Guest Post: A Survivor Is What I’ll Be

 ****The 6th installment in my ‘Five Years’ collaboration project. This week features a remarkable young woman, Annette. She and I both blog for CollegeNet and have gotten to know each other on the site. I hope to one day meet this incredible, friendly and lively lady in person! Here is a little bit about Annette in her own words:

“Well my name is Annette but I go by everything ranging from Annie, Anna, Ann, Annettie Nette and a ton more. I’m a 26 year old dreamer who wishes to finish college with a Bachelor degree in hand to show for the dedication over the years to my hard work in school. Even though I’m limited in some ways, I’ll still remain the biggest spontaneous go-getter there is. I will accomplish my dreams of traveling to Italy, make my career or still focus my life around helping people, and I will continue to bring smiles to others. I hope you all enjoy my story and gain something if anything out of it. What I wish for sharing my story, is to encourage everyone never to give up. Keep pushing through every obstacle, every heartbreak, and every disappointment. I promise you there there is a light at the end of the tunnel and an amazing experience to be had along the way. Thank you for reading!” ****

A Survivor Is What I’ll Be by Annette H.

Five years ago seems
like 100 years ago to me. There
were so many things that
made me incredibly happy
then. I had just turned the    
amazingly fun age of 22! A
bit of a change coming from
my 21st year of life in which I
had fun with also. I was a
nursing student in college
studying what I absolutely
loved and was having a blast.
I had a great job, was
putting myself through school
without loans, and on my way
to becoming the person I
wanted to be. 2008 was a
great year and most of all, I
was happy.

 In November 2008, I wanted to take a chance on changing my life for the better. I was
finally ready to put myself out there and attempt to attend a four year college. It had been my
dream ever since graduating from high school that one day I attain my goal of being accepted to
a university of my choice. My ultimate choice turned out to be The University of Arizona’s
School of Nursing. I was extremely nervous to even to apply, but I knew I had to start
somewhere so why not the school of my choice. I never expected to actually get in. I didn’t have
much confidence in myself back then because I never pushed myself that hard. This however,
was something I desperately wanted. I wanted to move out of my parent’s house, live away from
home, and try to be the independent girl that I knew I could be. After I applied of course, came
that long wait until March to find out if I was accepted.

 So, in March 2009 and I get an envelope in the mail. A rather large envelope it
was with huge writing on the outside that read, “You’ve been accepted!” I started crying
immediately and saying, “I did it!” My parents didn’t quite know what I was talking about
because I never told them I was applying. I didn’t want to get my hopes up when I was applying
because in all fairness I never thought I would get in. But I did! I started making arrangements to
visit right away. I got on the web, found some place I could potentially call home, and found out
I could work in the same place down in Tucson that I was working at now. I even got to know

many amazing people through the school website that I would eventually be going to school with
there. I was one happy happy camper! I was Arizona bound.

 On April 20th, 2009 my entire life would change and I didn’t have a clue it was coming. I
was at work that day and the only one working on the floor. I was putting away sunglasses when
a customer came up to the other register. I immediately gathered my glasses, walked out of the
one register’s swinging wooden doors, turned to walk to the other register when I heard a pop
and suddenly started heading towards the ground. My mind was on nothing but getting to the
customer so I started to rise up from the ground. Then I noticed I couldn’t. Luckily another
employee came out and noticed I couldn’t move, We locked eyes with each other. I guess the pain on my face and in my eyes told them everything. They tended to the customer while I continued back on to the floor. My ankle began to swell right away and the manager came out to ask what happened. I replied I had no clue and asked for some ice. I was given ice and then left there for over an hour on the floor. Thank God today, that another employee came in for his shift and got me off the floor and to the back where I could call my family to come get me. Till this day I wonder why they left me there for that long.

 From there it gets

quite confusing to say the
least. I ended up in the
hospital that day and
from there I was told to go
to a worker’s comp doctor.
I do so and end up going to
a foot and ankle specialist
a week later. That
specialist must have known
something was wrong
because he called for an
MRI. Due to worker’s
comp, I was waiting a bit
before that got approved to
happen. After the results
came back it showed that
I had a fracture and a few
partially torn ligaments.
Not sure why, but the
doctor put me into physical therapy and out of work for a while. He told me to continue walking
on it and trying my best to move it around. So I did just that. I wasn’t at that time going to let this
ruin all my plans so I scheduled a trip to see the school in Tucson with my mom and sister in the
end of June.

The road trip was
right after my 23rd

birthday and was        
absolutely amazing.
We made it to where
we would stay in
Tucson on the 4th of
July. I got to see
fireworks from what
would be my new
home and it was
indescribable. Every
part of me loved the
people, the school,
and knowing I could
make it my home. I
had found a place to
live and met many
people that could
become great friends
of mine. I couldn’t
wait until August when school would start and I would start this new chapter in my life!

 When I returned home I was immediately sent back to the doctor. You know, the same
doctor that had told me to walk around and treat everything like normal. Well, I see him and let him
know I am still in an incredible amount of pain. My ankle just isn’t the same and doesn’t allow
me to walk long distances or stand for a long period of time. At this point he decides it’s time
for a surgery to repair the three ligaments that were torn during my fall. I freak out. I’ve never
had a surgery before and I was honestly scared out of my mind.

 I had the surgery in October of 2009 to stabilize my      
ankle. They wrapped wire around three ligaments on the
right side of my right ankle. I was in a cast for 4-6 weeks
during which I was in so much pain. You know what this
meant? No attending the University of Arizona for me.
My heart was shattered and I felt as if my dream of going
to a four year college was gone. I cried for days on end.
After the cast came off I had to survive through some
physical therapy sessions which caused even more pain
to my ankle. There weren’t that many sessions and why
I don’t know, especially just coming out of a
surgery like I had. I continue to see the specialist and tell

him after a while that my foot is going out on me and I’m ending up falling to the ground. My sister, mom, and dad had all witnessed this and were behind me 100%. All of us wondered what was wrong. The doctor continues to say to move around, walk, and continue doing whatever I want with it. He says this way I will work it out and it will eventually get back to normal. Oh, how I
did not believe that. I was in too much pain.

 In April 2010, the worker’s comp thought I have had enough time off and sent me back to
work. After a few days I go back to the specialist to tell him that my foot had been going out on
me yet again. The first thing he says to me is that it’s all in my head. He sends me back to work
with no restrictions and I begin to feel even more pain from all the work I’m doing at work. I
finally get to the weekend and I’m relieved. I have four days off from work before I have to be
back in hell again. The day before I have to go back to work, my ankle gives out once more.
This time however, it’s going down the stairs. I knew there was something wrong but this doctor
just would not listen to me. I go back to the doctor again after this happened and he told me to
keep on going with whatever it was I was doing. This fall down the stairs caused me to be unable
to return to work, which caused a random phone call on July 1st telling me I was fired or
exterminated. I didn’t know what to do at that point. Now I have a messed up ankle that is going
out on me, unable to go to school because I physically can’t make it, and now I’m fired from the
job that I had to provide for myself. This is when I get an attorney and try to fight them firing me
while still on worker’s comp.

 I’m still walking around on this foot because the doctors fail to listen to me and don’t wish to help.
Finally after begging and begging to the point of crying in this office. The work comp doctor
files for request of an MRI. This was in August or September now of 2010. The MRI comes
back, and what do you know? It wasn’t all in my head after all. Because of the fall down the stairs
and them denying me help, I continued to walk around to the point that I had several torn
tendons, ligaments, a bone that had disconnected and reconnected someplace else, joint damage
and the wires had broken and been flying around everywhere. Basically, I was walking on a
completely destroyed foot/ankle at this point. No one knew how I was doing this. I told them
about the pain and no one really took me seriously accept for my family, friends, and so
on who would see me cry and crumble over it all that time.

 The doctor or specialist I was seeing got so scared after that because of his remarks, not
helping me for all that time and letting it get that bad. He then requested I see another doctor. In
September, I found out there’s another doctor to see but he doesn’t have openings until Jan. 2011.
So I waited it out. That day comes, they do x-rays, an MRI, and say this is incredible. The doctor
immediately sends out a request for a second surgery to fix all this damage. It takes months to
get any response from worker’s comp yet again. I wait until June to hear back anything and
finally get a date of July 26th for my second surgery. (This happens to be my oldest sister’s
birthday, of course)

 That day comes; they open me up and find I        
have 9 different procedures to be done. More than
they ever thought. My tendons and ligaments
got repaired, one ligament was taken from
my upper leg to be wrapped around
a tendon in my ankle. The bone that was broken
off and found fused to another bone was sawed off,
the joints rearranged, and the wire taken out and
repaired as well. I also had my Achilles Tendon
sliced in many different spots to increase my mobility. I still don’t even know all the 9 different
names they told me.

 I was bedridden for a month and about a
week and a half before I could get up on a
wheelchair most the time. Then two weeks in that and another two weeks on crutches before
finally getting my cast off. After that, I had another two weeks in a boot with weight barring.

Once I got the boot off I had like three or four physical therapy sessions that were all like
two weeks to a month apart. Not that helpful to say the least. So I had to do most of it on my

own. They had told me it was a complete reconstruction of the ankle by the time they were done
with all the procedures.

                                                                             During this time I fell in love with

my family. They had been there every      
second of every day to take care of me.
They made me a blow up mattress in the
downstairs family room so I wouldn’t
have to deal with the stairs during this
whole time. They wheeled me to and
from the restroom, brought me my pills,
meals, and even flowers to try and
brighten my day a bit. I was so very
blessed to have them in my life and
there to experience and go through this
life changing event with me. I will
probably never be able to thank them
enough or be able to repay them for the
time and dedication they put forth for
me to be comfortable and taken care of.
It was during that time that I really learned just                                                                                 how important family is to me. I would do anything                                                                                for these people and do my best to make them
                                                                             proud in the future. I will always be there for them and                                                                                do what I can to make sure we are all okay in the                                                                                future. Gosh, I love my family with all my heart.

 Now comes the year 2012. I see that same doctor in

February and he tells me that the nerve damage, the lack of 
movement, the coldness, and indescribable pain is forever.
This leads me to the question nursing. The doctor
replies it’s no longer in my future and I should look
elsewhere for my career. I break down completely. My dream
career in which I’d put all my money, time, and dedication
into was taken away from me. I lost it. I cried all the way
home that day and felt as if I had wasted so much time now.
Everything I had been working towards was ripped out from
underneath me so quickly it seemed. I went into an even
deeper depression to where I wouldn’t talk to anyone. My
friends even stopped asking to do anything and my family
holidays were spent alone in my home while the rest of my
family went to celebrate. I just couldn’t go knowing I
couldn’t physically go outside and do things like everyone
else could. I knew I’d be boring, non-social, and bring everyone else’s mood down. I became addicted to my room, my house, and didn’t want a do a thing.

 Now May 2012 comes around and I have to go to a medical evaluator. He does his test and
measuring to ends up telling me I’m forever disabled. 35% total body. This pretty much tells me
I’ll never drive again. I cry again and break down. I feel as if I’m falling apart. I haven’t driven
now since the second surgery and pretty much know now I probably won’t again. Then I get sent
to a pain specialist to try and deal with all this pain. He’s still, till this day trying to help me, but
for four months now I haven’t been given any pain medication because the worker’s comp will
not approve it. He also wants to do a spine stimulator, which is two wires going up my spine to
my neck that will connect to a device outside my lower back that will shoot down to my ankle.
This in which would hopefully help with pain and the nerve damage. That is where I’m stuck
with him.

 I was also recommended to see a psychologist in July. I’ve seen her a few times and she’s
suggested more sessions. Again though, worker’s comp has failed to accept that and
give me more. So she is mad and I’m left without someone to talk to. That is where that all stands
right now as well. I wish I could see and talk to her more regularly because I honestly feel it
would help. Until then though, I’ll continue to hope for the best and wish worker’s comp can get
the ball rolling.

 I just saw the doctor that did the  
second surgery last Monday after
fighting with worker’s comp for
months trying to see him again. Why
I’m seeing him again is because my
foot is giving out again and I’m scared
to death something is wrong or loose.
Which is exactly what he told me it could
possibility be and the reason for the
MRI request. So now I sit and wait.
Everything up in the air and totally and
completely out of my control and in the
hands of people, so called worker’s
comp who don’t show they want to
help me at all. I’m worrying day in and
day out now because of what he told me that day. If the MRI shows that something is loose, I’m
going in for a third surgery on my ankle.

 So now it’s November of 2012, I sit here with two surgeries down and the
two more in the works. No pain medication, no psychologist, no information about what’s going
on. All I know is that my future’s unknown, I’m in severe pain 24/7, and waiting for something
to be done. Talk about a limbo land. I now have a cold foot all the time, can’t feel half my foot
because of nerve damage, and I can’t feel up the back up my leg either because they cut up
my Achilles tendon. It also pops out in knots all the time and it’s rather disgusting to everyone else.
I have little to no movement in my ankle and no muscle at all. I can’t drive and they don’t think I
ever will. I can’t nurse and am struggling with online class towards a major I’m not all that

excited about. With my ankle going out again I’m forced to walk in a brace, with a compression
sock, and trying old medicines in which I have left over from my surgeries. I cry every night I go
to bed because of the pain. I actually end up waking people in my family up because of this and
I feel so incredibly bad about it. The nightmares are the worst. Due to these I end up sleeping
only in the day and only for 2 hours at a time. I whimper while I sleep too because of the cramps
up the back of my leg and pain in my ankle. I don’t know what else to do.

 I definitely don’t share this entire story with everyone. Why? Well, because I don’t feel the
need for anyone to pity me. It’s the last thing I want. I’ll talk about pain or things I can’t do at
times to explain other stories, but that’s about it. I don’t like talking about it in detail much
because of how upset I get. I found out not that long ago that I may never work again in my
lifetime. That along with all the other things I’ve been told, I seem to have learned something
from it. I’ve learned that I am strong, brave, and more confident in which I ever was before. No
matter how much I’ve been through I know I have it no worse than anyone else. I feel lucky to
still have my feet, my health, and the family I have next beside me every day. I haven’t
given up hope completely for the future I wanted before all this happened. Though I am
taking steps in moving forward with other plans, I know that whatever happens, wherever it is I
go, and whoever it is I’m with, I’ll still continue to smile and strive forward.

 I’m now trying to get SSI because they cut off my state disability. This is proving really
difficult. I finally have medical from the county and I am waiting for them to fix my food stamps.
As of right now I’m only getting $16 a month and there is no way I can live off that with no
income whatsoever. I never thought I would be a 26 year old who’s disabled because of a work
injury, unable to drive, not a nurse, on food stamps and medical help, and not able to take
care of myself. But you know what? It could be worse. I’m thankful for what I’ve gained during
this time. I can say though, that through this whole experience I’ve learned so much about my
family, those around me, myself, and life in general. So for that I am thankful. My head is held
high although sometimes it doesn’t feel or look it.

 These days I try to enjoy new things  I                                 
haven’t tried before. Although they are very different from what I use to love doing, they still provide me some
happiness. I still enjoy concerts because of my love for
music. Going to concerts where I can sit there and still
enjoy listening is something I hope I can always do. It
makes me happy for quite some time which not many
things do these days. I also enjoy winning meet-and-
greets to be able to see all these amazing celebrities. Since I can’t do much, I sit and listen to the radio to try and win contests. Because of this, I’ve been able to share my winnings with my family. Since I don’t have money, can’t buy anything, and can’t really do much for them, these winnings allow me to  bring happiness to
them as well. I love this. Although my dad doesn’t know who half these people are, he still goes and
enjoys himself. I also take my
sister with me to meet a lot of these people.
She’s always working, taking care of me,
and making sure we as a family are always

okay. She deserves to do some fun stuff      
every now and then. I’m just blessed to be
able to do something that brings a smile,
laugh or an incredible memory for her. Like I
said, if all of this ankle stuff wouldn’t have
happened to me, I wouldn’t have all these
amazing and memorable experiences and
adventures that I have had. I wouldn’t have
these once in a lifetime chances to me these
amazing people and be lucky enough to
have my family right there along my side.
I’m forever thankful for what this entire almost 4
years of my life has brought to me.

                                                                  Although these past few years have brought
                                                                 tears, pain, lasting consequences, surgeries,
                                                                depressions, and so on, it’s also brought me many
                                                                blessings. It’s brought me closer to my        

family, shown me the type of love I wish to have    
with my own family someday, and just how
compassionate, kind, and unbelievably helpful
people can be. This goes for even strangers that
try and help me on a daily basis when they see
me struggling. I’ve learned about myself in ways
I never thought I could. To see myself survive in
ways I never thought imaginable and to keep on
going through everything, it makes me pretty
darn proud of myself. The experiences,
adventures, people I’ve met, things I’ve done,
places I’ve been, I wouldn’t have ever gotten
these chances if my life had gone about any other
way. Again, I’m beyond thankful for how things
have turned out. Yes, I’m unable to work, drive,
feel my foot, and go without pain, but the good to
be seen here forever will outweigh the evil.

 I am a survivor and I will survive anything. I keep telling myself that whatever comes my way, I will make it through. I will keep on smiling, pushing forward, and finding a way to make my life better. I will never stop and never quit. Some call me a brave soldier who continues to get up and fight no matter how many times I’m shot down. I believe that to some extent and will use that as fuel in the future to conquer anything else that gets in my way.

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