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Orthopaedic & Rehabilitation Institute

Bouncing Back

Blind woman struck by car recovers, thanks to care and compassion provided by Allegheny General Hospital

 

Despite her blindness, Susan Etters’ life is similar to many others. She lives in a small town, commuted by bus to work, and volunteered for several local organizations. Her work helping others brought her great joy.

Bouncing Back Susan Etters

Susan, 59, worked as a switchboard operator for the Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, advocating for the blind, deaf blind and vision impaired to become independent. Her own independence enabled her to commute two hours each way from her Sewickley, Pa. home, taking two buses into Homestead, Pa. for work. Last year, as she was crossing the street after getting off one of those buses, a car struck her, leaving her with devastating injuries, including a concussion and multiple fractures to both legs. Her own independence and way of life were now in jeopardy.

“The next thing I knew, I was in Allegheny General Hospital’s (AGH) Shock Trauma Treatment Center,” said Susan. “I went into shock; I had no idea what had happened.”

West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) is committed to providing the best emergency care in the region. Susan suffered from multiple leg fractures and a head injury. She also temporarily lost her sense of taste and smell, which, according to Susan, are critical senses on which she depends, especially given her blindness. WPAHS provides a wide range of high quality care for patients who need emergency treatment and follow-up. And, as Susan soon found out, follow-up included treatment from a team of nationally recognized orthopaedic specialists.

“That first night I was sick from my head injury, and a nurse was kind enough to stay up with me the entire night,” said Susan. “Everyone in the hospital that night – from the social worker to the nurses – was incredibly nice to me.”

Alan H. Klein, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon with Allegheny Orthopaedic Associates, a physician practice that is part of AGH. Dr. Klein is among the many renowned orthopaedic surgeons, physicians and therapists at WPAHS. He first met Susan in the hospital where he learned of her injuries – a left ankle fracture, left fibia fracture, right pelvic fracture, a right knee fracture and concussion. After performing surgery with a team of experts, Dr. Klein moved Susan to Friendship Ridge, a short- and long-term skilled nursing and rehabilitative facility in Beaver, Pa., where she had to lay immobile for three months, unable to walk or even turn over. Dr. Klein visited Susan during her time at Friendship Ridge. During her recovery, Susan went though occupational therapy.

“Some days, I thought I would never go home,” said Susan. “But Dr. Klein was compassionate and understanding, and kept me informed the entire time. Each day, I continued to get better.”

Eventually, Susan began to walk again. Before her accident, she walked with a support cane, but had to walk with both a support and mobility cane once she began walking again.

“It was like I was in slow motion,” said Susan, adding, “I adjusted, though, because I was so grateful to simply be walking again. You don’t have to be fast, and I’m happy with that.”

Susan went from Friendship Ridge to living with her sister because she wasn’t self-sufficient just yet. She eventually did not need to see Dr. Klein as frequently, and today is back to her usual routine, fully independent and living in her home again. She is still receiving care in outpatient rehab. There is one change to her routine, though: Susan is now retired. It was recommended by Dr. Klein that Susan stop her lengthy commute and focus on healing.

“Susan’s accident was hard on her and her family but resulted in a happy ending,” said Dr. Klein. “Her optimism and positive attitude really carried her through, and I was glad to have a patient like Susan.”

After 28 years of working, Susan now focuses all of her time on giving back to the community. She visits those in nursing homes, and volunteers for the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind, is a member of the Golden Triangle Council of the Blind, and Faith in Action.

WPAHS has a commitment to personalized service, treating everyone in a respectful, courteous and dignified manner.

“To me, my accident and the recovery process were harder than being blind,” said Susan. “The care I received at Allegheny General Hospital and Allegheny Orthopaedic Associates was so tremendous – their caring, compassionate staff made me feel at ease, and I am forever thankful.”

 

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