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Back on Her Feet: Woman Injured in Sharon Deck Collapse Makes Long Recovery

  • Karen Crane of Idaho hugs Mark Giovagnoli, a Physical Therapy Assistant, at the end of their last therapy session together at Genesis Health in Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2013. Crane, who broke both legs on July 4th when a deck she was on collapsed, has been recovering at Genesis since the accident. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Karen Crane of Idaho hugs Mark Giovagnoli, a Physical Therapy Assistant, at the end of their last therapy session together at Genesis Health in Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2013. Crane, who broke both legs on July 4th when a deck she was on collapsed, has been recovering at Genesis since the accident.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Karen Crane of Idaho sports a brand-new pair of sneakers she bought herself to celebrate being able to walk again at Genesis in Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2013. Doctors cleared Crane to begin to put weight on her legs on September 23rd, and she is currently transitioning from a walker to a cane. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Karen Crane of Idaho sports a brand-new pair of sneakers she bought herself to celebrate being able to walk again at Genesis in Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2013. Doctors cleared Crane to begin to put weight on her legs on September 23rd, and she is currently transitioning from a walker to a cane.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mark Giovagnoli, a Physical Therapy Assistant, keeps a hand on Karen Crane as she walks with a cane for the first time down the halls at Genesis Health in Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Mark Giovagnoli, a Physical Therapy Assistant, keeps a hand on Karen Crane as she walks with a cane for the first time down the halls at Genesis Health in Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Karen Crane of Idaho hugs Mark Giovagnoli, a Physical Therapy Assistant, at the end of their last therapy session together at Genesis Health in Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2013. Crane, who broke both legs on July 4th when a deck she was on collapsed, has been recovering at Genesis since the accident. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Karen Crane of Idaho sports a brand-new pair of sneakers she bought herself to celebrate being able to walk again at Genesis in Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2013. Doctors cleared Crane to begin to put weight on her legs on September 23rd, and she is currently transitioning from a walker to a cane. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Mark Giovagnoli, a Physical Therapy Assistant, keeps a hand on Karen Crane as she walks with a cane for the first time down the halls at Genesis Health in Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Lebanon — Karen Crane had expected to spend her spring, summer and fall working at a campground with her husband in the Upper Valley.

Instead, the 67-year-old Idaho resident has watched the leaves change from her room at Genesis Health Care.

For three months, Crane has been healing from severe injuries she sustained during a July 4th party in Sharon, when a deck collapsed and both her legs were broken. Several other people were hurt in the accident, but none as significantly as Crane, who required three surgeries and was able to put weight on her legs only a month ago.

Today, Crane and her husband, Steven, will drive home to Idaho. Her recovery has been remarkable, according to Genesis staff, though, at times, it has also been difficult and frustratingly slow.

For a woman who planned an active retirement of traveling with her husband of 45 years, the past three months have been as much a mental adjustment as a physical one.

“I just wanted to get better fast,” Crane said Tuesday morning before a day of physical therapy at Genesis in Lebanon. “So I’ve had to learn patience.”

When she attended the July 4th party of friends, family and members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, Crane never imagined she’d be end up in physical rehabilitation . Roughly 15 people crowded onto the deck, about 12 feet off the ground, to watch the fireworks show when suddenly the middle caved in.

“I was just on the deck watching the fireworks and it was starting to rain,” she said. “All of a sudden, I felt wet wood on my legs.”

Around a dozen people were hurt, three of them seriously, Crane said. However, her injuries were the most severe.

Crane’s left leg was caught between the collapsed boards and her right leg splayed 90-degrees from her side. Both legs were broken beneath the knee, her left ankle fractured and her right knee had to be rebuilt.

Three surgeries and several weeks later, she was transported from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to Genesis to begin her long recovery.

It was the worst fractured leg injury that nurse Sharon Snide has seen in her seven years at Genesis, which specializes in rehabiltative and long-term skilled medical care.

“She really couldn’t move at all when she got to us,” Snide said.

Now, Crane gets around with a walker. Eventually, with enough therapy and hard work, she should be able to walk on her own. Still, her mobility is significantly improved from two months ago.

“She was in a lot of pain,” said Tammy Ricard, an occupational therapist who worked with Crane. “We just worked on the small things: Rolling up in bed, sitting up, teaching her to move safely. She needed a lot of assistance.”

For even the most basic tasks, like getting dressed or making breakfast, every little step had to be broken down, Ricard said. But her therapy involved more than just working on physical mechanics. The psychological trauma from the accident, and the frustrating pace of her healing, were also important to confront, Ricard said.

“Her anxiety for feeling safe has been very compromised, and with good reason because of what happened,” Ricard said. “But she’s come a long, long way.”

An important part of Crane’s recovery was helping her recognize the progress she was making, Snide said. Crane journaled and developed with Genesis staff coping mechanisms to help her “see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Snide said.

“The physical (healing) sometimes comes second,” Snide said. “(Patients) have to believe they’re going to get better. Because if they don’t believe they’re going to get better, they’re not going to get better.”

A breakthrough came Sept. 23, when Crane could put weight on her legs. Since then, she has made dramatic progress, say her nurses. She continues to develop her upper body and core strength to support herself, and her legs are getting stronger every day.

Crane said she has had the support of her church friends and said the Genesis staff have become like a second family.

But her husband’s support was the most crucial in helping her remain strong. Steven Crane has been living in the couple’s motor home on the KOA campgrounds in Quechee, where he has worked all spring, summer and fall. He visits her daily.

Steven Crane said he was always confident that his wife would recover, though he understands she still has a long way to go before she’s back to her old condition.

“From what I understand, it’s going to be another year to get her body back to normal,” he said.

Finances are another question. Medicare and the homeowners’ insurance has covered the hospital and therapy bills to date, but the Cranes realize that the care has been expensive and worry that there will come a point when the insurance stops covering her treatment.

For now, Karen Crane is happy to be walking again and, soon, to be going home.

“I feel good about my condition,” she said. “I know I will have to have more therapy. It will still take several months, at a minimum, to get back to where I was before the accident. You could call me the bionic woman.”

Chris Fleisher can be reached at 603-727-3229 or cfleisher@vnews.com.