The following story was featured in the Fall 2019 issue of the OneSpirit Magazine.
When Laura Hutts was 18 years old and a week away from going to college, she was in an accident that would change her life forever. A man’s car swerved into her lane, causing her vehicle to flip three times. Laura sustained major injuries to both of her hands. Her right hand was degloved– meaning the soft tissues and tendons were ripped down to the bone—and some of her fingers were gone. These injuries would require a series of surgeries over several months, including orthopedic reconstruction.
Not only did it help her self-esteem, therapy also clarified for Laura what she was supposed to do with her life. She was determined to become a therapist who focused on hand and upper limp extremity injuries. Since graduating from college, Laura has achieved the highest level of training available for upper limb rehabilitation, which requires at least three years of clinical experience, 4,000 hours of direct hand therapy practice and completion of advanced clinical skills and theory. Laura is the only occupational therapist in the CHI St. Vincent system with this certification.
“I was planning to be a journalism major, but my world completely changed with my accident. Before therapy I was so down about what I couldn’t do. I had been a baton twirler, a clarinet player and had academic scholarships to college, but I didn’t know if I would ever do those things again,” remembers Laura. “That all changed when I started occupational therapy where I learned that I could do many of the same things. Most importantly, I learned to have the courage to try.”
In her work, she helps patients through post-operative rehabilitation and non-operative and conservative treatments to reduce pain and restore mobility. In addition to manual therapy, Laura also enjoys being creative and making splints from molded plastics that help people perform routine tasks more easily.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty with physical injuries. People are really surprised and comforted when they know their therapist has also been through the frustration and anxiety of what they are experiencing. But they hear my story and see what I can do – that helps them understand that things will be ok,” says Laura. “At the end of most sessions, patients are smiling and laughing and feeling more positive than when they came in the door.”
Although she wouldn’t want anyone to go through what she has at such a young age, Laura is quick to point out that it was all part of God’s plan for her life – a plan that was bigger than what she could have dreamed for herself.
“God led me into this career. It was a devastating thing that happened to an 18-year-old girl, but he brought something good out of it. I’m 100 percent sure that I’m here for a purpose and that he worked out these details,” says Laura. “I’m thankful that I have a career, passion and opportunity to encourage people like me who’ve been through so much and help them get back to living a full and active life.”