Sharon Sadosky of Forestdale, MA set out from her home for a bike ride on an ordinary August afternoon. The safety-conscious 52-year-old was an avid bicyclist and always rode with care. That afternoon she wore her helmet and fluorescent tee-shirt.
When she was just a mile from home, a dump truck suddenly turned into a driveway, colliding with her and dragging her underneath its carriage. Sharon hung on to the axle, afraid she would be run over if she let go.
Sharon survived being dragged, but her injuries were extensive: a broken back, crushed pelvis, collapsed lung, and extensive wounds that stretched from her lower back to her thighs -- thirty five open wounds in all. Sharon was sent via med-flight to Brigham and Women’s Hospital where, over the next five weeks, she underwent twelve surgeries, including multiple skin grafts.
Facing the prospect of an extended recovery, Sharon was determined to return to Cape Cod to be near her family. On September 12, she was transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Cape Cod (SCC) for intensive rehabilitation. Spaulding Cape Cod offers intensive rehabilitation programs, including for patients with multi-traumatic injuries. An added benefit: two of Sharon’s family members had been patients at SCC, so she already had confidence in the care. “When the ambulance arrived, I knew I was one step closer to going home,” she said.
At first, Sharon couldn’t walk, had a feeding tube and a catheter, and could barely get out of bed. Because of her crushed pelvis, she was unable to put any weight on her right foot. Her painful wounds, including degloving of her left flank and thigh, required daily care and made therapy even more difficult. Initially, even the smallest activity proved exhausting. Sharon’s rehabilitation physician, Andrew Judelson, M.D., and her team of skilled therapists and nurses, tailored her rehab plan around her unique circumstances. Dr. Judelson is one of SCC’s staff physiatrists who also specializes in wound care.
“Her wounds were in great shape when she arrived,” says Dr. Judelson. “Our approach was to tightly coordinate everything – the logistics of pre-meds for dressing changes, wound care, therapy,” says Dr. Judelson. “Sharon was scared, but she was also super motivated. She wanted to get home.”
For her part, Sharon put all her energy into her therapy. She needed to re-learn daily activities - how to walk, bathe, dress. Soon she was walking 75 steps. By the end of September, Sharon had regained enough function to go home.
“My team was excellent. They knew what I was working towards, even before I knew it. If I needed help they were right there. I made a 100 percent turnaround in 2 ½ weeks,” she recalls.
Over the next months, Sharon continued to improve with the help of Spaulding’s outpatient therapy services and her own determination. Six months after the accident, Sharon was working 30 hours a week in her job as an administrator. Gradually, she began riding a bike again – this time on protected bike paths. The physical challenge was good for her, but the fun had gone out of cycling. She set a new goal: running a 5K race. She started using a treadmill and began building up her stamina. Today, she’s running 3 miles on the treadmill.
Though Sharon still has some limitations caused by her injury and surgeries, her plan is to keep working on the challenges. “I could get mad, but that doesn’t get you anywhere. I’m a work in progress ... and so lucky to be alive.”
Sharon has turned her experience to an unexpected purpose. As a member of Spaulding Cape Cod’s Patient Family Advisory Council, she shares her insights at a monthly forum with hospital leaders dedicated to continuous improvement of the patient’s and family’s experience of rehabilitation. “It’s so very hard to do rehab, to be a patient. I want to use what I learned to help others through the process.”
From Dr. Judelson’s perspective, Sharon’s progress is a tremendous success story. “It was such a horrific accident, but her recovery shows that we can heal and regenerate with the right treatments and time. I’ve been fortunate to be part of her recovery and now to see what she brings to the Council. She’s awesome.”