Twenty- three-year-old Jamie Loeppky’s spirit was tested and she amazed everyone with her courage.
“She’s a miracle,” mom Lorna said.
It was an ordinary vacation to Mexico, something Jamie has enjoyed many times before.
“We were looking for somewhere new to visit,” she said. So Jamie, her boyfriend Adam and friends Jesse and Anita headed to San Jose Cabo, anticipating lots of sun, sand and Mexican hospitality.
They arrived May 11 at around 2:30 in the afternoon ready to experience all the resort and surrounding area had to offer. The afternoon was spent swimming, lounging in the sun and just relaxing.
They were only five hours into their holiday when things went very wrong.
Returning to her room from the pool, Jamie stubbed her toe on a piece of patio furniture and she very gently touched her patio glass door.
“The window broke and I went right through it – all of the glass smashed down to the tile floor and on top of me,” Jamie remembers.
“I immediately stood up and walked back outside. I knew my leg was hurting and there was blood everywhere.”
Adam and Jesse kicked into action, grabbing a towel and tying it as tight as they could around Jamie’s right leg above the five-inch wide gash that went from one side of her calf to the other. With several Canadian guests offering first aid immediately, the ambulance arrived within minutes and whisked Jamie to a medical facility where they did their best to stem the flow of blood and stabilize her injury.
“I thought I needed a few stitches and would be back to explore the resort in an hour or so,” she added.
However, Jamie’s condition was extreme. She had severed the popliteal artery, an extension of the femoral artery in the leg. After applying a medical tourniquet and sedating Jamie, she was transferred to another medical facility where they performed a nine-hour surgery in an attempt to repair the artery, muscles and nerves. She also had extensive tendon damage to her right hand and numerous deep cuts on her body.
Meanwhile, back in Quesnel Lorna and husband Don had been wondering earlier in the evening how the kids were enjoying their vacation.
The phone rang at 11:36 p.m., Friday night, awakening them with news that every parent dreads. It was Adam bearing the bad news that Jamie had been in an accident.
“My first question was….yes but she’s going to be okay?”
Adam’s response was like a bombshell, “We don’t know.”
Unbeknownst to Jamie’s family back in Quesnel, Adam, Jesse and Anita had already been told that Jamie probably would not survive. She had lost more than 70 per cent of her body’s blood and they were doing everything they could to keep her alive.
The next few hours were a blur, between the financial demands and the emotional stress, Lorna, Don and Adam’s family scrambled to manage the emergency from almost 4,000 kilometres away.
“We’re so grateful they were with friends,” Lorna said.
Adam never left Jamie’s side and Jesse and Anita were able to help facilitate the financial details they were suddenly faced with. Medical insurance had been purchased but it was not accepted.
Jamie survived the operation and was transferred to a third hospital (ICU) where she was eventually deemed stable and was considered fit to transport back to Canada early Sunday morning. Lorna, Don, Jamie’s sister Lori and Adam’s mother Sue flew to Vancouver soon after the news of the accident and were waiting patiently.
“It was the longest two days of our lives,” Lorna added. American paramedics picked Jamie up and she and Adam arrived at Vancouver General Hospital at 6 p.m. Sunday evening, May 13. Jamie was admitted to the intensive care unit in critical condition.
“You can imagine how it feels to see your child with all the life support equipment attached to her, “ Lorna said.
“We were so relieved to have her home and in Canada but she was a very sick girl.”
The hospital staff had some difficulty deciphering the Spanish medical records from Mexico so they began doing their own assessments immediately. Jamie and her family were advised within three hours that she would most likely be faced with an amputation of her right leg.
Jamie said, “There’s no way I’m going to lose my leg….I’m 23 years old!”
Drawing on the best medical procedures, the vascular team at VGH did everything they could.
“I never thought I would lose my leg,” Jamie admitted. They performed an additional surgery in hopes that it would control the swelling and give Jamie some time to fight to save her leg.
On May 16, Jamie’s hand was
operated on as the repair to the tendons done by the Mexican doctors had
failed – and the leg wasn’t looking good either.
“Your world shrinks to about four inches on either side of you and about seven inches in front of your face,” Lorna said.
“Jamie’s survival was all that we cared about and all that we could focus on.”
On May 26, Jamie’s right leg was amputated three inches above the knee. Infection again threatened Jamie’s life and she was left with no choice.
“Jamie was amazing through this whole ordeal,” Lorna said.
“It was a long two weeks trying to save that leg and she continued to be an inspiration to us all. The stress and pain was unbelievable and Adam never left her side. We could feel everyone’s prayers and positive energy coming our way, it was overwhelming.” A prayer chain had been set up immediately for Jamie and it travelled quickly and spread widely.
“The vascular team, the nurses and the whole staff were phenomenal,” Lorna said.
“After the amputation we finally had a direction,” Jamie said.
“It was time to get on with my life.”
Jamie was discharged from VGH on June 8 and was able to go home for two weeks while her residual limb continued to heal and she regained her strength. Jamie was admitted to G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre as an in-patient on June 25 and remained there for seven weeks. She was learning how to live life as an amputee and spent the first four weeks of her rehab without a prosthesis. Jamie said she became very good at hopping. Finally, Jamie was fitted with a state of the art artificial leg – a C Leg – thanks to the fundraising efforts of caring people in Quesnel and afar.
She’s been walking for almost four weeks now and is mastering stairs, ramps, uneven ground, balance and is gratefully wheelchair free. After seven surgeries and the entire ordeal, Jamie arrived home for a bit of normal life and rest. She’s been swimming and visiting with friends and eagerly embracing life. She will be returning to G. F. Strong as an out-patient for two to three months, undergoing intense training with her new artificial leg.
“I knew it would be okay, I was never depressed and certainly never felt I was near death.” Jamie said.
She knows life will be different (she’ll always have to work 65 per cent harder than non-amputees just to move) however, her optimism and spirit are unshakable. She expects it will be about a year before she can return to her stylist career at Attitude South and added her employer has been fantastic. “Right now I need two crutches, but the next level is one crutch, then a cane, then free at last.” Jamie said with a big smile.
“I will walk and no one will know I have a prosthetic. I love my leg.”
Lorna said with tremendous pride, “Jamie has always been out there
and proud, never trying to hide her condition. People stare, not to be mean, just out of curiosity and it doesn’t bother her.”
Jamie added, people need to educate their children and they shouldn’t be afraid to ask what happened.
“We’re blessed with a miracle,” Lorna said.
“We got the very best of a bad situation. We know lots of people have faced terrible situations and we’re so grateful Jamie’s future is so bright.”
Jamie said one of her biggest frustrations is the loss of independence but is confident she’ll find a way to do what she needs to do – a return to work, marriage, children, she sees it all in her future.
A rush of emotion flowed from both women as they spoke of the amazing support from all corners of the community.
“The generosity in Quesnel is unbelievable,” Lorna said.
And the women agreed on one other upshot of this whole experience, neither ever plan to travel to a third world country again.
“We all buy medical travel insurance and we take it for granted that proper medical care is nearby and
we never think
about it again,” Lorna said.
“It’s important to read the fine print and check into hospital facilities before going on your holiday.
“You just never know when it might happen to you.”
Jamie and Adam want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone.
Effort put towards fundraising has been outstanding and they are humbled by people’s generosity, love and support.
Every little bit really is making a difference and they are truly grateful.