Aubrey’s Recovery Story
“In early 2009, I was in a bad car accident while at work. I was rear ended at a stop light by a young driver who was texting and never saw my car. The accident left me with a severe spinal sprain, bruising to my brain and ear drums, a bulging disk, broken ribs on my right side and extremely sore muscles all over. A year later, during the course of treatment, I was diagnosed with a 4 letter disease that would change my life: CRPS. A routine needle puncture that was meant to deliver steroids to my neck to make me feel better had done quite the opposite. My injuries immediately went from bad to nearly impossible to live with once the CRPS set in. I had all the same pains as well as a numb lower left arm and hand. I was ordered to see 20+ doctors over the course of 4 years and was only getting sicker over time. My CRPS spread from my neck, left arm and hand, to both legs and finally, to my right arm. Believing in multidisciplinary treatment based on the CRPS research I had read, I fought for it in court over a year before the judge agreed and the insurance company complied. I knew the prescriptions, injections and physical therapy my doctors at home were prescribing weren’t cutting it, I needed treatment 24/7 to stop the progression and find a balance. Everything the workman’s compensation insurance was ordered to do for me was one slow, painful step at a time. At that rate I wasn’t making forward progress. Much of the therapy was hurting me even more. While searching for a program for my CRPS, I looked into nearly everything. I knew a specialized treatment program would be my only hope.
I turned to the obvious place for information, my computer. I spent a lot of time online, day and night, looking into various multidisciplinary programs. I searched for programs all across the United States; drug treatment programs, rehabilitation hospital in patient programs, CRPS ketamine therapy clinics and specialized treatment centers for women, but, none of them made me feel like they were viewing me as, well, me. Most of them refused to talk to me about their success rate. And none of them were speaking to my specific needs as “Aubrey with CRPS”. I didn’t want to be a patient. I wanted to learn how to do things differently. I wanted to see how much I could accomplish, not dwell on my injury and my disabilities. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was desperately determined to become a success story.
I came across The Bridge Health Recovery Center while searching online. It immediately sounded different. I have always loved being out in nature. I needed that element as part of my physical therapy and renewal of spirit. In addition to having a disease that is considered incurable, I had spent the last several years in the trenches fighting with my workman’s compensation insurance. There was no denying I was sick, exhausted and thoroughly disgusted with the legal AND insurance processes. I had seen so many doctors prior to going to The Bridge, it is easy to understand how jaded and hesitant I had become. CRPS is hard to diagnose and difficult to treat. I was tired of waiting rooms, being poked and prodded and being gawked at like I were a case study in a medical textbook. I jumped at the chance to learn more about The Bridge. I spent hours on the phone with The Bridge coordinator, asking millions of questions. I revisited their website hundreds of time, carefully analyzing each word. Several things stood out to me. I was promised I would be able to go for a hike each morning in the Southern Utah desert. I had never been to Utah but after looking at several maps, I decided St. George must be nice being that close to so many state and national parks. Never mind I was using a walker to get around before arriving at The Bridge, I wanted to know I would be able to take in the natural surroundings and somehow hike. I wanted to see the sights and explore the trails. I was also careful to ask lots of questions regarding the handling of my information. I was purposefully “testing” the coordinator at The Bridge over the phone, to be sure the staff would be loyal to me and wouldn’t be in-cahoots with the insurance company. What I found most reassuring of all was that I was being called a potential “guest” instead of a “patient”. That meant more to me than anything else. It made me feel human. So, I took a huge leap of faith and decided to push forward with my choice to go to Utah.
It took a lot of legal and insurance maneuverings to get my spot secured at The Bridge. Their next session started in the middle of October and I was already at the end of September trying to get in. I was under a serious time crunch. Because I was fighting the workman’s comp company in court, I wasn’t allowed to contact them directly to guarantee my treatment was being properly set up. Not only did the coordinator at The Bridge talk to the insurance company several times for me, she made sure they paid for the best accommodations available which provided me a lovely, handicapped equipped space with lots of privacy. The coordinator also explained to the insurance company that it would be important for my husband to come the last few days to understand the program, so he could help me stay on the right path once I went home. She was able to arrange for the insurance company to pay for my husband to fly out and spend the last 3 days with me, taking part in the program so he had first hand knowledge of the process. I spent the entire 3 weeks in a king size suite with a large en suite bathroom that included a giant closet, large walk in shower (with shower chair) and an oversized whirlpool tub (my favorite after long hikes and hard work in the gym). The room also had wifi available affording me the chance to Skype with my family daily.
Even though I had long discussions about The Bridge with the guest coordinator prior to arriving, I still wasn’t completely sure what I was getting into when I arrived. My Mother and twin sister drove me to Utah to drop me off for the program. I was so incredibly nervous when I got there, all I remember is a blur of smiling faces, calm voices and lots of reassurances I would be well taken care of. Looking back at the pictures I took with my sister before she left me, I can now see how sick I really was. I was doped up on an overabundance of medication and was hardly moving. Shortly after arriving and checking in, I met a few women who would be sharing my “apartment” space. That basically meant we would be sharing a kitchen, living and laundry space. That first evening, we all ate together and were able to meet several of our treatment providers. They were all warm and welcoming, all reassuring each of us we had picked the right place. The Bridge assured me they had treated CRPS in the past and if I applied myself, I would get so much out of the program. I already loved that they were leaving it all up to me.
The next morning, we were told to be up and ready to leave by 7:15 a.m. I took hiking poles with me and we set out to watch the Southern Utah sunrise while walking. That first day we didn’t go far. A staff member stayed by my side the whole way there and back, ensuring I didn’t fall down. It wasn’t very far, but it was enough…The desert was sinking her teeth into me and was more inspiring to me than any human’s words could ever be. I immediately decided I wanted to soak it all in. For the first time in years, I was bounding out of bed, ready to meet the sun and absorb all Mother Nature had in store for me. I have always been a believer in God but had become skeptical the last several years. Seeing the beautiful surroundings and breathing the clean air restored everything in me; my beliefs, my hope in the future and my dedication to myself that I refused to be “sick” for the rest of my life. CRPS became just one thing about me, I no longer allowed it to be the overwhelming defining factor in my life. I arrived at The Bridge, “Aubrey who has CRPS” and left ,”Aubrey, the wife and mother of 4. She loves long hikes in nature, enjoys writing, painting and music. Aubrey lives well in spite of a CRPS diagnosis”.
The staff did encourage everyone to participate in all of the activities during the first week, but after that, they told us we were all adults and could make our own decisions. That said, they continued to reassure us that we should “try”. Such a simple word that took on such a huge meaning. I had arrived listing all of the things I couldn’t do. But, through the simple effort of “trying” I quickly began “doing”. It was such a welcomed feeling! Over the course of my stay, I was able to “try” all kinds of new things and rediscover several old things. Things I previously would have immediately shot down, either because I thought I couldn’t do them or thought they were silly or a waste of time. But, something happened a few days into my stay. I began to open my heart and mind. All of my preconceived notions faded. I found myself back in a horse pen (something I grew up with and quit after I was injured), whispering to Mustangs. I rediscovered water coloring and writing. I learned it was vital for me to recharge my spirit by sitting on a large rock for 20 minutes daily, absorbing sun, fresh air and good energy. I volunteered at the local nursing home. I even participated in a drum circle, to name a few things. I can’t mention everything because some things are a surprise to future guests…just know it was so healing and so much fun at the same time. I was able to join in group discussions and remembered how to listen to others rather than focus on myself. I remembered how much I enjoy helping others.
The Bridge can accommodate a variety of guests, whether physically disabled or mentally and emotionally in a difficult place. They helped me with all of the above. We worked on my medication titration so I could find the least amount needed to get by. In one circumstance, the doctor at The Bridge helped me find a more appropriate medication to manage some of my CRPS symptoms. For the first time, I felt like my old self…only better. The 2.0 version. I was happy! I was also able to participate in talk therapy I didn’t know I so desperately needed. I learned all about a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet and how to physically keep myself in the best shape using the gym, pool, massage, energy work and yoga. The Bridge is a true multidisciplinary treatment center with providers who love what they do and help each guest on an individual basis. All while encouraging each guest to embrace whatever type of religious or spiritual support they need. It is also important to note I never felt physically locked in at The Bridge; each guest was encouraged to let a staff member know if there was something they wanted or needed. We were free to attend a local church service, had several opportunities or either run by the grocery store or request items on the shopping list. I was even offered a ride to the local nail salon for a polish change. I felt comfortable asking for anything!
By the time I left The Bridge, I knew I had made new, life long friends. I was able to leave walking with hiking poles or a cane and am using them less and less. I have been able to manage my pain much more effectively since returning. While I occasionally have a bad day (or week, usually weather related), I have a huge list of techniques in my “toolbox” that I learned at The Bridge. I never feel stuck and hopeless like I used to. I am writing this a year after returning from The Bridge. Just last week, I was finally able to settle my case nearly 6 years after my initial car accident. My stress is melting away. I now have a personal trainer and am dedicated to my diet and exercise. I am writing a book and make time to paint on a regular basis. Most importantly, I have been able to jump back into my life as a wife, mother, sister and daughter. Because of The Bridge, my family and I have gained a much better understanding and control of my once hopeless, incurable disease. I have big goals and am making plans. I know that my future can be anything I want it to be. I am eternally grateful to Daren and the staff at The Bridge. They gave me the tools and permission to “try”. I am so much more than those 4 letters I was burdened with a few years ago. I have found the will to live and love life again. ”