For most, going to a concert to listen to‘ 90s rock band The Offspring at the Vans Warped Tour would be a night to remember. For history teacher Scott Victorine, he remembers that night vividly — but not because of the band or the music. Instead, he broke up a fight between three men and ended up being assaulted by one who broke both his tibia and fibula. One of the most difficult parts of his recovery has been the slower pace of his life.
“Mentally, it was a big change for me at first because I’m so ‘go, go, go’ all the time,” Victorine said. “I always [have] to be doing something around the house ... so I was always finding something to do. So to have that stop all of a sudden, [to] have to slow down, was a big change for me at first. And to be able to remind myself like, ‘you’re going to need some time for yourself, you’re going to need to recover.’”
Victorine’s broken bones, two long bones in the lower leg, otherwise known as the shin bones, will take between late January to late March to heal before he can return to the level of physical activity he was used to, such as running and hiking. The day after his injury occurred, he required surgery to realign the tibia and fibula as well as permanently place one rod, one plate and 13 screws in his leg.
Currently, Victorine wears a walking boot, but previously, he had a permanent cast for the initial six weeks after the injury. After the boot, he will walk with crutches at the 14-week mark, and following this he will be walking with a cane. Lastly, with physical therapy, he will be able to walk on his own around Thanksgiving. While his recovery back to healthy may seem long, he says he keeps a positive mindset.
“It’s a test of patience,” Victorine said. “It’s a test on character strengths and character building. So I’m trying to keep it as positive, trying to learn something from the experience. Sounds cheesy, but [it’s] to take a negative and try to turn it into a positive. Because if I was miserable about this, if I was constantly thinking about it or down on it, it would make this recovery a lot worse. And I think it would be harder on my body.”
Similar to Victorine, senior Divya Suresh is also experiencing a long recovery process after getting injured during a volleyball game when she went up to hit the ball and landed awkwardly, realizing that she wasn’t able to stand back up again.
Immediately after, she went to the ER and eventually had an MRI that later revealed she had torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus. She is getting surgery on Oct. 15 and will need to do 500 to 600 hours of physical therapy. As a captain of the traditional Indian dance team, Raas, and a volleyball player, Suresh found herself unable to participate in the activities she loved.
“It was really heartbreaking because it’s your last year and you want to do everything with your family — your sport family, your dance family. But then I couldn’t do any of that because I have to go to PT and take care of [my body],” Suresh said.
For both Suresh and Victorine, another major emotional adjustment was developing dependence on others. They both realized that simple tasks were much harder to execute and they grew tired more easily. For Victorine, washing the dishes, doing the laundry and even carrying a cup of coffee became much more difficult than it had before.
In the beginning, Suresh’s leg was stiff so she couldn’t drive, something that was always therapeutic and calming for her. Depending on their family and friends for simple things was hard but she also knew that they were her support system.
“[My friends and family have] been super awesome, everyone has been super supportive,” Suresh said. “Since my friend tore her ACL, I have someone who directly relates to the same emotions and feelings I’m going through right now so that’s comforting too. She’s also a model of like someone can go through this and get past it and return [to] play volleyball again. So it’s not an end all be all thing, it’s just temporary. But you can come back and be stronger than you were before.”
Unlike Victorine and Suresh, junior Miranda Flint doesn’t deal with a physical injury, but instead a mental illness, anxiety. However, this also can entail a long recovery process. Her anxiety disorder has recently taken a toll on her.
“It’s weird because everything can be going completely fine,” Flint said. “The next moment, you just feel hopeless or an immediate emotion change. You don’t really have any control over your emotions.”
While her anxiety has affected her throughout her life, she noticed an increase in symptoms in the last year. However, Flint has been taking steps to ensure that she can handle her emotions more effectively.
“I’m getting better at controlling it, and talking to people that I need to talk to when I can feel it started to happen,” Flint said. “I’m better at taking deep breaths and trying to get more on top of it. Sometimes I can’t stop it. [But] I’m in a good place now. So I hope this can stay steady where I have control over myself for the most part. I don’t think I’ll ever have it completely gone. That’s not how it works, [but] this is a good spot.”
The road to recovery isn’t easy for Flint, Victorine or Suresh, for they still have to deal with the highs and lows of the journey. Often times it’s easy for them to get frustrated at themselves for their struggle in performing what they see as simple, daily actions. But on the whole, they realize they have to respect their body and the time it will take to return to normal.
“I’ve been trying to follow my doctor’s guidelines to a T and not pushing it,” Victorine said. “Even though there’s an urge to want to do more things, I have to tell myself: don’t overdo it, don’t push it. In the long run, you want health recovery, you want to make sure everything heals properly. Now, I just have to move forward and as long as I’m healing and my progress is going in the right direction, that’s all that really matters.
Two years ago, senior Sophia Powell lost her mother to a brain hemorrhage. Powell’s mother died in part due to her aplastic anemia, a condition that prevented her body from replenishing its supply of blood cells. Her mother had struggled with liver disease as well, and the combination of these two illnesses on top of the variety of medications she was prescribed took a drastic toll on her wellbeing in the years leading to her death.
Powell’s family approached her mother’s medical issues from all angles, including trying a variety of medications and procedures. These attempts either worked temporarily or immediately invoked negative side effects, so ultimately, doctors suggested a liver and bone marrow transplant. However, her mother suffered a stroke before receiving any of these procedures which led to her passing.
Six years ago, junior Andrew Dinkha’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Unlike Powell, he was relatively unaware of his mother’s illness until it had progressed late into the stages of her recovery. This past summer marked her five-year cancer survival anniversary.
Therapist Mary Ruth Cross from Treehouse Family Counseling Services specializes in counseling those like Powell and Dinkha — children who have experienced the trauma of losing or nearly losing a loved one. When it comes to helping her clients with trauma, she believes that instead therapists should avoid “rubber stamping,” or taking their clients’ cases and assuming that their grieving process will be identical. Instead, Cross recognizes that each family’s culture and social background varies, making each individual client’s recovery process unique.
“You’ll have to then look at what are they telling themselves about all of this?” Cross said. “So you can have what we call stinking thinking, which is the child blaming themselves in any way. There’s a lot of assessing that we do. It’s very individual and particular to each child.”
Cross says that, regardless of what type of client she’s assisting and the type of trauma they’ve experienced, she always tries to make them feel as if that someone’s listening to them.
“The biggest thing I think for kids is making sure that they have a voice and can talk about what it is that they can feel about the loss of a loved one, and somebody to be really present to them,” Cross said. “And be able to say, ‘Yeah, this one hurts,’ because we can’t really change that — it does hurt. But what we can do is be present.”
Powell depended on this notion of leaning on and connecting with others to help her through her grief after her mother passed away at the age of 57. Instead of going through long-term therapy, she relied more on her friends, family and mainly herself to help cope with the loss.
“It honestly took me a long time to realize what happened,” Powell said. “But it made me a lot stronger. I feel a lot more mature. I know what life is going to throw at me now. And I realized who real friends are in my life too, who were there for me to support me.”
According to Cross, this phenomenon that Powell describes is the process that her clients often go through as well. There are three main stages of grief: the first one is accepting the loss and understanding that their loved one won’t be present anymore. During the second, there’s more processing of loss, where longing comes into play. The third involves memorializing, where those who have lost a loved one have a certain ritual or tradition for closure, which depends on the family.
Cross’ job is primarily to aid children through this grieving process, whether it be guiding them through a difficult time or helping people who find themselves unable to let go of their grief and move on to the next stage of healing.
However, Cross also helps children like Dinkha, who might not have necessarily lost a loved one, but have had a very sick family member. At the time of Dinkha’s mother’s breast cancer, he says that the experience wasn’t particularly difficult for him because he was in fifth grade and his parents chose to withhold the information about his mother’s illness until she recovered. In his opinion, not knowing about his mother’s illness for the majority of her treatment period mitigated the potential negative effects on his mental health.
“I wasn’t really concerned at the time [of the treatment],” Dinkha said. “My parents didn’t want me and my little brother to worry about it, so no matter how much it hurt them, it would hurt them more if we were worried too. I feel like I probably would have needed a therapist if I’d known about it while she was recovering just because of all the worrying it would’ve put me through.”
Dinkha’s mother hid her illness by staying positive throughout her treatment and eventual recovery, while he focused on friends and video games without knowing about her cancer.
“I used to play video games with my friends,” Dinkha said. “My mom would come back from the hospital looking super tired and ill and I never took the hint. Video games were a huge distraction from her illness though, and I guess it put less stress on my parents because I was way too distracted to ask.”
Despite the different end results of Dinkha and Powell’s situations, both took one main lesson away from their experiences: people shouldn’t take the ones they love for granted, whether that be a parent, a sibling or a friend. While Dinkha notes that his relationship with his mother has strengthened after almost losing her, Powell’s relationship with those who helped support her during her period of grieving also solidified.
“It does get easier over time,” Powell said. “Obviously, it’s still going to be something that impacts you everyday, probably for the rest of your life, but it does get easier and just learn to appreciate what you have before you lose it.”