Donita Walters is an aquatics director with Northwestern School Corporation. She teaches swim lessons, serves as the varsity boys and girls head coach and she’s the definition of a devoted cyclist.
For years, Donita trained to cycle across the United States. Finally, Donita’s dream was about to come true until the day of her last training run on May 24, 2016. Donita was four miles from her house when a truck hit her at 60 mph.
“I can describe a perfect evening leading up to the impact,” said Donita. “I had a slight tail wind; the birds were singing, and I was on top of the world as I had been training for this moment and it was a day away. However, in an instant, everything I had worked for was gone.”
Donita was flown to Ascension at St.Vincent Indianapolis to the Level I Trauma Center in critical, but stable condition. She was in and out of consciousness and can’t recall much of the trip there.
OrthoIndy Trauma is partnered with Ascension at St.Vincent, providing care exclusively at the trauma center located at Ascension at St.Vincent Indianapolis.
OrthoIndy trauma surgeon, Dr. Renn Crichlow was on call that day and rushed Donita to emergency surgery.
“I performed an internal fixation on her fractured pelvis,” said Dr. Crichlow. Internal fixation is a surgical procedure that stabilizes and joins the ends of fractured bones by devices such as metal plates, rods, screws or pins.
Dr. Crichlow continued, “As Donita was recovering after her first surgery, which can take up to five months to recover from, she began to have hip and shoulder pain. We later found out she had damaged cartilage in her hip. That’s when Donita met with Dr. Jelen.”
OrthoIndy trauma surgeon, Dr. Bradley Jelen reexamined Donita four months after her initial injury.
An MRI confirmed by Dr. Jelen showed Donita had a labral tear and hip flexor tendonitis. “After my evaluation and given Donita’s symptoms and MRI findings, I recommended arthroscopy of the right hip, repair of the labrum and lengthening of the hip flexor tendon,” said Dr. Jelen.
In November of 2016, Dr. Jelen performed surgery on Donita at OrthoIndy Hospital Main. This procedure involves using an arthroscope (camera) in the hip joint to repair and reattach the labrum to the hip socket (acetabulum) as well as lengthen the hip flexor tendon. The recovery for this procedure can take anywhere between two to three months.
Donita improved significantly after surgery which allowed her to continue to participate in physical therapy. However, she was not done with surgery as she would still need to have another surgery with Dr. Crichlow to remove the hardware from her first procedure.
Recovery from multiple surgeries
“When you’re a trauma patient that is flown into a trauma center you don’t get to pick your doctors,” said Donita. “I completely believe God had his hands in the doctors that were sent to my side. Once I learned of Dr. Crichlow’s athletic past, I was completely at ease knowing he was there to help me get back to what I love.”
Donita continued, “Dr. Jelen’s bedside manner was one that would give me such peace of mind. He would call me a miracle and discuss how miraculous my recovery was.”
Even though Donita drove over an hour for her follow-up appointments with Drs. Crichlow and Jelen, she always looked forward to it. “I enjoyed sharing my progress with them,” said Donita. “It was as if they were my coach and I was the athlete. The roles were reversed for me; I was used to being the coach, now I needed to be coached!”
This traumatic accident changed Donita’s life forever. Donita endured two years of physical therapy and required around the clock care for the first year. It took her over a year to finally be able to drive, but step by step Donita began feeling more like herself.
“At three and a half years post-accident, I am doing incredible!” Donita said. “There isn’t a day that goes by that one part of my body doesn’t remind me I was in a bad accident, but I choose to live every day to the fullest and stay positive.”
Back to the bucket list
Donita has not given up on her dream of cycling across the United States. In fact, she plans on checking it off her bucket list in 2021. “Before I thought crossing the United States on a bike was just something people do, now it has a whole new meaning to me.”
“Donita was very invested in her recovery. She was committed to getting back to cycling and crossing it off her bucket list,” said Dr. Crichlow. “She did everything we asked of her. She’s a detailed, strong and hardworking person.”
Donita would like to thank all of OrthoIndy, especially Drs. Crichlow and Jelen. “While this journey is not one I would have chosen, I feel I am a better person because of everything that has happened. I have met with and prayed for the young lady who hit me, and she will forever be a part of my story; I have no ill feelings towards her. I want her to be okay as much as I want to ride across the United States.”
To schedule an appointment with Drs. Crichlow or Jelen, please call 317.917.4384 (Crichlow) or 317.918.4368 (Jelen) or request an appointment online at OrthoIndy.com/request.
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