‘She may never walk again,’ my doctor said. ‘Like hell,’ I thought. I was 17. I’d been in a car accident.’: Single mom overcomes crippling car accident, alcoholism, daughter’s autism diagnosis, says ‘don’t count yourself out’

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“‘She may not ever be able to walk again,’ is all I heard my doctor solemnly state to my mother.

‘Like hell,’ I thought to myself.

At this point I was 17 years old and had been in traction for the past 21 days. Three weeks earlier I had been in a car accident where I pulled out too hard onto a wet road, my tires losing grip with the blacktop and slamming us into a telephone pole. My little Toyota cracked the pole in half… the pole got revenge on me by falling full force on top of my hood and roof.

The concussive force of the accident pushed my knees into my chest, causing my hip and pelvis to break in several places. To make matters worse, I was now tangled in my car and there were wires dangling dangerously close to the rain puddles around the car. They wanted to cut me out, but I wasn’t having it. I just pulled myself through the shattered window, which caused the front of my calves to get sliced to shreds.

Courtesy of Kim Romanik

Eventually, I got out of traction because the swelling had gone down and they performed a 9-hour surgery. I ended up with multiple metal plates in my hip. The next day, a physical therapist who looked like Rob Thomas came in and told me we were going for a walk. I remember wondering how I was going to do this while my leg was just hanging there below me — heavy like a dead body. With a walker, I kinda dragged it behind me like a zombie. That was the beginning of two years of physical therapy.

Eventually, I started working a very physical job at the SPCA. The job was good for me because it kept me constantly moving and learning. I ended up staying there for 12 years. During this time I ended up getting back into fitness.

The more I worked out, the stronger I felt. I began encouraging others to take control of their lives and health, all while being a big hypocrite and drinking heavily.

I ended up with major compassion fatigue from euthanizing animals for my job. I pushed down my emotions and drank to keep them out of sight. This led to a bad pattern. I alienated a lot of people and didn’t really care about anyone but my new husband and our life together.

Eventually, the marriage broke down too and we were discussing splitting. Right before I was about to move out, I found out I was pregnant. I had already taken a break from drinking four weeks prior to this because I hadn’t been feeling good and quit going out as much since my best friend had left the state.

We decided to try to raise my daughter together, which was a struggle. We had different child raising ideas and butted heads a lot. My daughter V hardly ever slept longer than two hours and didn’t nap. I was running on fumes. I was on Prozac at this point and didn’t realize I was also experiencing postpartum depression. I felt like I’d made a huge mistake becoming a mom. I felt like I wasn’t good at this.

Courtesy of Kim Romanik

The doctor started to get concerned when V was about 9 months old and she wasn’t hitting milestones. They sent us for test after test at children’s hospitals up until she was diagnosed with severe autism at 3, and an intellectual disability at 5. At this point she wasn’t sleeping longer than four hours a night, and then was up and ready for the day. She would wake up screaming from night terrors and I was pretty sure we would get kicked out of our apartment. Thankfully we didn’t.

Courtesy of Kim Romanik

Fast forward, the doctors began to try meds with her, and we had ABA therapists at our house every day during the week for 4 years. They taught her a lot of skills to handle her emotions and follow directions. A teacher started coming weekly to work with her to prep preschool stuff. At this point, my daughter was still very violent and biting. We went through a crew of teachers before one would stay. Eventually, the meds started to work and she could begin school. At this time, she started having seizures. She had a pretty bad one at school and hit her head on the balance beam. It was insanely scary, but the paramedics tried to make me laugh the whole ride to the hospital. Because of this, I have great respect for emergency workers.

Courtesy of Kim Romanik

We went through a 17-hour test where we had to stay in a room with leads glued to V’s head checking for seizure activity.  That was a long night. The test showed nothing, which was frustrating. V still wasn’t really sleeping and the meds weren’t helping. Some time passed and we ended up seeing a psychiatrist. It took me forever to find one that would even help V because she’s nonverbal, so I was super thankful. V got on the correct meds and began sleeping. We haven’t had any seizures this year — knock on wood — so hopefully we are through that season of our lives.

Throughout all of this, I drank to cope. I was exhausted, depressed and felt like I was a terrible mom. My marriage ended explosively. I had stopped drinking for two years and started right back up. That was four years ago. I finally decided that enough was enough when my daughter started to want to copy everything I do. She reached for my beer, and I remember deciding right then and there, it was time to be done for good.

That was eight months ago.

Courtesy of Kim Romanik

My life has greatly improved since then. I am coaching with a crew that I love now and finally getting to put my personal training education to great use. I’m helping people get healthy while healing myself. I’m a better, present mom and V is thriving and starting to talk a little. We have our own happy little apartment where she feels safe to grow up.

That was really all I ever wanted. I lost myself through all of this. I’m happy to report that I find myself more and more as the days go by because I devote a ton of time to personal development and learning from others. Don’t count yourself out. There is nothing in life that you can’t make better!”

Courtesy of Kim Romanik

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kim Romanik. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more inspiring stories of single moms:

‘Hours shy of our wedding, at 5 months pregnant, I was assaulted. My fiancé sat in the fetal position, berating himself. ‘I don’t know what is wrong with me,’ he said, begging me to forgive him.’

‘MOM YOU DID IT!’ I had gone from a married stay-at-home, homeschooling mother, to a single mom of 4 and nursing school graduate. And then it finally happened. I cried.’: Single mom’s empowering journey navigating ‘messy divorce’

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