In April 2011 Libby McDonald tripped on a step in her home and launched across the room. “I hit the corner of a table and down I went,” she said. “I knew I was injured. I could only use my right side to push myself toward the rug.”
When her husband returned home 30 minutes later she told him to call 911. “I knew I was in trouble.”
With a compressed spinal cord injury and a chipped piece of vertebrae, Libby needed spinal surgery. Afterward she asked to transfer to St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute because she wanted to heal as quickly as possible and had heard it had a rigorous therapy program. “I decided I was going to get into St. Luke’s come hell or high water,” she said. “I wanted to stay as long as I could to get everything out of it.”
“It turned out to be the most wonderful incredible experience in my life,” she continued, describing how even the food was delicious. “I was a happy camper and that makes a lot of difference.”
But the therapy and staff impressed her even more. “This staff was very harmonious and all team players. The whole staff just treats you like you are an integral part of the team that helps you get well. I really appreciated everything they were doing for me.”
When she arrived Libby couldn’t stand up but she immediately started learning how to log roll out of bed and after a few days she was showering solo and using a walker. “You bet it hurt but they said to breathe and talk while you do it. I got onto my walker pretty darn quick,” she said, describing how she sang to relax and power through a lot of her therapies with positivity.
When it came time to try stairs she admitted she was nervous, but her therapist took her to a set of three steps. “I nicknamed them Mount Everest,” she said. “The first day I was terrified. My therapist was right there with me. I was talking or singing some song so I wouldn’t hold my breath and grit my teeth.”
After Libby conquered her mental Mount Everest, her therapist took her to the regular stairwell where she counted 12 steps to the landing. Libby went one step at a time. “Next thing I knew we were at the bottom of the steps.”
To get back up the stairs Libby thought about climbing a mountain again, which reminded her of the Sound of Music. So she sang “Doe a Deer” and imagined she was working her way up the scale. ”I’m sure it bounced in the stairwell. Then when I hit that landing I yelled Penthouse. I made it to the very top.”
Soon she was climbing 48 stairs and in less than three weeks she went home. “I tried to be as fiercely independent as I could,” she said. “Everything I did paid off because I went home 6 days early.”
And that’s something to sing about.