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Surviving a Horrific Skiing Accident Has Made Katie LaPierre a Better Nurse

February 21, 2022

On March 25, 2021, nurse Katie LaPierre crashed down a steep embankment while skiing in the Berkshires. Her body -- inside and outside -- was essentially broken. Her back, neck, pelvis and both scapulas were fractured. Her liver and spleen were lacerated, and her left kidney no longer functions. Knocked unconscious in the fall, she was transported to Hartford Hospital, where she underwent a pelvic reconstruction. In all that, what remained intact was the 25-year-old’s strength of will -- her resolve to walk again, be independent, walk down the aisle at her upcoming wedding and return to the Backus Hospital Emergency Department where she worked overnight 12-hour shifts. Mission(s) accomplished. Katie returned to light duty at Backus last August, got married in October under her own power, and returned fulltime to the Emergency Department at the end of last year. She’s currently working three, 12-hour overnight shifts each week. She regularly garners rave reviews from patients on Press Ganey. “In all of the times I have been to Backus in any department the nurse Kathryn LaPierre was the best I have ever had and if there was a rating for EXCELLENT it would not be enough,” wrote the most recent happy customer. Being horribly injured, going through major surgery and recovery at Hartford Hospital, then seven weeks as an inpatient at a rehabilitation center before embarking on weeks of rehab at home with Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network, LaPierre said, made her a better nurse. It also made her a great patient, said Michael Liguore, Site Supervisor for Hartford Healthcare Rehabilitation Network’s Enfield office. “Katie was a rock star during her rehab with us,” Liguore said. “She brought an infectiously positive energy to each treatment session, and pushed herself past each barrier she encountered. You could tell that nursing was in her DNA as she wanted to help those around her as well as herself. She encouraged other patients to be motivated and optimistic about their own recovery, creating an environment of success and drive. She left a positive impact on all of us here, patients and clinicians, and was a pleasure to have in our office.” What LaPierre now brings to her job is “a different understanding of all the little things that really go a long way,” she said. “Being the patient was very eye-opening. When a nurse takes the time to talk to someone who might be feeling lonely or is in pain, that goes a long way.” In the ED, she also better understands how confusing it can be for a patient brought in for an emergency. “It can be a whirlwind how the ED works,” she said. “Now I know to really explain to patients, how things work and what will happen and then what will happen next. I think I am more thoroughly empathetic now.” She felt lucky to be receiving care from her HHC colleagues, first at Hartford Hospital and then at home in Windsor Locks through the Enfield rehabilitation team. “I would not trade the care I received,” she said. “They communicated with me, they communicated with my family, they made sure we all understood what was going on. They were amazing and thorough.” Having only been a registered nurse for a couple of years, LaPierre isn’t slowing down. She is currently enrolled in a nurse practitioner program through Elms College. And speaking of not slowing down - asked if she has plans to ski again, LaPierre has a fast and easy answer: “Yes.”