Kimberly Emanuel

Featured, Survivor

January 7th began with a sigh of relief. I had made it to 2nd semester and no one in my home was affected by COVID. At that point, this was a major accomplishment and I felt all of our precautions were successful. My husband noticed that my responses this particular evening were off. He found my answers odd and I seemed distracted. Following his instincts, he called 911. The operator asked him to ask me my name. I was able to muster the first syllable before losing consciousness. Within an hour of arriving at the hospital, I was placed on life support. Doctors had determined that I was in septic shock and all of my body systems were failing. (Sepsis and Septic Shock)

Tests later revealed that I was sepsis due to a kidney stone—one I didn’t know I had. (Sepsis and Kidney Stones) I was placed in a medical coma and would remain sedated for a month. During this time I was placed on dialysis, experienced two strokes and suffered a heart attack. We were still living in the Era of COVID so I was forced to convalesce alone. I lost track of time, had no say in my care and later learned how emotionally draining this experience was for my family.

April 7, I had all four limbs amputated. (Sepsis and Amputations) Because of the drugs administered during life-saving efforts, my limbs were deprived of oxygen and dry gangrene settled in. I had a difficult time accepting this prognosis and waited as long as I could to make a decision. I spent 6 days in the hospital- oh, and it was during this time that I finally passed the kidney stone.

I met a wonderful man who walked me through my recovery process with prosthetics being the target. He is an amputee and I never could tell upon first meeting him. He promised the same outcome for me. He advised with hard work and intense therapy, I could get prosthetics legs by Christmas. I was determined to get my legs sooner. By the end of June, I was fitted for my test sockets. Therapy was grueling and time-consuming but I was determined to be independent. By October I had my myoelectric hands and was flown to Ohio for intense training and specialized fitting. I was so proud of my accomplishments and dared to dream that one day I could completely operate in this world without any assistance. I was told that I had at least 12-18 months of therapy ahead of me but I was on a mission. In January 2022, I drove my car without any modifications. I climbed behind the wheel and started the car and drove myself to therapy. I was on top of the world! There was nothing that was going to stop me now.

Life’s little nuisances started to weigh me down. I had to make a decision about my career and abilities to work safely and consistently. I had no assurance that therapy and work would be an ideal balance. I still had so many doctor’s appointments and I was so fatigued after therapy. I really didn’t have much of a choice. I submitted paperwork for early retirement. I only had 4 more years of service to go. I fought with every fiber of my being to ward off the strongholds of depression and anxiety. I sought help when I felt overwhelmed and I gave myself grace when I failed at a task. I understood that assignment on my life was to get healthy and create a new norm. I couldn’t hold myself to the old standards of success and fulfillment. Instead, I needed to create new thresholds to conquer. I needed to find joy in the simplicity of life and appreciate that I could stop and smell the roses- even if it was from a wheelchair. Life has taught me to advocate where I stand. I speak in great depths about my journey to students and adults. I minister in place and give all the glory to my Heavenly Father. I know this is just the beginning but I hope that having a canine companion along for the ride will enrich both of our lives.

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