This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Holli and her amazing recovery.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a full-time Canadian writer, currently writing psychological suspense novels with some freelance journalism to pay the bills. I’m a passionate, creative person who is completely in love with books, scary movies, animals of all stripes, and real licorice–you know, the black kind. I thrive on traveling and adventure, but I’m always happy to return home and curl up on the couch with my longtime boyfriend and our three cats.
When you were 19, your spine was fractured in two places. How were you injured?
When I was 19, I decided to end an emotionally abusive relationship. My boyfriend hadn’t hit me yet, but I knew it was only a matter of time. The break-up did not go well, so I called my friend Scott to talk. Scott decided to pick me up at my apartment, but my newly ex-boyfriend saw us together–he was just waiting outside my apartment, which was creepy enough on its own. Thankfully, I was able to get inside Scott’s truck before my ex pulled up in his car. I will never forget the look in my ex’s eyes as he glared at us–I had never seen so much hatred before in my life.
We drove away, and my ex took off after us. At first I thought he just wanted to fight Scott, but then he started ramming us with his vehicle. It was winter in a small Northern community, and the streets were icy. We were sliding all over the road and it was impossible to escape. I was thrown forward every time the car hit us, and then snapped back by the seatbelt. In the end, we were hit seven times. We were only able to stop the attack by flagging down a police officer. My friend actually had to risk his life by getting out of his vehicle, since the cops ignored our attempts to signal them. There was a high-speed chase through town to bring my ex into custody.
I didn’t know I was hurt until several days later, since the adrenaline rush blocked out any pain. And I didn’t discover my back was broken until almost a year after the accident, when a physician ordered X-rays.
What was the diagnosis that you received from the doctors?
The first person I saw for treatment was a chiropractor. He diagnosed me with whiplash and a number of other issues related to the accident, including severe lower back pain. When I moved back to my small hometown the following summer, there were no chiropractors available, so I had to see a physician. The doctor order X-rays, told me my spine was fractured in two places, and said I’d be in a wheelchair by the age of 23. It was devastating, but I was determined to prove her wrong from the very beginning.
Initially, how were you treating your injuries?
Initially, I saw a chiropractor and a massage therapist for treatment. When I moved home for a year, there were no chiropractors available so I saw doctors and a different massage therapist. That’s the only time I relied on pain killers. The pain killers I was prescribed are the same ones that are given to people with MS. At that time, I was in near-constant pain. I couldn’t sit, stand or lie down in the same position for longer than a few minutes.
What made you consider taking up kickboxing?
I was always interested in martial arts, but they weren’t available in my small isolated community. It had been my dream to start muay thai kickboxing when I moved to the city for college, but now my back was broken. I assumed it wasn’t an option anymore. Oddly enough, the first chiropractor I saw in Winnipeg was also the official chiropractor for a local muay thai club. He not only told me I could still kick box–he said it would be good for my back.
Tell us about what happened once you started kickboxing.
Kickboxing strengthened the muscles around my fractured vertebrae. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I didn’t suffer from debilitating pain anymore. The chiropractors and massage therapists helped as well. I truly believe they saved my life, or at least made it worth living again. Kickboxing also gave me more confidence in my ability to defend myself. The attack was very scary, and I spent a long time being frightened until I decided to be strong instead.
How’s your health now?
I went from having to see chiropractors and massage therapists three times a week to several times a year. I still get migraines and some back pain, but now my pain tends to be caused by sore muscles rather than the accident. However, the attack did cause a slight curvature in my spine, so one of my shoulders is often out of place, which can cause headaches, rib and back pain. If I go for regular treatment and stay active, it’s easily manageable.
What’s something you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
Learn to recognize the warning signs of a dangerously obsessive person. When you’re a teenager, it can seem romantic that your boyfriend (or girlfriend) wants to spend every waking moment with you. If they’re jealous of your other friends, it can seem cute that they’re so in love with you. Well, it isn’t cute. If he tries to isolate you from friends and family, that’s a warning sign. If he gets mad because you want to have a life outside of him, that’s also a warning sign. If you suspect you’re in an abusive relationship, seek help immediately. Never try to end the relationship when you’re alone with that person. One of the stupidest things I did was break up with him while we were sitting in his car–I shudder to think what might have happened. It could have been so much worse.Thanks so much for sharing your story, Holli. Do you guys have any questions for her? Have you had success using non-traditional treatments for health issues?