Inspira Medical Center Elmer, part of Inspira Health, has received a 2023 Women’s Choice Award for America’s Best Hospitals for Obstetrics and 2023 Women’s Choice Award for America’s Best Hospitals for Orthopedics.Read More
Nurse Gets Her Life Back after Multiple Surgeries and Months of Rehab
Kelli Silvers of Newport is not one to walk away from a challenge. That’s why she started studying for a second career in nursing at age 37, about five years after taking up motorcycle dirt bike racing.
But when two consecutive traumatic injuries threatened to derail her career, avocation, and daily life, she knew she needed help. She says she leaned on her husband, Steve, as well as family and friends. She also relied on Inspira orthopedic surgeon Thomas Dwyer, M.D., and the physical therapy team at Inspira Sports Rehab in Vineland.
“Dr. Dwyer and his staff, my physical therapists, and my family, worked together, with the sole purpose of getting me back on my feet,” she said.
Kelli didn’t think her first injury, to her arm and shoulder, was that serious. It happened during a dirt bike ride while she was teaching her young grandson, Evan, to ride.
“I was on my motorcycle, but almost at a standstill,” she said. “All I did was make a small turn. The front tire washed out and I went down. No big deal. I picked the bike up, took off, and went to go find Evan.”
It was later, while trying to help Evan take off his riding boots that she knew something was wrong.
“I reached across and had a lot of pain. But I've had injuries like this in the past, so I went on about my day. When the pain progressed, I went to my primary care doctor. I had an MRI. That’s when I was referred to Dr. Dwyer.”
Dr. Dwyer told Kelli that in addition to a rotator cuff injury, she had also torn her bicep.
“Of course, I didn't want to believe that,” she said. “But sure enough, I needed surgery.”
The procedure was performed by Dr. Dwyer in October 2019. As part of her recovery, Kelli entered physical rehabilitation at Inspira Sports Rehab.
“Therapy, that's where the magic happens for me,” she said. “The team there was great, super supportive. They treat you as if they know you, even though they’ve just met you. I pretty much had the same people each time, and they would always greet me with a smile, especially if they could see I was having a bad day.”
Kelli returned to her position as a registered nurse at Inspira Medical Center Vineland, about 11 weeks later. She didn’t know that her next challenge, including another visit to Dr. Dwyer and an even tougher round of physical therapy, was just around the corner.
On Memorial Day weekend of 2020, Kelli was stepping into the bed of her pickup truck, when the tailgate opened unexpectedly, buckling her knee and throwing her to the ground. This time she knew immediately it wasn’t good.
“Steve, my grandson, my mom, my sister, they all heard it.,” she said. “It was so loud my husband thought a car hit me.”
A trip to the emergency room at Inspira Vineland and an MRI confirmed that Kelli had suffered damage to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Both are required to support and stabilize the knee and make walking possible. Kelli was anticipating two surgeries and a potential 12 to 24-week rehabilitation process.
Dr. Dwyer performed the MCL repair first, to stabilize the knee. Once again, Kelli said, the therapists at Sports Rehab were the key to helping her not only physically, but also to keep her fighting spirit up during her three-month rehabilitation.
“The knee injury took the wind out of my sails. All I wanted to do was go back to work. I did not want to be immobile. Not being able to ride was tough too, because that was my emotional outlet. The Inspira team supported me physically and mentally. There were days when I walked in and cried. They always had a box of tissues waiting for me! By the end of the therapy session, we’d be laughing together. They were awesome.”
When Kelli went for the second surgery, in August, there was, finally, a positive surprise.
“Dr. Dwyer found that the ACL was intact. I just needed some meniscus trimming. I went from expecting another 12-week recovery to 4 to 6 weeks,” she said.
After more physical therapy, at Sports Rehab and at home, Kelli Silvers returned to her nursing career in September 2021.
For Kelli, it has been a challenge to regain her strength and return to all the things she loves doing, especially riding with Evan. “I don't think I would be as motivated to be back on the motorcycle as I am now. I enjoy being out on the trail with him, I like teaching him what I know. I love watching him learn new things.”
She says with support from Steve, her family, and her care teams, she’s not looking back, only forward.
“Inspira got me back to work, got me back to my activities. They got me back to myself.”