Cover story: Courtney Ploucha

COURTNEYINSIDECourtney Ploucha, 36, is a registered nurse in the post anesthesia department at Sparrow Hospital. On August 31, 2013 a car pulled out in front her, causing an accident that, among other things, ruptured her left eye. It’s been quite a journey back for Ploucha, but it’s one about family, friendship and fitness. Here’s the backstory of this month’s eye-patch rockin’, rooting-for-the-Walking Dead’s Governor, cover model.

Tell us about your car accident

On August 31, 2013 a car pulled out in front of me. They were pulling out of the Frandor parking lot and thought that Saginaw was a two way street so they never saw me. My airbags deployed, causing blunt force trauma to the left side of my face.It caused multiple traumatic facial fractures and ruptured my left eye globe.I remember the terrible pain and fear felt while I waited for the ambulance. I could hear the sirens in the distance but it felt like I waited forever. On a funny side note, I was wearing my favorite Lululemon top and when I reached the ER I would not let the doctors cut my shirt off. They were very nice and managed to take it off even though I was in a neck brace and on a back board.

You lost your eye? 

I remember being in the ER and the doctor shined a light into my left eye and I saw nothing at all. I heard her tell the nurse that she was not able to visualize my globe, that I had lost my eye. That was the scariest moment of my life. I can’t begin to describe the emotions and thoughts that went through my mind at that time, it was just so surreal. I was transferred to the University of Michigan because they have retinal specialists there. I had my first surgery that night where they attempted to sew my globe back together, that surgery was unsuccessful. On Sept 9, 2013 I had a second surgery in which they removed my left eye and placed the implant. Plate and screws were also placed to fix my fractured cheek.  Recovery was difficult but luckily I had my dad and step mom staying with me to help.  The support that people showed me was unbelievable and I could never thank them enough. I had to wear an eye patch for close to four months while I healed. I was self conscious at first but I learned to love my patch, it became a part of who I was. On Feb 3, 2014 I received my prosthetic shell, that day will go down as the happiest day of my life. The feeling I felt when I looked in the mirror and had two eyes was indescribable. Greg Dootz is the ocularist that made my eye and he is truly my hero. Losing an eye is certainly a life changing event but I always remind myself that it could have been so much worse and that I am a very lucky person.  I definitely appreciate life more now and am thankful for everything I have learned through the healing process. I still have a long road ahead of me but I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

How has recovery been? Is it getting easier to deal with?

My recovery has been long and difficult and I still have a long way to go. At times the pain is all consuming, which is hard to deal with. There are moments when it is hard to stay positive, where I just want to stay in bed and not face the world.  But, I know how important it is to stay positive and to keep moving forward. The one thing I never want is for people to feel sorry for me because of my injury. I have the most wonderful support system which has helped so much. I would not be where I am now without their encouragement. I get frustrated at times because things that I use to take for granted are difficult now, such as driving. I am learning to adapt to the changes and every day things do become a little easier.

What’s the long term prognosis?

My doctors at The Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor and The Sparrow Pain Clinic are not able to give me any long term prognosis because they have never seen an injury like mine. I do know that I will have multiple surgeries throughout my life, my next one being this summer.

Have you met others who have lost an eye? If so, how has that been?

My brother, Tyler, is blind in his right eye from a childhood accident. He was the one at my bedside in the ER at Sparrow when the doctor told me that I had lost my eye. He has been my biggest supporter and advocate ever since that day. Tyler and I have always been very close but our injuries have made us so much closer. He knows what I am going through like no one else can. I have been able to talk to him and share things with him that I am not able to with other people because he “gets it.” He has also been there to make me laugh when all I wanted to do is cry. He has inspired me to never give up.

It hasn’t slowed you down from working out, right?

For the first two months after my accident I was not able to workout at all. When I finally was able to get back into the gym I had a lot of restrictions. I had lost a lot of strength and coordination as well. My trainer, Kyle worked very closely with me to help me regain my strength. He had to modify a lot of my workouts to make sure that I didn’t increase the pressure in my eye socket. My depth perception and coordination were greatly effected with the loss of the vision in my left eye, so we also worked on improving that.  Kyle has been amazing, he is always there to help me and keep me motivated when I get frustrated about not being able to do what I use to. I never use my injury as an excuse to not workout that is for sure. The hour a day I spend in the gym is the one time of the day where I am able to forget about everything that has happened. The support that the members and trainers of my gym have shown me is one of things that has helped me to cope with my injury.

How many times a week do you work out? Why?

I workout five to six days a week at State of Fitness. Working out is the time where I can just forget about everything else that is going on, especially since my car accident.  I have a very significant familial history of heart disease, my father had a MI and quadruple coronary bypass in his 40s. I do not want to follow that path so I do what I can to stay active and healthy. Plus, it is a great feeling knowing that I am improving myself and becoming stronger every day.

What’s your favorite kind of workout?

I enjoy strength based workouts. I have been working on Olympic Lifts. Split jerks are by far my favorite. There is nothing more rewarding than setting new PRs. I was also an avid mountain biker before my accident and I am hoping to be able to do it again soon.

Has it evolved over the years?

I have always been an active person, but never had an actual workout plan or fitness goal. I joined State of Fitness three 3 years ago and since then I have become more interested in exercise and strength training. I set goals with my trainer and love when I can accomplish them. I also enjoy the group setting workouts because there is always someone there to motivate me to work harder than I would on my own. I look forward to working out now. I work out because I truly enjoy it, not because I feel like it is something that I have to do.

How’s your diet? 

My diet has always been my down fall. I try to eat healthy meals but I have a large sweet tooth. I will never be able to completely cut sweets out of my die but I do try to eat them in moderation.I don’t follow any specific diet plan, just try to have balanced meals.  I have never been a big fan of cooking but I am slowly learning that it can be fun.

Any challenges you’ve faced with that?

The challenges I face with eating is that I love desserts and don’t really care much for vegetables. This year I made a goal to try new veggies that I wouldn’t have in the past. I have had high cholesterol my entire life so I try to eat as healthy as possible.

Favorite character on Walking Dead and why:

People are not going to like my answer but I would have to say that my favorite character was the Governor. I started watching The Walking Dead when I was recovering from the accident and I loved that the Governor wore an eye patch and was a badass.

Advice for others who have faced adversity: 

My advice for others would be to stay positive and always keep a sense of humor about life. My injury was life changing, and I could have gone one of two ways. I chose to stay positive and be thankful for what I had. Of course there are still bad days but I try hard to make the best of them.You have to learn to have a thick skin because not everyone is going to understand what you are going through. At the same time you can’t expect them to because they are not in the situation. For me this is one of the more difficult things to deal with.

 

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