Published on Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Monica Gonder is on a mission to make her life whole again. From the time her journey started on September 21, 2016, to the present, she has amazed clinicians and inspired fellow patients. The 51-year-old Flint resident had to have her left leg amputated below the knee after a fall at work. At that time her diabetes was out of control and her wound would not heal. One day her ankle collapsed, and she could no longer walk. Her primary care physician, Shafi Ahmed, MD, referred her to McLaren Flint vascular surgeon Christopher Goltz, MD. It was determined amputation was her best option. Monica only saw the positive from that day on.
"I wanted to continue to be the independent person I had been for so many years," states Monica. "I live for my daughters. My youngest is handicapped and she needs help with bathing and transfers. I just had to get better as soon as possible.”
And get better at record speed she did. After surgery she only spent one week on McLaren Flint's Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit because she progressed so well. There, she had to show that she could perform daily functions like getting herself dressed and transferring herself from her wheelchair to her bed. After going home from the hospital, Monica had in-home therapy over the course of several weeks. She also had the love and support of her boyfriend, Kerry, and her oldest daughter who moved back home to help out. On January 10, 2017, she received her first prosthetic leg and was ready to begin outpatient physical therapy at McLaren Flint's Beecher Road location. Once again she was off to a record pace with a smile on her face and no complaints.
"I want to cook, clean, drive and grow old to see my girls grow old," Monica states. "I feel like I was so blessed to have this experience. If it was not for my therapists and the support of my boyfriend and daughter, I would not be walking. I thank God for giving me a second chance."
Monica's therapists have been moved by her focus, her workout ethic and joyful personality. In outpatient physical therapy, the focus has been strengthening her left leg, walking on it correctly and learning to be properly balanced.
"Monica has never been around anyone who has had an amputation," states Karen Humphrey, Physical Therapist at the McLaren Therapy and Sports Medicine Clinic on Beecher Rd. "She has nothing to compare her situation to, so she does not realize how well she has been doing all along. Most people in her situation are sad, frustrated and scared. I have really looked forward to seeing her at her therapy sessions. She is a positive influence on all of us."
In mid-February, Monica began driving again, another step in achieving her return to independence. Her diabetes is under control and her overall health continues to improve. Because of her new leg, and the hours of standing that would be involved, she is putting her 30 years as a restaurant manager behind her, with a new goal of going back to school for accounting.
"I have been around so many positive doctors and therapists," says Monica. "They did their jobs, they showed me everything I need to know; they gave me my life back."
Many would argue that Monica's recovery gave her caregivers a gift that cannot be measured.