The Best Laid Plans: The Life-Plan Derailed

The life I’d planned out carefully now seemed unattainable. I couldn’t exercise, dance, act, direct. Some days I couldn’t even drive a car. Forced to be sedentary, depression crept in, combining with constant pain to make even part-time work an endurance contest. I was thankful just to push through a day and even more so to sleep through a night.

The accident threatened to completely derail the reason I’d moved to Denver, a directing internship with the National Theater Conservatory, an acting school at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. I’d planned to build on my undergraduate studies in acting, and directing, to use the internship as a stepping-stone to a graduate directing program. That life-plan brought me to Denver.

Determined to find pain relief and continue to pursue my dream, I tried every traditional approach, including, physical therapy three times a week, and  steroid injections from a physiatrist. I also pursued non-traditional and holistic therapies  chiropractic treatment, weekly massage therapy,  and acupuncture.  I wouldn’t be satisfied with just a magic bullet, I wanted a sense of normalcy.

Because of nerve compression from the neck injury, I had very little feeling in my  left hand and fingers, and frequent tingling and burning.  Often I couldn’t pick up so much as a glass of water  without dropping it. Many glasses and dishes were broken during those first few years of healing.

The medical recommendations were overwhelming. The neurologist: pain medication and a back surgery to relieve constant low back pain. Plus, a rib resection to alleviate nerve compression. TMJ specialists: jaw surgery on my right temporomandibular joint. The physiatrist injected steroids and encouraged continued physical therapy.

It’s almost comical now when I look back at the array of appliances and props. A neck brace to drive and really, just move around, a bite-like retainer for my TMJ, a lower back brace to help with the pain and special pillows and medications to sleep.

Finally, in the fall of 1995, I gave in and decided to take the path of surgery. The first: rib resection in hopes of decreasing neck pain and possibly regain the use of my  left hand and fingers.

Part Two from the article, “An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformative Power of Pilates” by Genevieve Nedder.

An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformation

Imagine waiting for the light to change, top-down on your convertible, and singing along with the radio on a gorgeous Tucson day. Something makes you look over, and you see a large construction truck coming at you nearly head-on. You’re blocked in by other cars and can’t avoid the collision.

That happened to me in 1992. It was frightening to see that truck turning toward my driver’s side door and knowing I couldn’t escape. There I sat, completely exposed, and instinctively, I grabbed the rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror (given to me by my grandfather, Giddee Paul, years ago) and began praying for safety, protection. The next thing I remember, blurry and dreamlike, was policemen and paramedics surrounding me, and then I passed out.

That accident happened just two months before my graduation from UofA, leaving me with a long list of injuries: a herniated disc in my lower back, whiplash, severe increase in TMJ issues, chronic upper back and neck pain and terrible headaches. A professional actor and director, I had moved and danced my whole life, but now it was as though my body was betraying me. I’d request movement from it, and my body simply couldn’t do what I asked without causing pain. If it hadn’t been for chiropractic treatments and weekly massage therapy, I probably would have been flat on my back. The regimen gave temporary relief, but I essentially lived in constant pain.

Fast forward one year. A four-way stop in Denver, Colorado on a snowy February day. I’m hit again. A pick-up truck slides through a 4-way stop and  plows into the passenger side of my car, causing me to slide on the icy road and spin head-on into a tree. Once again, I struggled to focus through the noise of officers and paramedics, but blacked out.

When I finally awakened in a hospital bed, a doctor and a policeman insisted that I was “one lucky lady.” I didn’t feel lucky at all. I felt scared, aching and disconnected from a body I’d always counted on, but one becoming more unfamiliar with each passing moment. I now had a litany of injuries: fractured cervical vertebrae at C 3-4, C 5-6, a dislocated rib and a shoulder injury, My TMJ problems intensified as did low back pain. At 25 years old, I felt completely debilitated.

Part One of Five of the article: “An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformative Power of Pilates” by Geneviève Nedder.