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PWD Advocate Raissa Laurel-Subijano Shares Her Extraordinary Recovery After Bombing Incident

PWD Advocate Raissa Laurel-Subijano Shares Her Extraordinary Recovery After Bombing Incident

After a bombing incident in 2010 took away her legs, Raissa Laurel-Subijano and her family were devastated. Though she was grateful to be alive, the recovery – particularly the amputee rehabilitation – became a long and challenging process. But the now serving San Juan Councilor has surprised and inspired her loved ones with her fast recovery, positive outlook, and determination to follow her true passion – a life in public service.

In this interview, Raissa shares the inspiring story of how she didn’t let the loss of her legs stop her from living life to the fullest.

Before the tragic incident, who was Raissa Laurel?

Before the bombing incident, I was just a simple girl – a simple student who wanted to change the world. I aspired to be a lawyer because I want to have a positive impact on society.

amputee rehabilitation

Can you describe what happened during the bombing?

The bombing happened on September 26, 2010. It was the last day of the 2010 Bar Exams. We were waiting for our friends who took the test. And then all of a sudden, at exactly 5 pm, something exploded – a hand grenade according to the police report.

I remember I was thrown to the ground. When I looked down, my legs were mangled, and there was a huge commotion in the crowd. Then, I had a vision from God. I was entering a courtroom in a wheelchair. Right then, I believed that it was God’s way of telling me that I wouldn’t be able to walk again using my own feet.

After the blast, Raissa shared that her parents had to make a hard decision…

We were brought to the hospital, and because my limbs were crushed, the doctors feared that infection would set in. It was a matter of life and death, so my parents allowed the doctors to amputate both of my limbs.

The doctors even told my parents that I only had a 50% chance of survival. Later on, I learned that it wasn’t exactly true – that time, my survival rate was only 20%.

Did you need more surgeries after the amputation? What were those surgeries for?

When the doctors amputated my limbs, they didn’t close the wound right away since they needed to check if there would be an infection.

In case there’s an infection, the doctors may need to amputate again. I already had a below-the-knee amputation, so a cut would mean that they would need to amputate above the knee.

Thankfully, they found nothing wrong with my wound, so after resting for just a day, I had to undergo another surgery. The purpose of that operation was to close the amputation wound.

On the 29th, they allowed me to stay in a regular room. But, my wound wouldn’t close on its own. So, after around 2 weeks, I had skin graft surgery. The doctors took some skin from my thigh and used it to close my amputation wound.

amputee rehabilitation

During the management of your amputation surgery, did you experience any symptoms of PTSD?

While I was staying in the hospital, a psychiatrist visited me. They wanted to know if I was having nightmares. I only told them, “Doc, I’m just blessed that I’m still alive.”

After checking my condition, the psychiatrist told me that I reached the stage of acceptance faster than most people. I cried from time to time, because of what happened and because of the pain, but I had no nightmares.

I wouldn’t say that what happened to me was easy to accept, but back then, I thought to myself: “This is the situation now, I have to accept it.”

How long was the process of your rehab and recovery?

The management for the amputation surgery and my rehabilitation therapy took a long time. After about a week of staying in the hospital, I already started with exercises.

At first, I couldn’t move my lower body, so we focused on my upper-body strength. When I got out of the hospital, my therapy sessions continued. I think I had sessions thrice a week.

By December, I was able to stand with the help of a walker. That’s when I began having full-body therapy.

And when asked about her prosthesis, Raissa shares:

For amputee rehabilitation, the doctors thought about using a prosthesis for me. The prosthesis I’m using now is the type that I can use for workout sessions in the gym. But before I reached this stage, it was a long process. I first wore a training prosthesis to get started on walking.

On your road to recovery, what challenges did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

There were times when I feel that doing things was a hassle. Sometimes, I got lazy with therapy. But I made it a point to set goals. I know that if I want to walk again on my own, I need to help myself.

By May of 2011, 8 months after the blast, I achieved my goal. I was able to walk on my own again.

How did you develop your fitness routine?

After my therapy and when I no longer had difficulty in walking, I began boxing. It helped a lot with my upper body strength and balance.

Then, I transitioned to gym workouts. The doctors also had to change the prosthesis I was using. They chose the type that’s suitable for high-intensity activities.

amputee rehabilitation

Is there a change in your diet?

Back when my wound was just healing, I had to cut back on sugar because it might increase the healing time.

Now, I don’t have a strict dietary regimen – I just eat in moderation and reward myself from time to time.

As of now, do you suffer from any health condition that could be connected to your amputation?

Thankfully, there was no side-effect. Currently, I feel healthy. In fact, since it’s been 10 years, I feel stronger now.

What health tips can you share with other people who have also lost their limbs or those who are using prostheses?

Push yourself. The prosthesis is there to help you walk again on your own; it may not be perfect, but with them, you can get your normal life back.

Yes, it will be hard at first, but persevere with your physical therapy. It will really help you with your strength, discipline, and balance.

What are your thoughts about living life to the fullest?

As I shared on my Facebook, disability does not mean inability. This has always been my advocacy since I lost both my legs 5 years ago.

Being a bilateral amputee is not easy but that does not mean I’m not able to do the things a normal person can do. It takes faith, courage, and determination to stand up after a great fall.

Just want to share my life verse: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

Everything has a purpose. When you find your purpose, go for it. And whatever you’re called to do, do it excellently.

Learn more about Orthopedics here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 01
Medically reviewed by Danielle Joanne Villanueva Munji, OTRP
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