By Liana Jacob
A CAR accident left this brave woman in an induced coma for two-months before she woke up to find she had fourth degree burns over sixty-five per cent of her body and NO LEGS.
On January 11, 2013, Casey Bellofatto (25) from Maryland, USA, was driving in her car whilst under the influence of alcohol when her car lost control and crashed into another car resulting in her vehicle bursting into flames, trapping her inside.
She was flown by a helicopter to the University of Maryland Hospital where she was told that she suffered from fourth degree burns over 65 per cent of her body. So, she was put in an induced coma for two months. Casey was initially admitted there for shock trauma due to her head injuries, which caused two mini strokes for which she had stents placed in the arteries in her neck.
She was then referred to Johns Hopkins Bayview, where she underwent 50 surgeries including skin grafts for her burns, initial amputations to her legs, pins placed in her right pelvic bone, muscles in her stomach put back together, gallbladder stone-removal surgery and hernia surgeries.
Even though she had a feeling that she lost her legs, it was her dad who broke the news to her when she woke up from her two-month-long coma and felt devastated. She had to learn a new normal of walking on prosthetic legs.
Casey admits that her experience has changed her perception of life and now feels confident in herself to help spread awareness that life can go on despite the circumstances you face.
“I was in a car accident when I was eighteen which involved a fire and resulted in my third and fourth-degree burns,” Casey said.
“My burns are hidden with a shirt and/or pants. My legs were amputated initially very low, below the knee.
“With burns and the wounds being open, infections developed, and blood flow was also lost and my legs were amputated right above the knee on my left limb and my right residual limb only has two inches of femur left.
“My recovery was and is very extensive; I’ve had over fifty surgeries. Initially I was at the University of Maryland shock trauma for my head injuries.
“I had two mini strokes and ended up with stents in the arteries in my neck. From there I went to Johns Hopkins Bayview for my burns.
“I had so many surgeries for all of my skin grafts. I also had surgeries for my initial amputations and amputation revisions.
“I have pins in my right pelvic bone, I’ve had my muscles in my stomach put back together a few times, gallbladder stones / removal, hernia surgeries.
“Most recently [I had] surgeries on my burns to smooth them out which helps with the fit of my prosthetics. I’m still currently getting surgeries to smooth out my skin grafts since they’re done in rounds.
“I knew in the back of my head I had [lost my legs], I just needed someone (my dad) to tell me it was real, I asked if I could use a wheelchair.
“I was so young at the time and I was (still am) so stubborn that I just knew the worst thing that would happen is I have to use prosthetics to walk and I have scars on me, I’m pretty dang lucky, all things considered.
“After I came to the realisation that I had lost both my legs in a horrible car fire, I knew my life would never be the same; there was no going back.
“This was my new normal. I went up to Boston to an amazing rehabilitation hospital and quickly learned just how well off I was considering how bad things could’ve easily been.
“I had to gain every little muscle back that I lost whilst lying in a hospital bed in the burn intensive care unit (ICU) for five months; muscles I had no idea were even there.
“I had to learn how to balance while sitting again and this time with no legs. I had to learn to do everything again, and this time a totally different way.”
Casey says that although she has appreciated her life in a different way after the accident, there were some aspects of her life that had changed forever, for example, her social life, as some of her friends cut ties with her.
“My recovery was long; I was in the burn ICU for five months and then rehabilitation hospital for two months,” she said.
“After all that, I’ve had to stay in the hospital for an extensive period for my surgeries the following years. It took me quite some time to get used to my new normal. Now I feel no different than anyone else.
“I just go about things differently and can take me a little longer, but I feel no different than anyone else. Prior to my accident I had gone out every day, every night. I lived a very active and social life with my friends.
“That changed once my accident happened; I had plenty of friends there for me initially, but after a while I lost so many friends.
“I lost the ability to do so many things that an able-bodied person can do without any effort. It was harder for me to do certain things and go certain places, so I didn’t get invited places or included in things.
“There was a period when I felt very alone and isolated. I know it must have affected my family since we were no longer going on trips.
“Even though I’m now independent, there was a time that I wasn’t, and they definitely had to change things in order to accommodate my disability.
“My family was amazing whilst I was going through everything initially; I always had someone at the hospital for me every day.
“My sister even lived a short walk from my rehabilitation hospital in Boston after my accident. The friends that did stick by my side after everything have always been great and extremely supportive of me and my journey.
“Within the last year plus, my boyfriend has been amazing with everything from my surgeries to my physical therapy where I would walk using my prosthetics, and all around wants the best for me when it comes to everything I’m getting involved in out here in Colorado.
“My accident changed my life in ways more than just the obvious losing my legs. I have a different perspective on life that I don’t think I would have even gotten from age, but because I survived what I did.
“So many things just don’t bother me or aren’t as big of a deal to me as they seem to be to others. I’ve been through horrible pain and hard times and I always remember that when things get ‘bad’, they could always be worse.”