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Tragedy to Triumph: a Journey of Compassion and Healing after a Vehicle Collision

Trigger Warning - This blog contains descriptions of a real-life vehicle collision, hospital images/equipment and wrecked vehicles.

Overcoming a Vehicle Collision - A Journey of Compassion and Healing

Hi! My name is Shalyn Huehn, and I am the Office Manager at Momentum Health in Mahogany.

Shalyn, Office Manager in Mahogany, waving after her recovery

Since it is February and we all could use a little warming up, I want to share a deeply personal journey that has shaped not only my life but also my passion for helping others overcome adversity and find their own path to recovery.

In the winter of 2011, the Northern Alberta landscape was blanketed in white, and temperatures plummeted to a bone-chilling -35 degrees Celsius. I had set out on a routine drive, on my way to the city to celebrate my 21st birthday with friends, unaware that this day would forever alter the course of my life.

As I navigated the snow-covered roads, an oncoming car lost control and collided head-on with mine. The impact was devastating, and the world around me turned into a chaotic whirlwind of twisted metal and shattered glass.

 

In those harrowing moments, emergency crews raced against time to free me from the mangled wreckage.

crews working to evacuate victims of the crash

It took over two hours of painstaking effort, involving the Jaws of Life, to extract me from the crumpled car.

With STARS air ambulance on the scene, I was swiftly transported to the Grande Prairie hospital for immediate evaluation and care.

Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a long and arduous journey.

The following day, I found myself lying on an operating table at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, undergoing a grueling 15-hour surgery.

The extent of my injuries was staggering—my pelvis, both legs, and feet were broken, and my left arm was described as "demolished."

Within that first year, I underwent a total of 5 surgeries to repair and restore various aspects of my body, that final one being on my 22nd birthday.

The path to recovery seemed daunting, filled with uncertainty and pain.

For the first eight days, I remained in the Intensive Care Unit, hooked up to machines and monitors that became my constant companions. Each day was a struggle, but it was also a testament to the compassion of my caregivers. I clung to the hope that one day I would regain my independence and rebuild my life. The kindness shown to me, during the most difficult days, shown simply either by being a listening ear as I reveal the struggles of that day, or in more profound ways of brining me a TV to keep me company during those long days.

After my release from the ICU, I spent an additional three weeks in the hospital's regular care unit before being transported back to the Grande Prairie Hospital for the remainder of my recovery. It was during this time that I began my rehabilitation journey, a journey that would span many months and introduce me to some of the most incredible people I have ever had the privilege to meet.

My in-patient physiotherapy program became a daily ritual, and I was fortunate to work with a therapist who possessed a unique blend of expertise and humor. Through laughter and determination, we set milestones—small victories that we celebrated together.

The day I first stood on my own.

The day I took my first steps with only a crutch for support.

These milestones filled me with hope and marked my progress toward recovery.

But the journey was far from over. Alongside my physiotherapist, I had the guidance of occupational therapists who helped me relearn how to use my left arm. Tasks that I had once taken for granted, like brushing my hair, now became daily challenges to conquer. The goal was clear: to regain my independence and find innovative ways to perform these tasks on my own.

Four months after the accident, I was finally released from the hospital, armed with a crutch as my walking aid. While this was a significant milestone, it was only the middle of my rehabilitation journey.

My transition to out-patient rehab marked a new chapter in my recovery. I was introduced to a wide spectrum of health practitioners who played pivotal roles in my healing process. Alongside physiotherapy, I received chiropractic care, massage therapy, and naturopathic treatments, among others. Each discipline brought its unique approach to my rehabilitation, and I began to realize the profound impact these professionals could have on my journey to recovery.

Shalyn with baby bump being assessed in the pediatric chiropractor room

As the years went by and my rehabilitation continued, I developed a deeper understanding of the power of compassion in the healing process. Having walked in the shoes of a patient, I felt a strong connection to those who sought their own paths to recovery. My own experiences had instilled in me an unwavering drive to help others navigate the challenges of injury and rehabilitation.

Today, as the Office Manager at Momentum Health Mahogany, I find immense joy in building relationships with our clients and assisting them with their administrative needs. But more than that, I take pride in being a source of support, even indirectly, for those who are on their own journeys of recovery. Compassion has become the guiding force of my life, driving my day-to-day work and serving as the glue that binds our clinic's mission together. Shalyn biking with a baby bump

Today I am living life to the fullest, proud of two little girls that I have brought into this world and a husband that has stuck by me through the accident and continues to be my rock. You can always find me out biking or hiking with the family, in the gym or enjoying a quiet moment with a book. My journey has instilled in me the courage of pushing myself, to see just how much further I can go. Just last year I biked the Legacy Trail (~40+KM) and continue to find new challenges, just to prove to myself I can do it.

My story is a testament to the strength of determination and the transformative power of compassion.

It's a reminder that even in the face of adversity, we can find the courage to rebuild, the resilience to overcome, and the compassion to help others do the same.

So, as we step into February, a month often associated with love and compassion, I invite you to reflect on the healing power of empathy. Whether you're on a journey of recovery yourself or you have the opportunity to support someone else in their pursuit of wellness, remember that compassion is a force that can change lives and bring renewal to the heart and soul. I can’t express enough the gratitude for my family and friends that supported me during those challenging days and continue to support me today.

In sharing my story, I hope to inspire and remind you that compassion is a gift we can all give and receive, and it has the remarkable ability to transform even the most challenging journeys into stories of triumph and renewal.

Thank you for allowing me to share a piece of my journey with you, and for being part of the community that makes Momentum Health a place of hope, healing, and compassion.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Shalyn Huehn

Further Reading

What are the steps to take to receive care after a minor collision

Is there a concussion involved? Physiotherapy is a major component in multi-modal care for concussion patients.

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