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Back from the Brink

  • Patient: Elizabeth McKenzie
  • Date Submitted: Jun 3, 2019

“ When Elizabeth McKenzie arrived as a patient at the Comprehensive Care Center, she says she could “wiggle one foot, wiggle one hand, and flap my lips."”

A catastrophic car crash on Highway 1 had severely damaged Elizabeth’s spine, leading to physical complications and other medical issues. That, combined with unexpected changes in her personal life, gave her little reason to live.

“When I got here, I had no desire to go home,” the 65-year-old Lompoc woman said. “I was mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically broken, just beyond imagination. I didn’t want to try again at life; it was too hard.”

Elizabeth arrived at the Comprehensive Care Center in March 2018. She didn’t know what her future held. For months, she couldn’t stand, let alone walk.

But with tremendous personal effort, a tough spirit, and a focused approach from the CCC’s Rehabilitation team, Elizabeth began standing and then occasionally walking with the assistance of a walker. She was completing 45 minutes

daily of occupational therapy and 45 minutes of physical therapy, as well as a half-hour daily with a Restorative Nursing Assistant. She eventually was able to walk 200 steps.

In January of this year, ten months after entering the CCC, Elizabeth moved to a rental space on the south side of town with her beloved dog, Penny Lane.

“They kept telling me how hard I fought,” she says. “But I want you to know how much this place fought for me. On days I couldn't fight, they fought me for me. I didn't want to get up. They tell me they have a lot of patients who can do what I did, but they don't even try. I couldn't say no to these people who got up every day to come to work just to help me.”

Rehabilitation Director David Munar said Elizabeth was the type of patient who initially appeared to have little potential for gaining functional independence. She was essentially a quadriplegic and completely bedbound.

“The therapy staff worked tirelessly and did not give up on Elizabeth, who continued to progress” to the point where she needed minimal assistance and could move with a walker for short distances.

“She was eventually discharged back into the community,” he says. “She is an excellent example of the quality of care we provide at the Comprehensive Care Center.”

Elizabeth believes her impressive rehabilitation would not have been possible elsewhere.

“This (the CCC) is the best kept secret in Lompoc — or Santa Barbara. When I came here, they enveloped me with love and concern. They told me, ‘You are not a patient here, you are a resident, and we are family.’ And that's what I needed.”

Her goal now is to be able to walk with a cane and be able to traverse steps.

“Today I’m fine, I’m good, and I’m determined to get even better,” she says.

She gets emotional when considering her recovery. “Today, I have a whole new world thanks to this place. As long as you stay willing, this place will do what they say they will to get you walking. It won’t be the easiest thing in the world, but it will be the best thing you do for yourself. They saved my life and gave it back to me, and then some.”