Danishka Perez Casillas
At 27-years-old, it is hard to imagine an injury so severe, it causes the loss of the ability to live independently. Danishka Perez Casillas is a mother and wife who loves to cook, travel, and any outdoor activities with her family. It is tradition for her and the family to drive the 18 hour trip from Texas to Florida on New Year’s Eve. During that trip, a cargo truck hit them, impacting the passenger side of the car, leading to Danishka’s life-changing injuries.
After a 911 call, her husband immediately went to help the kids and Danishka out of the car. When he came to get her out, Danishka realized she was stuck, “I could tell my leg was broken right away. I could not see below my knee but I knew something was wrong by the way my thigh looked.”
Once the ambulance arrived, it took two hours to release her leg from the van door, resorting to cutting the frame to fully get her out. Danishka was taken to HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital where an examination and an MRI took place to determine surgery was needed immediately. She underwent a five hour surgery on her leg to fix her femur and tibia, having a fibular reduction along with IM nailing of the tibia and femur. “Following the surgery, I was given a knee immobilizer and a non-weight-bearing status for six to 12 weeks,” she said. Unable to walk, get out of bed, dress, bathe or do anything herself, Danishka looked into rehabilitation centers to figure out how to manage this new situation and ultimately become herself again.
A Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) employee, she knew the Lakeway location was nearby and one of the highest rated centers that could help complete her goal of independent living. The care team understood this goal and knew what she had to do to regain full mobility.
When she first entered BSWIR – Lakeway, Danishka was unable to complete any of her self-care activities, get in or out of a bed, or even move by herself. Her care team focused on physical and occupational therapy to regain her strength and balance. Each department had specific tools, goals and areas of focus where Danishka needed improvement. The physical therapists focused on regaining the strength in her leg, working on straight leg raises, hip extensions and other exercises to rebuild the muscle.
After she regained her strength in her leg, the occupational therapist focused on more specific activities of daily living. “I practiced getting in and out of a car, getting in and out of a normal bed and walking all over the facility.” She recalled that getting in and out of a normal [non-hospital] bed to the wheelchair by herself was her ah-ha moment. “I could not use my leg. Now when the nurses come, I tell them that I can do this by myself. I know that I will be able to get in and out of bed when I get home.”
Another aspect that really pushed Danishka were the group activities. Knowing that she wasn’t alone in this process helped her to keep going and not give up. She said, “I was able to see them pushing me and me pushing them to do exercises and get stronger.”
Thanks to the care and dedication of her team, Danishka is now able to complete her daily routines independently and is walking over 200 feet at a time with a walker. “My team has pushed me hard to put in the work, they have encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and get better even when I was very tired and not in a good mood because of the whole traumatic experience.”
Danishka was excited to get back to work, be a mom, cook, sleep in her own bed and live an independent life again. More than anything she was excited to head home.
After the entire process, Danishka says she feels amazing, “The way that everyone took care of me - I have never been cared for that well. It was even a little fun.” She learned she is much stronger than she thought and more capable of pushing her body to the limit if she set her mind to it.
To anyone dealing with a similar experience, Danishka leaves this advice: “Be patient with yourself. Don’t be scared of pushing yourself to the max. Believe in yourself. Trust the process. You are going to make it.”