Therese Estacion’s outlook is remarkable.
Less than two years after a rare bacterial infection led to the amputation of both her legs below the knee and some fingers, the 35 year-old Toronto teacher proclaims with absolute confidence and will, ‘This is my new body!’
But the journey to this positive frame of mind was arduous and long. It began after a bacterial infection led to her winding up in a Trail, B.C. hospital. She doesn’t remember much before she fell into a seven-day coma, but Estacion knows her boyfriend and family were told she would not survive the night.
To her family’s elation, she did survive, emerged from the coma and was transferred to hospitals in the GTA. Although her body was still intact, the medication the doctors administered to save her life caused necrosis in her extremities. Despite hoping that the necrotic tissues would heal with time, it became more and more apparent that amputations were necessary.
Estacion’s desire to receive the best care possible led her to West Park and to Amputation Services manager Janet Mulgrave and attending physicians Dr. Steven Dilkas and Dr. Dhillon. She arrived at West Park in October, 2016 and after three weeks of rehabilitation returned to acute care to have her legs amputated. Following the surgery, she returned to West Park for two months of post-amputation therapy. Later, in January 2017, she had parts of her hands amputated and was discharged at the end of February.
Rehabilitation at West Park was life-altering for Estacion.
Her clinical team were instrumental in providing the tools for her to achieve her goals – a return to teaching, hiking, yoga, cooking. The physicians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists were pivotal in her recovery, but Estacion takes special care to thank particular services for her optimistic outlook – Spiritual and Religious Care and Recreation Therapy.
“I had moments of utter despair and grief, emotionally and spiritually during my rehabilitation,” Estacion says. “But (Spiritual & Religious Care Provider) Stephen Hudecki and Recreation Therapy connected with me. They helped me grieve the loss of a fully functioning body and find my way back to myself.”
Estacion stresses West Park provides a complete rehabilitation – body, mind and spirit. “I felt a real kinship with my team. Physically they helped me get stronger, adapt and learn skills to help become independent again. Emotionally and spiritually they enabled me to pursue normalcy again.”
Therese and Spiritual & Religious Care Provider Stephen Hudecki
Normalcy for Estacion and many other patients means resuming driving, meeting friends and family without being dependent on them.
Estacion’s new body has also sharpened her sensitivities regarding mobility issues. “People with mobility issues need safe places to go,” says Estacion. I’m learning so much about accessibility and inclusion. There’s nothing wrong with us, it’s the inaccessible spaces that are the problem. We belong there too.”
Estacion’s plate is full. In addition to her robust family and social life, she’s pursuing her desires to travel, advocate for accessibility through her Instagram account @access_unity, working on a poetry manuscript, and planning to continue her 10-year teaching career at St. Edmund Elementary School, hoping to move from her role as a Grade 6 teacher to that of a guidance counselor.
One of her latest ventures on the road to normalcy with her new body was as a coach for the West Park basketball team at the 2018 Tournament of Stars in March. Estacion, with her zeal for basketball and her strong communication and leadership skills was a natural, spurring on the West Park team of employees, physicians and patients.
Estacion may be in pursuit of normalcy again in her life, but her version of normalcy is extraordinary as she gets her life back.