Features / Weekend News

Isabel Bennett – the long road to recovery

By Benjamin Flowers, Staff Reporter

The Webster’s Dictionary defines strength, with reference to character, as “the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force” or “the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way.”

According to this definition, strength is only visible when a person is met with some form of challenge to overcome or a difficult issue to resolve.

Almost three months after her traumatizing traffic accident on the George Price Highway, nurse educator Isabel Bennett speaks about the strength she had to discover to endure her turbulent road to recovery after the ordeal.

Bennett, a lecturer at the University of Belize, was on a James Bus Line bus on March 25, headed back to her Ladyville home loaded with assignments to grade. The bus had barely left Belmopan at around 7 p.m., when it collided head first with a towhead, injuring many of the passengers and hospitalizing five, including the bus driver, Oscar Caal.

Bennett suffered a fractured hip and three hairline fractures in her cervical spine at the c3, c4 and c5 vertebrae. She also received injuries to her internal organs.

Visibly in pain, she spoke from a hospital bed at the Belize Medical Associates Hospital on St. Thomas Street on Friday, underscoring her struggles and achievements in the aftermath of the life-changing encounter.

“I wasn’t able to walk when I was first discharged from the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital,” she recounted, “But thank God after about three weeks I was able to make my first steps at home.”

Bennett said that, apart from the excruciating physical pain, she also battled the mental anguish that the accident caused her son, aged 21, and her daughter, aged 16.

“Like everybody I had plans, I had career goals, I had family plans, but now my focus is only on getting better.”

After the accident Bennett had to begin rehabilitative physical therapy, and started taking a myriad of medications to address the many issues caused, not only by her injuries, but the major surgery she underwent to save her life.

The curve ball

On June 7, Bennett starting having abdominal pains, which she says she believed to be nothing more than gas pain. After some home remedies the pain subsided but returned much more pronounced the following day. By June 9, Bennett, who suffers from a medical condition known as “Hypersensitivity”, meaning she physically has a low tolerance for pain, was admitted to the KHMH for observation.

She transferred to BMA the following day where she learned that she had developed what is known as adhesions.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, “abdominal adhesions are bands of ­fibrous tissue that can form between abdominal tissues and organs.”

Normally, internal tissues and organs have slippery surfaces, preventing them from sticking together as the body moves. However, abdominal adhesions cause tissues and organs in the abdominal cavity to stick together.

The doctors informed her that she would have to undergo her second major surgery in under three months, in an effort to separate the stomach tissue.

“When you’re dealing with adhesions you have to understand it’s not like you can just cut it loose. The doctors have to go in and separate the tissue as delicately as possible,” she explained.

The second surgery would effectively put a halt to all the progress she had made with her physical therapy and would further offset her recovery by leaving her unable to move properly while her body heals from the procedure.

What lies ahead?

Facing perpetual pain from the two major procedures in such a short space of time, and a hospital bill in excess of $15,000 Bennett says that she looks to the future with hope.

“I am here to say, that God is with me, he has guided me, and I will get back,” she said as she mustered her strength to sit up straight on the hospital bed.

She conceded that there is no evidence to support her recovering to the point where she was prior to the accident. She maintains, however, that she is capable of dealing with the health issues that lie ahead, including more surgery on the left side of her hip, and the possibility of the adhesions returning.

She added that there has been very little communication between herself and the parties responsible for the accident. She said that she intends to follow up with them and will be seeking justice in the matter by any means necessary.

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