Miami native Monica Gonzalez, 23, is a student at Florida International University (FIU) studying psychology and works at Zara, a clothing store. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, especially her brother.
In early March, Monica and her brother were returning home from a basketball game when another vehicle ran a red light and crashed into the passenger side of their car. To free Monica, emergency responders had to cut her out of the vehicle. She was taken to Kendall Regional Hospital where it was discovered that she had a concussion and would need multiple surgeries to address a broken jaw and arm. During her first surgery, Monica suffered two strokes, after which she was put on a ventilator for five days. Two days after coming off of the ventilator, Monica had another surgery to fix her broken jaw.
After 20 days in the acute hospital, Monica chose West Gables Rehabilitation Hospital to help her begin her recovery. Not only did she have to heal from the physical injuries sustained in the accident, but Monica was going to have to teach her body how to use its left side again due to the strokes.
Her goals were to learn how to walk, become independent, return to school and get back to driving and traveling. The physician-led team at West Gables worked with Monica to create a plan to help her get there.
In physical therapy, Monica worked with therapists on learning how to walk again and increasing overall strength. Occupational therapists helped Monica learn new ways to complete personal care, including showering, dressing and using the bathroom independently. In speech therapy, therapists assisted Monica with her ability to swallow and eat, while recreation therapists helped her relearn some of the leisure activities she enjoyed before the accident, in addition to introducing her to new ones.
During her time at West Gables, Monica progressed towards her goal by walking, going up and down stairs, picking things up with her left hand and resuming regular eating. She said that her turning point was when her body started to get stronger and she was able to start walking as well as when her left hand started to move again.
Monica’s family played a large role in her recovery by always being supportive. Her mother attended family training with occupational therapy in order to learn how to better help her once she returned home. “Everyone was very nice and helpful,” said Monica about her time at West Gables.
Throughout her recovery process, Monica learned “not to underestimate your body.” By the time she was ready to return home, she was walking with supervision, performing her own personal care and eating a regular diet.
Monica is most looking forward to getting back to her old life, and spending more time outdoors. The advice that Monica would offer others who are recovering from a serious injury is to “just keep pushing forward. If you give up, then your body will too.”