When Nikki Scott was in a car accident in 2005, her survival was not guaranteed. Forget about running again, just breathing will be good. Scott’s back was broken, along with all of her ribs, her collar bone, her sternum was dislocated, a disc in her neck was herniated and both of her lungs were collapsed. Doctors thought she would never run again and she would need two years of intense physical therapy. Then, against all odds she started running again and in 2008 ran her first half marathon.
For most people, coming back from a catastrophic event is once-in-a-lifetime. Yet in August, the Surrey, B.C. native’s world would change again when she took a serious fall, resulting in a deep cut, a bacterial infection, and her subsequent battle to not lose her leg.
Scott, a Powered by Chocolate Milk ambassador, tells her story: “A few friends and I were out for a run in Golden Ears (Provincial Park), we had our route planned – but soon after we got started we came up on a bear (!) so we quickly turned around and headed back to the cars.”
She continued: “I turned to say something to my friend. I caught my toe on a rock and wiped out. I landed on my knees and when I flipped over to sit down, both of my friends kind of gasped. Sure enough, I had a huge, bloody gash and a great big skin flap flipped open on my knee.
“I kind of panicked when I realized that I could actually see my kneecap in the bottom of the wound,” Scott said, adding, “We all took a deep breath and started going through the first aid supplies in our packs. Luckily we had water, gauze and antiseptic wipes so we cleaned it up as best we could, covered it in gauze and wrapped my knee in a Buff.
“We headed to Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock where I waited for seven hours before finally seeing the doctor for proper cleaning and stitches. We went home that night and all seemed fine.”
Scott’s ordeal wasn’t over, as when she woke up in the morning her entire leg was burning with pain. Scott says, “More x-rays, some painkillers and some antibiotics later (since the doc felt ‘maybe it’s a bit infected’) I was sent home again. In less than an hour after leaving the hospital, everything escalated and I was in excruciating pain. My entire leg felt like it was on fire so we called 911 and I was taken to Langley Memorial (hospital).”
Scott’s leg was infected and the doctors started her with multiple IV antibiotics and she was sedated so they could cut open the stitches and check for flesh eating disease. The doctor didn’t find any but she was put under observation.
“Over the next four days, the infection raged and spread from my toes to my ribs. My leg and torso were swollen to twice their size, the pain was unbearable and they had to keep switching the antibiotics but the infection wasn’t responding. By the end of the week my kidneys had also failed so they sent me off to Surrey Memorial, labelled ‘loss of life or limb’ and I was admitted into critical care,” Scott explained.
She was diagnosed with Cellulitis and spent the next 20 days in hospital before her wound responded to antibiotics. She was finally sent home after three weeks of extreme pain and unable to walk well, needing crutches.
Scott says, “It took nearly three months for the actual wound on my knee to finally heal and close over. Everything about this infection was stubborn and resistant. At this point I feel like I am still in the early stages of returning to my typical level of training. When I first got home from the hospital I was lucky enough to have nurses coming to my house for wound care and a physiotherapist friend who took me on as a patient. After nearly four weeks of lying still, everything in my legs, hips and back had become extremely weak, tight and stiff.
“Finally about a month after coming home, I was able to ditch the crutches/cane and soon after, started doing very short, 30 second intervals of ‘running’ on the treadmill. Because of the atrophy in my muscles, I have been taking things very slowly so I don’t cause new injuries but have been working my way up to longer intervals of running and walking.”
Scott found that being fit helped her on her road to recovery. “Having that background of setting goals and devising a strategy and a plan to get there has definitely helped me figure out what I need to do to beat this injury,” she says.
Surviving a major car accident and the slow recovery process taught Scott to listen to her body and following the leg infection she also had to take it slow and let the pain and fatigue levels guide her.
Scott, a mother of two young boys, has completed 20 half marathons, five full marathons and four ultra-marathons. She says, “My biggest motivation is always to not let a setback beat me. I was determined not to let my car accident beat me or define me and it has been kind of similar following this infection. My end goal is to get my strength back and be able to run distance again so I’ve just been setting small, manageable goals.”
Recovery strategies are not one-size-fits-all, and depend on the severity of the injury, so consult your doctor about when you should resume training. Once you do, make sure refuelling, repairing and rehydrating are part of your workout regime to help you reach your goals.