Long Road To Recovery

Recovery from an illness, injury or accident can be derailed by feeling hopeless so keeping a positive attitude is imperative.

After brain surgery and 6 weeks in the hospital, my focus was on leaving as soon as possible. When Gerald drove me home, I hung my head out the window and howled with joy. But getting out of the hospital was only the beginning of a long journey.

But after a few days of being home, my euphoria was replaced by reality. I still had a long way to go.

How easily we forget how much we have to be grateful for? Not  long ago I couldn’t walk, talk, move my left arm, read a book, follow a conversation.

Though I am frustrated that I may never run, ride a bike or drive, I am still in the game. I am lucky to have been an athlete raised in a coach’s family. From an early age, training became a way of life.

I work out as if my life depended on it. It does. I set mini goals to walk a little farther, a little faster each day. I continued physical therapy until I had memorized all the exercises I needed to do.

“With your self discipline,” my chiropractor and physical therapist said, “you of anybody doesn’t need PT, just continue the exercises on your own.”

I walk everyday, lift baby dumbbells and practice online “yoga with Adrienne” as she talks me through the postures and breathing techniques while teaching me mindfulness.

Setbacks are part of the recovery process.

My neurologists explained that my recent EEG showed abnormal brain wave activity in the frontal lobes indicating the potential for another epileptic episode.

“Don’t even think about driving yet, or even doing anything involving balance or risk of falling” he said and added, “A full recovery from brain injury takes up to a couple years.”

Years? I fight off disappointment. Getting released from the hospital was only the first step of my journey to recovery.

Progress can be slow and indiscernible.

“Maybe recovery won’t be as fast as you’d like, but you have gotten so much stronger, made so much progress” my daughter reminds me.

“Reframe your expectations. It might take longer than you hoped, but you are getting there. Don’t give up!”

Look for an inspiring role model. Mine is my 89-year-old dad who slide steps holding onto the kitchen counter, lifts weights from his reclining chair and walks around the block everyday.

Depend on a loyal teammate. When I wake up with tears in my eyes wondering how to push through another day, my husband drags me out the door. We walk the fields across from our sublime view of Lake Geneva and the Alps and I chide myself. What am I pouting about?

Surrounded by people who believe wholeheartedly in my ability to recover, when my hope wavers theirs lift me up. So I face each new day whispering my mantra.


“Get up. Get moving. Reframe. Go forward. One step at a time.”

12 thoughts on “Long Road To Recovery”

  1. Thank you for the inspiration, Pat. I just had my knee replaced and often think the recovery should just be over. It is a long slow process. Our daughter, Amy Schnitzler, is a PT and is the best. I often wonder how people recover without an Amy. It was so nice to see pictures of your parents and family. For several years Jim and Lenore stopped to visit us in NewMexico on their way back from Tucson. We are so fortunate to have met them at Nathalie’s basketball games in Stevens Point. When you speak to them, please give them our best. We moved back to Madison, Wisconsin to be closer to to our daughters and hope we will be able to see them again.

    Stay well and safe.

    Mary Schnitzler

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Mary, thank you for commenting on my blog, it was wonderful to hear from you. Like you, I often think this recovery should just be over and that is why the Amy’s in our life are so important. My PT’s have not only helped my body parts heal, but they have also kept my spirits up and made me believe I was making progress even when I couldn’t see it. I know my parents miss their trips to Arizona and seeing you and Jim. They can no longer make the long trip out west, but my sister, Sue, in Yorkville makes sure they back Up North to the beloved cabin every summer. Gerald and were so disappointed we weren’t able see family or our favorite lake due to that darn Covid and travel restrictions. I am so glad that we all met at Nathalie’s basketball games. Happy to hear that you have moved back to Madison and closer to family. Give our best to Jim and stay healthy.

  2. One step at a time is a good mantra, Pat. I’m sorry this happened to you, but I’m glad you can draw inspiration from that beautiful scenery, your encouraging family, and the lessons you picked up from a lifetime around athletics and coaches! Hang in there, my friend. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know, and recovery takes times. You’re in my thoughts and prayers!

  3. Oh, Pat, I really needed to hear your story. Your words of inspiration resonated deeply—I too get discouraged with my recovery. I have to keep reminding myself of the time when I was totally reliant on others to help me with the simplest task, like moving in bed. Progress not perfection. I love your mantra. You are truly an inspiration, a role model for courage, persistence and recovery. Keep healing and shining your light, my dear friend!

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Kathy. I thought of you when I wrote this post because I know how hard you have fought over the last years and yet you have kept your positive attitude intact. I am sure your self discipline and great faith also help. Stay strong!

  4. My dear sister, you remain an inspiration for so many others facing challenges to keep moving forward and to have faith that a positive attitude, a commitment to work hard and sheer perseverance will make the long road to recovery possible. I continue to be awed by your courage, your resiliency, and your fighting spirit. I will always be supporting you and believing in you…… every step of the journey. Love you, Pat.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks sis, a great deal of that courage and resiliency is propelled by your ever present love felt through your daily pep talks and never ending support that fills me with hope.

  5. Amy H. Welzenbach

    Dear Pat,
    Thank you again for your self- reminders and encouragement to others on the road to recovery. Recovery – in all its forms, body, mind, and spirit- comes in such baby steps! Often we are unaware of ANY growth or change or improvement. Your daughter’s wise words are to be remembered. “Look how far you have come!”
    I have often been amazed when I see some of our little special ed kiddos or even my little el students. I wonder: will they ever learn the difference between a letter and a number? or will they ever learn to read? And yet, with practice, and patience and trial and error and trying again, one day a baby step happens. It must be so hard and discouraging at times, but that step does happen. It is progress! It’s time to celebrate!
    I’m so impressed with your resilience, training, work, and sense of humor even when times are so tough. Don’t look for miracles each minute. But each week and month amazing things are happening.
    You ARE recovering! Offering love and encouragement, Amy

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Amy..Since my accident as I struggle to recover my mental faculties, I think of how hard students in my learning support program worked to compensate for all the dysphasia, dyscalculia, dyslexia and all the other learning difficulties. The mind is truly a wonder and tapping into our unique ways of learning and finding ways to overcome gaps is the key to progressing. Keep up your valuable work because these are the ones who need a cheerleader in their corner most of all.

  6. My dear friend please do not forget what an inspiration you have been to others as you have struggled with years of debilitating illness and injury. What a fighting spirit you have! Bask in the love, comfort and encouragement of friends and family and take time for yourself. Each day is a new day. Face it head on and with the courage you always manage to dig down deep to find and fight with. So proud of how far you have come. I often think of how differently this could have turned out and I am so grateful that you are doing so well. Hang in there, Buddy.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Tina. Sure miss having you around as my sidekick, but you continue to transmit your powerful positive energy long distance and I know if I need to be uplifted you are only a phone call away.

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