Leland’s story: hope and healing after a serious injury

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By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist

 

The date was Feb. 6, 2017. Carpenter Leland Elgin was hard at work cutting a piece of flooring on a table saw. Just as he reached the end, the piece kicked back toward the blade, taking his left hand with it. His thumb and three fingers were severed.Leland working with physical therapy to regain strength from his hand injury

“I looked at my hand and everything was just dangling there,” he recalled. “I must’ve gone into shock right away because I just kept on walking right to the ambulance and got in.”

The emergency department physician at TCHC determined that Leland needed extensive surgical intervention, so he was airlifted to North Memorial in the Cities. A nearly 10-hour surgery connected Leland’s digits back to his hand, transferring veins and nerves from other parts of his body to restore feeling in his fingers.

“It’s unreal what they can do,” he said. Unfortunately, his index finger was too damaged and couldn’t be saved.

Within the first month and a half following his accident, Leland had six surgeries, and then he was ready to start physical therapy.

Because Leland lives near Bertha and Eagle Bend, he chose rehabilitation at TCHC’s Bertha Physical Therapy Clinic with Travis Rasinski, DPT. They started with mobilization in his fingers to loosen the scar tissue and kept his hand wrapped to reduce swelling.

“They wanted to get it limbered up because everything was stiff. Nothing worked,” Leland said. “When we first started, Travis was just trying to get everything moving. It’s kind of weird because you can hear it breaking loose every so often, but Travis loves it.”

Leland working with Rehab to restore function in his hand after a serious injury.Travis worked manually with each finger and coached Leland through exercises such as picking up objects, turning keys and working with weights.

After three months, Leland returned to work. It helped to keep him occupied, as well as contributed to the healing process. “I was going crazy sitting at home,” he said. “At first, it was a little tough. It seemed like a lot harder work. It’s just overcompensating for what you can’t do with that hand and figuring out different ways to do things. You get used to it.”

A surgery scheduled in September was meant to connect Leland’s tendons to return independent movement to his fingers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t successful.

Leland resumed physical therapy, where Travis used ultrasound to soften the new scar tissue and worked to loosen the joints in each finger. He also stabilized Leland’s right shoulder to compensate for the extra use.

After months of work, they restored the movement in his elbow and wrist and got some range of motion back in his first knuckles. However, his grip strength and functional capacity will never go back to normal.

“It’s a unique case for sure. You forget what you take for granted,” Travis said. “Leland’s a highly motivated, hard-working patient.”Leland Elgin and physical therapist, Travis Rasinksi

Leland credits his incredible surgeons and Travis’ hard work with getting him to where he is today in terms of functionality.

It’s been almost exactly a year since the accident, and throughout that time, Leland has experienced a range of triumphs and setbacks, both physically and emotionally. But he’s not letting it keep him down.

“At first I kinda thought, ‘Oh, great.’ Then I realized it is what it is, and I’ve just got to do the best I can with it,” he said, and he had the same message for others who may be experiencing physical difficulties. “Push as hard as you can. Do as much as you can do. Something will come around. Something will work out. It’s just figuring out different ways to do it.”

 

 

Photo of Jessica Sly, the author for this blog post.About the Author: Jessica Sly has been working as a communication specialist at TCHC since May 2017. A Wadena native, she graduated from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul in 2012 with a degree in English with a writing concentration. She is a word nerd, lover of all things Disney, self-proclaimed crazy cat lady and devoted Minnesota Vikings fan (SKOL).


Concussions: An Athletic Trainer’s Perspective

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Concussions, type it into Google© and you will end up with 14,500,000 results and all those articles can leave you with your head spinning in hundreds of different directions. Many of us hear about concussions daily and probably see something about them on the national news almost every night. If you have a child who plays sports you may be wondering if you should continue to let them play. I’m here to tell you that yes concussions can be scary, but that doesn’t mean we should wrap our children in bubble wrap and sit them on the couch.

So, what exactly is a concussion? A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It occurs when direct and indirect forces are applied to the skull that result in the brain either rapidly accelerating or decelerating. This causes impairment of the brains functions.

The symptoms of a concussion can vary and all of them do not need to be present for you to be diagnosed with a concussion. Symptoms include a loss of consciousness, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, poor balance, sensitivity to light, ringing in ears and sensitivity to noise, blurred vision, poor concentration, memory problems, drowsiness, fatigue, sadness, depression, irritability and neck pain.

A word of caution here: NO concussion is the same. If someone you know gets a concussion, don’t diagnosis yourself with their symptoms. People will react differently to them and there’s no set timeline saying how long a concussion will last.

One of the biggest things I think people forget is that concussions don’t just happen in sports. They can happen doing almost anything. Yes, anything! Sure, they are more likely in sports; however, you could be walking out to get your mail and get a concussion because you slipped on the ice and hit your head. You could be heading out to do your favorite winter activity like ice fishing and get a concussion because you slipped and bumped your head on the ground. Anyone can get a concussion.

So what do we do about concussions? In the sports medicine world, if we suspect a concussion in an athlete we remove them from the game and do a sideline assessment. This consists of rating symptoms on a scale of 0 to 6, immediate memory questions, concentration exercises, an eye/pupil exam and motor and balance exercises. We also check to ensure that all cranial nerves are functioning during this time. Once an athlete is diagnosed with a concussion they can’t return to play until they are symptom free and they have completed the “Return to Play” protocol. The “Return to Play” protocol lasts four days with each day consisting of the athlete gradually getting a little more into practice. The student athlete must remain symptom free through this protocol and if they don’t, then they go back and start over once symptom free again.

It is hard for anyone to completely prevent a concussion, but there are things we can do. We can make sure football and hockey players have up-to-date helmets and that our athletes/children are learning proper hitting and tackling techniques. We can educate coaches, parents and athletes about concussions, their symptoms and the importance of early diagnosis. If a concussion goes undiagnosed or an athlete returns to play before it is resolved it can have long-term effects, including post-concussion syndrome or second impact syndrome. Individuals with post-concussion syndrome can have concussion symptoms that persist for more than three months. Second impact syndrome is when a patient receives a second concussion before the first one is resolved.

Yes, concussions can be scary. That is why parents and coaches need to be aware of concussions, what the symptoms are, understand they can happen to anyone and know if you suspect a concussion to make sure the individual sees a health care professional as soon as possible. Early diagnosis will help the student athlete get back to the sport they love and help an adult get back to their daily activities sooner.

Bubble wrap not necessary.

 

About the author:

4x5 Maninga Sarah
Sarah Maninga has been the Athletic Trainer at Tri-County Health Care since January 2015. Her services are contracted with the Wadena Deer Creek and Sebeka schools. When she is not busy at the schools, she enjoys spending time with her husband on their small farm near Menahga and doing anything that involves the outdoors.