Christine Sabel and her boyfriend, Ken, met in 2017. They were both avid motorcyclists and enjoyed riding together.
In June 2021, their riding adventures took a tragic turn when Christine’s motorcycle experienced a malfunction. At a freeway interchange, she was thrown from her bike and hit the guardrail, which impaled her before she landed in a ravine. The 50-foot journey from bike to ravine ravaged her body.
Fortunately, Ken, who was riding alongside her, was able to flag down a motorist for help. That motorist was Westlake Police Officer Ryan Jasinsky, who quickly prepared a tourniquet for Christine’s severely injured leg and another for her arm. A MetroHealth pediatric trauma surgeon and an off-duty state trooper also stopped to help.
Christine was just minutes from MetroHealth’s Level 1 Adult Trauma Center. And trauma surgeon Laura Kreiner, MD, and her team were waiting for Christine’s arrival. The team quickly evaluated Christine’s injuries: a broken pelvis, broken leg, mauled and broken arm, a torn thigh, broken ribs, and deep cuts through her stomach and chest.
The team rushed Christine to the operating room. Dr. Kreiner’s team stabilized Christine’s intestinal and chest injuries. It was the first of more than a dozen operations she would undergo in those first few days.
Four surgeries—including one that lasted nearly seven hours—were required to repair her right arm. Plastic/reconstructive surgeon David Rowe, MD, and his team joined orthopaedic surgeon Adrienne Lee, MD, in the operating room for one of the procedures. While there, he also wanted to try to save Christine’s breast. He wanted to keep the skin and tissue from dying and set the stage for breast reconstruction surgery down the road.
Whether Christine’s leg could be saved was an immediate concern for orthopedic surgeon Ari D. Levine, MD.
“Our goal was to do everything we could to allow her to keep her leg,” he says.
They did just that.
When Christine woke up at MetroHealth five days later, she started meeting her care team. Corey Houlahan, RN, was the first voice Christine heard when she woke up in the Trauma ICU. Once he removed her breathing tube was removed, he brought her water and jello.
Monica Cvelbar, RN, Christine’s primary nurse in the Trauma ICU unit, hardly left her patient’s side during that first night. The only time she did leave the room was to console and reassure Christine’s family.
Once Christine’s breathing tube was removed, Monica treated her to an “ICU spa day” that included getting her hair washed for the first time since her accident.
Christine eventually “graduated” from the Trauma ICU to the step-down unit. She remembers the nurses, aides and other staff who greeted her so warmly.
“We don’t have enough nice things to say about our experience. The doctors, nurses, aides, the social worker who specializes in caring for trauma patients—everyone was so nice.”
Christine spent three weeks at MetroHealth. Before she was transferred to an acute long-term care hospital, she gave Monica, her Trauma ICU nurse, a tiny angel gem. It was the same as several that Christine had on her hospital bedside table.
After several weeks at the acute long-term care hospital and three weeks in an inpatient rehabilitation facility near her home in Mentor, Christine finally went home on September 7, 2021.
A couple weeks before Christmas, Dr. Rowe performed successful reconstructive breast surgery on Christine.
Today, she goes to outpatient physical and occupational therapy twice a week. She continues to work on regaining strength on her right side and flexibility in her right hand.
“I’ve been very, very fortunate,” she says. “There have been so many blessings. I believe the people that have entered my life on this journey, we have been able to heal each other in some way.”
In mid-February, Christine returned to work on a part-time basis. She also has signed up to be a peer visitor with MetroHealth’s Trauma Recovery Center. The visits she received from current volunteers inspired her to want to do the same for someone else.
And on Valentine’s Day 2022, Ken proposed to Christine. She said yes.