A Fork in the Road

After a horrific car accident, experts at UMMC help a young woman get back on her feet

Four years ago, Katelyn Mitchell’s life took a traumatic and unexpected detour. As Katelyn drove through an intersection, another car ran a red light and struck her driver’s side door. Emergency responders rushed her to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). Katelyn’s right leg had significant damage, similar to injuries sustained from an explosion.

At just 17-years-old, Katelyn faced a difficult choice: Amputate her leg and learn to walk with a prosthetic, or salvage her leg, but endure multiple surgeries with no guarantee of ever walking. After much consideration, Katelyn and her family put their trust in UMMC and chose to save her limb.

Katelyn MitchellNow at 21-years-old, Katelyn not only can walk, but she can run, jump and weight train. She coaches lacrosse at her former high school and has even taken up aerial yoga. Recovering from the accident “was a hard road, but I pushed through it,” she said. “It was so worth any of the work I put in.”

Indeed, Katelyn’s path to healing was lengthy and difficult. Within a three year period, she underwent more than a dozen surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy. Katelyn credits much of her success to her surgeon, Dr. Andrew Pollak, M.D., Chair of the Department of Orthopaedics at UMMC. “I am certainly eternally grateful to have met Dr. Pollak,” Katelyn said. “We formed such a great relationship. I could not have been luckier to have fallen into his hands.”

Dr. Pollak gave Katelyn the option of amputation, but pushed toward limb salvage. While recognizing the challenges associated with saving her leg, Dr. Pollak also acknowledged the power of a strong support system and its influence on a successful recovery. Katelyn’s support system - both at home and at UMMC - would be vital in seeing her through the most difficult time of her life.

Katelyn MitchellLooking back, Katelyn expresses gratitude to everyone involved in her recovery - from her family and friends, to the expert teams of doctors, nurses and technicians at UMMC who continually pushed her toward success. To this day, Katelyn still keeps in touch with many of the people she met while hospitalized at UMMC.

“Everybody at UMMC dedicates their lives to everyone else’s lives,” she said. “If the patients work hard - just as hard as they do - it works out. It’s the whole staff. Really, everybody comes together to play such a big part.”

Fully healed and without limitations, Katelyn embraces every moment. She enjoys hanging out with her friends and finishing college.

Because of the care she received at UMMC, Katelyn looks forward to a future full of possibilities.

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