When you are twenty-five, you have your whole life ahead of you. The world is your oyster with so many possibilities. But we all know, life can throw you a curve ball and can change direction quickly.
Jordyn Burgess is patient from our Clio clinic and her story is one that will amaze and inspire you. Jordyn suffered a horrific degloving accident and a crushing injury to her entire right arm. As a result of the injury, Jordyn has had 16 surgeries and procedures on her hand, arm, elbow, and shoulder. She has been in extensive physical and occupational therapy since the accident happened on August 5, 2013, sometimes as often as five times a week. This is Jordyn’s story.
Jordyn Burgess was attending college at Wayne State University in Detroit and found a job that offered tuition assistance. The job was working for a trenchless underground pipeline rehab contractor manufacturing water and sewage pipe liners. She was the first female in the company’s history hired to work on the line as a laborer.
Jordyn is no stranger to hard work and getting dirty. She grew up in a very small farming community with her triplet sisters, mother and stepfather. Jordyn considered herself a tomboy growing up and would take on any challenge just like the boys. She also served in the military. “I have always enjoyed hunting and fishing and loved sports,” says Burgess.
While working on the line on August 5th, Jordyn’s tool got caught in the pinch roller machine she was operating, pulling her arm through an 8-10 millimeter gap within seconds. Jordyn’s co-workers rushed over to stop the machine, and her manager, quickly, made a tourniquet to stop the heavy bleeding. If a couple more seconds had gone by, she would have been pulled into the machine further and likely killed. “I was really hoping to pass out, because the pain was unbelievably horrible.–So intense! I remember seeing and hearing my arm getting pulled in and crushed and my skin tearing. My co-workers didn’t want me to see the damage, shouting ‘Don’t let her look at her arm!’ When I peered through the machine’s gap, all I could see was a flattened limb and a pile of skin that was pulled off to one side of my upper arm and blood everywhere,” states Burgess. After waiting 18 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, Jordyn was rushed to the hospital, where doctors worked to save her arm. In the meantime, her company contacted her family telling them her arm would have to be amputated. Fortunately, the doctors were able to save it.
Jordyn’s accident isn’t the only close call she encountered that day. During her hospital stay, she went into full respiratory failure and began entering into cardiac arrest due to a complication with the medications she was given. Her sisters were able to get the attention of the doctors and staff just in time to provided emergency resuscitation efforts to save her life.
Jordyn had damage to all her major nerves in her arm and roughly 75 percent of her arm had no sensation. She couldn’t bend her elbow, use her hand, or lift her arm. Even though she had little sensation and function, she had extreme pain. Her doctors inserted a small catheter into her neck to create a continuous nerve block that was connected to a battery pack, monitor and medication pouch, all carried in a satchel, which she wore for three months.
Prior to the accident, Jordyn was right handed, so she had to learn to do everything with her left hand. “You would be surprised at how resourceful and creative you can become when you only have one arm to use,” stated Jordyn. “Before all this, I was in the military. I loved the outdoors and was extremely active. The accident was crippling. I was fiercely independent and had a hard time asking for help. My family, especially my sisters, knew that this was going to be a huge challenge for me. At one point in my recovery, I was in so much pain, and my arm was still so useless. I had doubts about ever regaining full function. I asked my doctors to amputate my arm and give me a prosthetic limb. That seemed a lot easier at the time. Thankfully, they didn’t listen to me.”
Jordyn’s first experience with Advanced Physical Therapy Center was with Shelley Hanchett, PT, CHT out of our Clio clinic. “Jordyn is amazing. She has worked very hard to overcome her devastating injuries. Every time she was feeling down, frustrated with her slow recovery and healing, she somehow found the courage to keep going and has persevered,” says Hanchett about her experience working with Jordyn. Jordyn also had several months of physical and occupational therapy with another clinic in Dearborn. Others in her recovery team included Ouida Brown, OTRL and Jill Ivy, PTA. “Everyone at Advanced Physical Therapy Center is fantastic! They’re encouraging, positive and they make you feel comfortable right away. I have developed a genuine friendship with these people, and I love to come to therapy. No one babied me. They gave me tough love, which is what I needed. Otherwise, I would not be where I am today,” says Jordyn. “In the beginning, I was depressed. I was frustrated and embarrassed with my limitations. Shelley was there to listen to me and help me. I’m not sure how many times I cried in front of her. It was almost like I had a counselor.”
Jordyn still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is going to counseling regularly. “I remember feeling sorry for myself, quite often, for the first couple months. Then, I happened to see a documentary about war veteran, Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, who is a quadruple amputee. I thought to myself, ‘Jordyn, things could be a lot worse. At least you have your arm. There are so many things to be thankful for!’, and that kicked me out of my pity party real quick. I started volunteering at a local animal shelter and fostered a very malnourished and neglected dog. It helped me tremendously,” said Burgess.
Jordyn has a third of her strength back, and doctors are shocked at how much function and range of motion she has regained. Though she still has some limitations, she is now able to bend her elbow, raise her arm, and has returned to being right-handed with most things. “It feels great getting some of my normal life back. To look at me now, you wouldn’t know that the accident ever happened, with the exception of my scars,” said Jordyn.
After the accident, Jordyn had to put college on hold and was not able to work. Because she wasn’t in school, her student loan bills kicked in, which took an enormous financial toll on her. The procedures, surgeries, appointments, and therapy took up most of her time, and the pain and limitations made life very difficult. Fortunately, Jordyn is now back in school finishing her bachelor’s degree with a goal of getting a master’s degree in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience. She is hoping for a career at a university, teaching and working in a research lab.
“I am so thankful for my doctors and the staff at APTC. Without them, I don’t know where I would be,” said Jordyn.