Surviving and Thriving

Whitney SibolIn her role as Special Projects Coordinator for the Center for Injury Prevention & Policy at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, Whitney Sibol has a truly unique perspective. As a trauma survivor herself, Whitney shares her own experience to encourage and help other trauma survivors and gives back to help the very team that saved her life.

Whitney Sibol - In Her Own Words

In June, 2012, I was the victim of a life-threatening boating accident. Like countless patients before me, I am here today because of the extraordinary team at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.

My life changed forever on that day in June. I was ready to tackle the challenge of an open water swim in preparation to compete in my first triathlon that fall. My mom was also preparing for a race, so we planned a practice swim near my grandparents’ home on Bird River.

We took every safety precaution possible - setting up buoys to mark our course and to alert boaters of our presence, and had family members follow alongside us in their boat. Despite our efforts, the unimaginable occurred…

I was hit by a drunken boater.

My dad recalls seeing the other boat approaching fast around a corner and heading straight for our course. He tried to change the other boat’s course to no avail.

The boat hit me when I had my left arm at the top of my stroke. The impact of the hit and the spin of the propeller crushed my left side, breaking my ribs and pelvis, fracturing my C2 vertebra, collapsing my lung, blocking my sub-clavian artery, and nearly severing my left arm. I was unconscious in the water.

Without hesitation my family sprang into action. My dad jumped into the water and helped others pull me onto the boat. My brother quickly called 911 from the dock where he witnessed the accident and my grandmother retrieved a camping cot from the basement. They carried me in the cot up the hill and to the road to meet emergency responders.

Without my family’s quick thinking and composure, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

The ambulance sped to the closest emergency room. En route to the hospital, we were diverted to Shock Trauma. I have no doubt that decision gave me the best chance for recovery.

No one is ever prepared to come to Shock Trauma. When my family arrived, the nurses and staff made my parents comfortable by giving them scrubs to replace their wet clothes. They kept my family informed of my status and did everything they could to put them at ease. It was evident that Shock Trauma caregivers truly do care about their patients and families they go above and beyond the call of duty to provide heartfelt support.

In an effort to protect me from the noise and activity of the unit, a nurse sat with me all night until I was stable enough for surgery in the morning. I’ll never forget the unwavering kindness and comforting presence of the nurses and staff throughout my recovery.

My medical team performed a miraculous ten-hour surgery that saved my arm. The surgery was just the beginning of a month-long stay at Shock Trauma, and a three-month intensive recovery period. Throughout that time, my parents and I were fortunate to be cared for by an amazing team of doctors, nurses, therapists, housekeepers, and volunteers all of whom contributed immeasurably to my recovery.

Against all odds, I completed the Columbia Irongirl triathlon in August, 2013, just one year after my accident and thanks to the incredible care and support I received at Shock Trauma.

Hearing from other survivors through the Trauma Survivors Network (TSN) was also an important part of my recovery. TSN is a unique resource that gave me hope. Now, I have the chance to give hope to other trauma survivors as a volunteer through this group that is funded entirely through philanthropy.

I fully believe in the power of a positive attitude, and I hope that I am successful in expressing this to fellow trauma survivors.

My family and I have contributed to Shock Trauma to the extent we are able, knowing that even a small donation can make a big difference. We have greatly benefitted from the generosity of others, and we are so thankful. It is impossible to convey in words the appreciation I have for the expertise, dedication, and kindness of the Shock Trauma team. Please join me in supporting their extraordinary work.

Learn more about how you can support the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.