It has been a rough journey for Hernan and Susan Murillo since moving to Grand Rapids in fall 2010. But their bright smiles and positive attitude would make you think otherwise.
Shorty after their arrival to Michigan, Susan suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke. She was paralyzed for two weeks and couldn’t move her right hand. Fortunately, Susan’s MRI scan didn’t show any bleeding in her brain. And, after some rest and therapy, Susan was restoring her health.
Just as things were settling down, another life changing event occurred.
It was an ordinary day in June 2011 when Hernan and Susan were on the road. However, Hernan knew it was going to change when he saw in his rearview mirror a car coming right toward them.
Hernan was driving and he had to slow down on the merge ramp. But the person coming up behind them didn’t realize the slow speed of the traffic and rear-ended Hernan and Susan’s car.
Their car was crushed so badly, it was actually three feet shorter. Susan believes if there were a passenger in the back seat, he or she wouldn’t have survived.
Hernan overextended his lower back and Susan suffered whiplash and shoulder injuries. Both experienced severe pain and needed to receive outpatient therapy.
Demanding the Best Care
Their primary care physician (PCP) initially referred the couple to a local outpatient therapy center. However, Hernan and Susan were not pleased with the care they received.
“They didn’t seem to have any experience or understand the severity of our pain,” explains Hernan.
Hernan, a professional painter, didn’t believe the therapeutic exercises he was doing were preparing him to go back to work.
“I knew that just riding a bike wasn’t going to help.”
When he went back to work, Hernan came home within an hour because of back pain.
Susan didn’t believe her health was improving, either. She wanted to learn how to manage her pain without being overmedicated.
Hernan and Susan wanted the best care possible and decided to call their PCP again. This time they were referred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.
“Our therapists were awesome,” says Hernan. ”They customized the program to fit our needs and were able to correctly diagnose our health problems, not just take a wild guess. I would recommend Mary Free Bed to everybody.”
At Mary Free Bed, Hernan received outpatient occupational therapy, and learned ways to move and adjust his back to prevent pain.
In early January, he was discharged and returned to work full time without any problems.
“I thought the cold weather would make my bones ache, but I feel fantastic!” says Hernan.
Susan is still in therapy, but feels a significant improvement in her health. Her therapist got her back on her feet and her migraines have reduced to twice a week. And, she no longer suffers from vertigo.
“I’m not called tipping cow anymore!” says Susan.
Making a Positive Transition
While the couple is improving their health after the accident, they are adjusting to their new life and making plans for the future.
Susan is looking for a new profession because she is not able to be a dental hygienist any longer due her injuries. She’s also nervous to drive. But that’s not keeping her down.
“We stay positive because at least we are here,” she says. ”The pain is less. I get out of bed. That’s always a big step.”
The couple knows how quickly life can change.
“Before the accident, we took a lot for granted and it was easy to get caught up in a routine,” says Hernan. “After the accident, we are really determined to enjoy every little thing.”
Hernan and Susan are planning to open a restaurant in Grand Rapids and hope to travel. Eventually, they would like to move to Atlanta or Florida.
No matter what the future brings for this couple, they are planning to make the most of it.
Charlotte Milligan writes for the Hope Restored blog and assists in managing Mary Free Bed’s website and social media.