Peg Kirby’s Story

Fairlawn | 9.13.13

Although she and her husband Carl have 10 grandchildren, Peg Kirby is far from your typical grandmother. A risk taker by nature, she is a licensed pilot who’s dabbled in sea kayaking and hang-gliding. She and Carl even lived in Alaska for a year just for the experience of it all.

“I guess I’ve always enjoyed the adrenaline rush of doing adventurous things. It makes me feel alive,” says Peg, who is also an avid motorcyclist.

And it was during an end-of-summer ride on her Yamaha back in 2009, that Peg’s adventurous lifestyle took an unforeseen turn.

Hit broadside by a car while en route to the Worcester Airport to go flying with a friend, Peg suffered multiple injuries, including broken ribs, a broken arm, and serious lacerations. But the worst injury by far was to her left leg.

“I remember looking down and seeing my leg barely attached to the rest of my body,” she recalls.

Brought to the trauma unit at UMass Medical Center, Peg remained fully awake and fairly confident that she would need to have her left leg amputated.

She was right.

Following the amputation, pain and fear were Peg’s most frequent visitors. “Pain was by far the hardest part,” she says, explaining that she vacillated between that pain and “feeling out of it” due to the pain medications she was taking.

“I was scared. I didn’t know anyone who was an amputee, so I didn’t know what to expect,” she says. “I worried about what my life would be like. I worried about my husband wanting me anymore. And I worried about returning to work.”

Peg’s work as a child psychologist had long been her life’s passion. Specializing in treating children who have experienced trauma, most of them adopted, she worried about “what would happen to my families if I didn’t return to work,” she says.

Once medially stable, Peg was transferred to Fairlawn. “When I was admitted to Fairlawn, I couldn’t do much of anything,” she recalls. “I couldn’t get out of bed, stand, walk or even dress myself. As a psychologist, I am used to taking care of other people, and now I was in the position of needing to be taken care of. It was not a comfortable situation for me.”

Peg’s amputation does not keep her from enjoying her favorite pastimes, including canoeing on the pond behind her home.

The day after her admission, Peg had her first therapy session. “It wasn’t fun.  Standing up that day felt impossible, and it took me a while to like that physical therapist, but I did by the time I left. I had fantastic therapists who balanced support with persuasion,” she says.

While therapists worked with Peg for three to five hours a day, Fairlawn’s physicians and nurses tended to her complex medical needs. “The nurses really cared about me. They had a tough job. I had a lot of serious wounds, and my amputation site was still very raw,” she says. “They provided excellent pain management and wound care, spending a great deal of time changing my dressings and always taking care to keep a sterile field so there was no threat of infection.”

By discharge from Fairlawn, Peg had made great strides. “I was in the hospital a month and learned to take care of myself in a wheel chair using only one arm and one leg. After I got my prosthesis, I went back to Fairlawn for outpatient therapy.”

Along with helping her to regain independence, Peg credits Fairlawn with helping her to reach a higher level of physical fitness. “There is a huge correlation between my improved fitness and what I learned at Fairlawn. They taught me what muscle groups to use for certain activities and how to improve my core body strength.”

These days, Peg relies on that strength to enjoy nearly all the activities she did prior to her accident. Still traveling, canoeing, and flying, she returned to work just weeks after her inpatient stay at Fairlawn.

Returning to work was a defining moment in her recovery. Helping families continues to bring her great satisfaction. “It feels like important work,” she says. “Fairlawn brought me back, and now I can continue the work I really love.”

It did not take long for Peg’s dog Dolce to get his walking partner back.

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