HUBERTUS - A Hartland woman cheated death, and now she's sharing her amazing story exclusively with us.
To see Janice Johnson today, struggling to get on her horse, you wouldn't necessarily think she's been riding for 30 years. She exclaims, "It's one of those things where you have to get your confidence back, and you know--it's hard!"
But to know what Janice has gone through in the past year, to see her riding at all at Camp Minikani in Hubertus is miraculous.
"It's good to be back," she says
Janice doesn't remember much about October 7th of last year, except it's the day that changed her life forever. A driver ran her over on Appleton and Birch in Milwaukee, right outside Janice's work.
She doesn't remember much, but she says, "They tell me he dragged me, and then I guess he backed up over me again and dragged me about 50-75 feet."
Janice was rushed to the Trauma Center at Froedtert Hospital. She is a nurse by trade, so it was very challenging for her to be on the other side of things at the hospital.
"Technically, I should be dead--just because, the ribs were so shattered," she says matter-of-factly.
But doctors like Thoracic Surgeon Bill Tisol at Froedtert and the Medical College were determined to do their best.
"We were kind of expecting the worst, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst," Dr. Tisol recalls.
Janice had many broken bones, but the biggest concern was those broken ribs caving in on her chest wall. Dr. Tisol explains, "We stabilized one side of the chest wall first, and what we use are these specially designed plates, and screws--almost like an old-fashioned erector set."
While Janice was in a coma for three weeks, her husband asked the doctors one thing--to make sure if she lived, she could ride her horse again. Dr. Tisol says Janice's case was very challenging, and required thinking outside the box. "Sometimes you can't depend on existing medical literature, sometimes you have to write the literature."
The treatments worked! Janice is riding again, and using it as part of her physical therapy: From her hands, to building up her arm and leg strength, to learning how to breathe again.
"I took that all for granted, and now Alex, my instructor is reminding me," Janice says.
Even grooming the horse is still a struggle, but when Janice is riding, she forgets all of that. "It's like feeling, when the wind comes...I feel as if God and the angels are touching me."
Janice has a message for all drivers: "Please, if you miss your intersection, don't back up, because you never know what's there."
She still has a long way to go, but Janice is thankful to her doctors and family for where she is today.
"My team was just phenomenal at Froedtert, and I owe them my life," she says, almost in tears.
This story really shows the importance of having a Level 1 Trauma Center like Froedtert in our backyard.
Another remarkable thing about this case--Dr. Tisol says only a few of these rib stabilization procedures have been done in the entire world.