to have private health insurance as one of my employment benefits and was transferred to the private wing of the hospital in late February 2015, where I stayed until my discharge on March 30, 2015.
I was unable to bear weight and relied on 24/7 care. However, my husband created a bedroom downstairs and equipped it with basic equipment supplied by the OT department. We were essentially on our own! We tried the care system, but it was not suited for someone requiring 24/7 care.
For the first seven months after returning home, my husband did not return to work and remained at home to care for me. I don’t know what I would have done if this had not been possible.
A significant milestone for me was April 13th when I received clearance to bear weight, marking the beginning of my journey to learn to walk, build stamina, and regain fitness through hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, and visits to the gym. Everyone supporting me has offered tremendous encouragement and praise for my progress, which has fueled my determination. In fact, I have set a goal to become fitter than before, without setting a specific timeframe.
I have learned that psychological recovery, at least in my case, should be addressed earlier during rehabilitation. Families should also receive support. I experienced flashbacks, sleep disturbances, and periods of deep depression – and I still do. I now have a fear of loud car engine noises and am constantly anxious about recalling the accident. Additionally, I faced the challenge of not returning to my role as HR Director. This was a very difficult transition, but I used it as an opportunity to pursue something I had desired even before the accident: I established my own HR consultancy business called Liverty HR. I named the company after a small boat I saw in Barbados on the anniversary of my accident; it means ‘energy of life.’
However, the support from my psychologist, when I received it, has been extremely helpful. I have revisited the scene of the accident, Southampton ITU, and Basingstoke HDU as part of my psychological rehab.
The massive support I received from family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers – the number of cards, messages, and visitors were astounding – provided me with the strength I needed during the early stages of my rehabilitation.
As part of my ‘planning’ and looking forward to an exciting future, my daughter and I put together a bucket list during my time in the hospital. At the top of the list was a vacation to our favorite destination, Barbados – we have just returned with a group of ten! Another event on my bucket list was a ‘Staying Alive Party,’ which took place on August 15th.
Hosted in our garden, the celebration included family, friends from work, friends from our local village, and some medical professionals who had assisted me in my recovery. It was my way of expressing gratitude for the friendship and support they had extended to me and my wonderful family. We had an unforgettable night!
Having a coordinated rehabilitation plan and knowledge of available support during the early stages of my recovery would have made a significant difference. Reading the stories of others has inspired me to persevere and see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Family’s Support: A Lifeline in the Midst of Chaos:
I remain deeply grateful to the remarkable NHS, the dedicated consultants, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and my family and friends for their unwavering support and encouragement that have brought me to where I am today.
Thanks to the efforts of medical professionals and charitable organizations, substantial progress has been made in the treatment of trauma patients in the UK. Some of these improvements, such as providing blood at the scene, undoubtedly played a role in saving my life and easing my rehabilitation.
However, there is still work to be done, and sharing our experiences can make a meaningful difference. In my presentations, I address the following areas:
- Early psychological support and support for families.
- Streamlining bureaucracy within the system and coordinating resources.
- Establishing rehabilitation plans post-discharge and the creation of national trauma centers.
- Educating employers about trauma recovery.
I am told that I have another 12 months of rehabilitation before I am considered “fixed.” I may never look the same or be as mobile, but with the support of my family and my unyielding self-determination and belief, I am achieving feats I never thought possible and defying all odds.
2016 promises to be a great year, marked by my daughter’s wedding in July and the establishment of my own business.
ABOUT SHAN I reside with my husband, Pip, in a small village in Hampshire and have two children, Stephanie and Jack. With over 25 years of experience in the HR field, I spent the last 12 years as an HR Director operating at the Board and Executive level in various industry sectors. In February 2016, I founded my own company, Laverty HR, which allows me to leverage my experience and determination to inspire organizations seeking transformation and employee engagement.
I shared my story at the Major Trauma Centre Patient-Carers Conference in September 2015 (NHS England) and contributed to several training sessions with the emergency and intensive care units at the North Hants Hospital Trust, with the hope of making a difference for other trauma patients. My insights were also used as a case study to contribute to the recent NICE Trauma Guidelines