Regions Hospital helps motorcycle accident survivor get back on her bike
Ursula Wachowiak isn’t afraid to take risks.
Like many others who were affected by the recession and corporate downsizing, Ursula lost her job in Illinois in 2012. With very few job prospects on the horizon, she made the decision to take charge of her destiny by hopping on her motorcycle and heading out on a cross-country trek with the intent of building her virtual assistant business, which provides website building, resume writing and social media marketing services, to name a few. Then one afternoon in July 2013, while Ursula was riding through Minnesota, her life changed forever.
On that warm summer afternoon, Ursula approached a deep curve on the two-lane Highway 95 in Franconia Township. When she saw a semi-truck approaching, she moved to the right in order to provide the driver with extra space. Next thing she knew, she was face-to-face with an oncoming vehicle that was attempting to pass the semi in her lane. With nowhere to go, Ursula collided with the car head-on, sending her flying in one direction and her motorcycle roughly 40 feet in the other.
As she laid in a ditch on the side of the road, Ursula made peace with the realization that she was going to die. Several minutes later, paramedics arrived on the scene, preparing to transport Ursula by helicopter to Regions Hospital. The helicopter landed at Regions Hospital, the door opened, Ursula saw the blue sky and sunshine; and then she died.
“I remember laying on the gurney, looking up at the sky and the sunshine,” she recalls of that fateful afternoon. “I thanked God for all that He had given me, thanked Him for allowing me to accomplish my dream, and asked Him to take care of my son and granddaughter.”
Fortunately, Ursula wouldn’t be dead for long. Paramedics were able to revive her and the surgeons at Regions were able to perform emergency surgeries necessary to save her life. Ursula’s challenges, however, were just starting.
“I spent the first four days at Regions in a medically-induced coma,” she recalls. “From what my son and my sister told me about their experiences during that period, the entire team at Regions was incredible. My sister is an ICU nurse, and she said that she was very impressed with the amount of time and attention they provided me and my family.”
Once she was awake, Ursula met Peter Cole, MD, a HealthPartners Orthopaedic Surgeon at Regions Hospital who would play a key role in her recovery.
“I first met Ursula in the ICU, and I could immediately tell that she was a spectacular woman,” says Dr. Cole. “She had a survival instinct that I have seldom seen before. In fact, in many ways she was completely unique. Right from the beginning she took complete command of her dire situation and refused to let it beat her down, even for a short period of time.”
Over the next several days, Ursula would begin to regain her strength as her condition improved. However, it soon became evident that the accident had done significant damage to her left leg, and that amputation would likely be the best option. While the prospect of losing a leg would be catastrophic to anyone, Ursula was appreciative of the manner in which Dr. Cole discussed her options.
“He was very thorough and explained my options with the leg, and was even willing to attempt limb salvage procedures,” she says. “He took the time to answer my questions, and was straight-up with me, which I really appreciated. He only cared about my outcome and told me the truth about my options. In the end, I chose to have the amputation.”
James Fletcher, MD, Plastic Surgeon, amputated Ursula’s leg exactly one week after her accident. After her release from Regions, Dr. Cole continued to reach out to Ursula regularly to check on her physical and mental condition.
“The vast majority of people, when faced with the possibility of needing to amputate, will outright refuse,” he says. “Even if we explain that salvaging the limb is likely to produce a poor outcome, and that even if we do keep it they will likely experience significant issues moving forward, most people will still choose to keep the limb, even if it is beyond reason. Ursula was incredibly mentally strong, and made her choice based on reason and logic. She truly is a unique person.”
Eight months after the amputation, Ursula was back on a motorcycle and took off on another cross-country journey.
“I had to prove to myself that my dream was not lost, merely changed,” Ursula says. Just over 18 months after her horrific accident, Ursula aka The B.R.O.A.D.™ (Babe Riding Out A Dream) continues to build her business while using her experience to provide support, inspiration, and even socks to amputees. She recently launched the SOX Program that collects orphaned socks that can be shared with veteran amputees. She still stays in close contact with Dr. Cole, who she credits in huge part to saving her life. In fact, she now does some consulting work for Dr. Cole, putting her considerable talent to work in helping with website development and management.
“I wouldn’t be here without him,” she says tearfully.
To learn more about Ursula and how she is helping other amputees on their road to recovery, visit her website at hdbroad.com.
Catch up with Ursula
Catch up with Ursula today and see how she’s using her experience to help others (courtesy of Fox 9).