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When Ashley Ruelland met her ‘instant’

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Ashley Ruelland

Two-and-a-half years after a head-on collision, Ashley Ruelland is regaining her life.

Life can change in an instant. Ashley Ruelland lived to tell the story of her ‘instant.’

Ruelland, who recently shared her inspiring story at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s President’s Breakfast event, had been living in an apartment with her two cats. Then 27, she was busy working as a construction manager, working part-time as an office administrator, and had started a catering business. She had never really been sick, and had no idea where the Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital was located.

All that changed on Friday, March 13, 2015.

She was driving the bride-to-be and another friend to a bachelorette party in Mont Tremblant. It was a clear day and the three were brimming with excitement.

About an hour from their destination, on Highway 323, a car crossed over the centre line, head on into their lane. That was Ruelland’s ‘instant.’ The noise from the impact was horrific, with the earth-shattering sound of grinding metal and fragmenting glass.

Miraculously, one of the first people on the scene was a resident from The Ottawa Hospital. She quickly assessed how serious Ruelland’s injuries were. It took first responders over an hour to extricate her from the car. She was rushed to the Hull Hospital, but because of the severity of her injuries, she was transferred to the region’s only trauma centre at The Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus.

While her friends had relatively minor injuries, Ruelland had a grocery list of broken bones: from her right big toe to her ribs and just about everything in between. Most significant were an open compound femur fracture, an open left elbow fracture, right humerus fracture, crushed and broken left and right foot and ankle fractures, an open-book pelvis fracture, and multiple broken lumbar vertebrae.

Ashley Ruelland with pet cat

Ashley Ruelland spent nine months in The Ottawa Hospital recovering from her injuries, which included a long list of broken bones. Visitors included her mother, Cheryl Ruelland-Jackson (left); therapy cat Pecan, of Therapeutic Paws of Canada; and her brother, Robbie Ruelland.

“This lady’s life changed forever that day,” said Dr. Guy Hebert, Head of the Department of Emergency Medicine, when he looked at the hundreds of files related to Ruelland’s surgeries and treatment.

She remained in an induced coma in the Intensive Care Unit for two months. She endured numerous reconstructive surgeries, 100 hours of orthopaedic and internal surgery, and over 100 blood transfusions and infections.

Four months after the crash, she began physiotherapy in her hospital bed and could finally eat solid food. She had lost all of her hair and had severe nerve damage, chronic illness myopathy and neuropathy.

“I couldn’t feed myself, brush my own teeth or move much at all,” she said. “The first couple of weeks seemed like torture. The nurses would set little goals, like sitting up in my wheelchair for 20 minutes a day. The physiotherapist and occupational therapist didn’t know if I’d ever walk again. I was scared to think of the life that was waiting for me outside those hospital walls.”

Her first real sign of recovery came a few weeks later when she was able to feed herself.

In August 2015, Ruelland moved to The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre at the General Campus, where she began an intensive regime of physical, occupational and psychological therapy programs. Just before Christmas, nine months after the accident, she left the hospital.  Although she was in a wheelchair and hadn’t made many functional gains, she felt stronger and healthier.

Ashley Ruelland in Rehab

A year-and-a-half after her ‘instant,’ Ashley Ruelland was able to walk with a walker.

The young woman continued as an outpatient with rehabilitation, and had her last surgery in February 2016, which allowed her to transfer from her bed to chair, independently.

“In May 2016, I stood independently for the first time,” she said.  “And after many more weeks of painful standing and walking in the hospital’s therapy pool, I started to walk with the aid of a harness within the parallel bars. By the end of the summer, I was able to move with a walker.”

More than two years later, Ruelland is walking again. In fact, not only is she walking but she’s also travelling, recently returning from Ireland. She’s also in school and looking to buy a home.

She often reflects on her life-altering ‘instant’ and is eternally grateful for the exceptional care she received at The Ottawa Hospital. “Without it, I wouldn’t be here today.”

 

 
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Yvette Renaud - October 4, 2017

Well done Ashley!

Colleen Singer - October 4, 2017

Ashley, you have been through a lot but only the strong are able to do what you have accomplished and obviously you are not ready to leave this earth. Your Heavenly Father has plans for you. May you continue to heal and grow stronger. Take care beautiful Lady.

Elizabeth Leaman - October 4, 2017

Ashley
Congratulations to you , this is truly a great news story, most of us were not able to be with you in person, but rest assured we were in with you in Spirit with prayers and best wishes were sent to you and your family throughout your hospital stay and beyond. Your Mom , a friend of mine was instrumental in sharing your pain and anguish and frustrating journey, She shared your struggles , her struggles, no parent should see their child in so much pain., and feeling so time hopeless and wanting to take your pain away. She shared daily, weekly updates, the love of a mother is like no other love . She was able to give us updates on you setbacks and progress when probably she didn’t have the strength herself. With The love of your family and friends near and far, your un denying strength and courage we are so proud of you. “Continue to dance like no ones watching “

JEROME MACDONALD - October 4, 2017

WHAT A WONDERFUL STORY OF COURAGE BY THIS YOUNG LADY ALL THE BEST TO YOU ASHLEY

Steve Jeffery - October 5, 2017

WOW!!!! Thank you for not giving up and demonstrating what can be done. You are amazing!

Kelly Chenier - October 5, 2017

I’ve been following your journey, so happy for you, an exceptional girl. You deserve a life full of happiness.

Madeleine - October 6, 2017

Such courage Ashley. Wishing you all the best:)

Jean - October 6, 2017

What an amazing journey Ashley. I am in awe. Life’s richest blessings in the days ahead.

Cathy Carroll - October 6, 2017

We are so very proud of all your accomplishments over the past few years. You are truly an extraordinary girl . You never gave up and you worked so hard. I wish you all the best now and in the future. You are amazing!!!💕

Janet Conrad - October 8, 2017

Hi Ashley (I’m a PE Islander) and friends with your mom. I followed your progress thru your mom’s FB Timeline.

You have an amazing testimony here and I am thankful to God that you are able to share it today with others and that you have had such wonderful healing in your body.

Thankful for those of us who believe in the power of prayer and can see how well you are doing.

Have a wonderful day.

Marlene - October 12, 2017

God Bless your beautiful soul Ashley. I wish you continued success in your recovery. You are a true inspiration not only to myself but to endless others. Keep Smiling Pretty Lady,
You are truly amazing!!! BIG Hugs. Xx