Recovery and Rebounds: An Interview with National Senior Games Athlete Paula Franetti
Life can knock you down and hit you hard but it’s all about the rebound. Paula Franetti, author and inspirational speaker, recounts her remarkable road to recovery after a near-fatal car accident at age 60. Her mission is to share the principles that kept her empowered throughout her healing journey and to motivate others facing health setbacks to do the same.
Q: Would you share your story with us?
A: I just turned 60 in April, and it was the morning of September 13, 2016. I was on my way to work at a stop light on a side street. I’m at a red light and just as it turned green, I got a text from the guy I was supposed to meet at 9 o’clock. I looked behind me, and no one was coming, so I thought I would text him the address.
I finished the text, put my phone down, and took the wheel. I drove forward, and then bam. A guy, who was speeding, ran right into my driver’s side door, nearly folding my car in half.
I didn’t know what happened until four or five days later when they took me off the ventilator, and I started to put together all the surgeries and what had happened. My pelvis basically broke in half. I had seven pelvic fractures and five spinal fractures. My diagram was ruptured and partially collapsed my lung. There was internal bleeding, and my front pelvic bones punctured my bladder. I also had a concussion and soft tissue damage all over my body. Months later when I was able to stand, I found out that from the angle he hit me, my knee suffered a medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear and a posterior meniscal tear. My body was a mess.
Everyone — the medical professionals — kept telling me most 60-year-olds would have never survived the accident that I survived. They weren’t even sure if I was going to be able to walk again. I knew at that moment that I had survived for a reason, which was a huge motivating factor in me wanting to get well again. I survived this so I could help other people.
Q: For others, it’s hard to find motivation after such a life-altering health change. What kept you fighting for that highest level of recovery?
A: Knowing what I knew as a rehab specialist and exercise physiologist, I understood my body was in automatic healing mode. All I had to do was work with it and not against it. I tried not to hurt myself, and because I couldn’t walk or exercise, I focused on eating well and trying to get rest while I recovered.
The biggest thing, though, was the mental part of it, just knowing that I survived and that I could have been dead. There was a moment when I thought I did die. I was on a busy street, and when I woke up after impact, I was in the countryside holding the steering wheel. I thought, ‘I know I got hit by something, but I don’t see any part of my car but the steering wheel.’
It was a very profound moment. It really made me realize I am here for a reason, and it motivated me. Being in not ideal living conditions during my recovery also motivated me because I didn’t want to live like that for the rest of my life. I was highly active before. I played basketball, I hiked, I biked, and I was a do-it-yourselfer around my house. I wanted to be able to do all these things again.
Q: What would you say to those who have experienced health setbacks and want to get back to their active lifestyle?
A: Your mental outlook is crucial to making the best outcomes happen in your situation. Going through the healthcare system, I noticed a lot of gaps people encounter while in my recovery, which I believed I could help fill. After I recovered, I started an injury, accident, and surgery coaching service called Rebound Planner to help people take control of their recovery and get well. I am teaching clients how to communicate their desired outcomes clearly to their medical professionals so that everyone is on the same page. And I emphasize that they are the driving force in their recovery, and they can be in control.
It’s also about training smarter, not harder. I tell people don’t do the same activities over and over again. Do different activities for every season where you live. In the summer, I do my gardening, or in the fall, I do weight training. Always mix it up so your body is adjusting to something new.
Q: What does it mean for you to compete at the National Senior Games?
A: Playing in the National Senior Games is such an honor. I played in four National Games before my accident. When I stepped on the court at the Albuquerque Games in 2019, I knew that I went from losing everything to being back in the Games. It was such a powerful experience knowing that I got myself well again and that no one did it for me. The National Senior Games is an attestation to that power of recovery. It’s invigorating to see that I’m in my late 60s, competing at such an aggressive level, and I’m having a blast because I can do it along with other motivated athletes. The National Senior Games give me a reason to keep training and to stay healthy.
Q: Recovery is a long road and competing at a high intensity can trigger those aches and pains. How has a homeopathic medicine like Boiron Arnicare supported your healthy lifestyle after your accident?
A: When competing at the National Senior Games, you might only have hours between games, and you need tools, like Arnicare, to address the soreness or minor injuries. What I really like about Arnicare and the other Boiron products is that they are actually helping the body heal itself. Every time I get a bruise, I reach for my Arnicare. Whether it’s cream or gel, it’s fun watching the bruising disappear quicker and the soreness go away.
People tend to shy away from challenging things for fear of getting hurt or sore, but if you have an arsenal of Boiron remedies to help, why wouldn’t you try? One reason I love homeopathic medicines is that they stimulate the body’s healing response to restore health, rather than mask over the pain. You actually see how your body works simultaneously with your mind and spirit to heal and become well again. I love that I can choose to help my body be all that it can be.
Q: What does the future hold for Paula Franetti?
A: I have a good 20 or 30 years left where I can compete, but I don’t know how long I can continue playing basketball, so I want to explore something else. I’m looking into track and field or even swimming at the National Senior Games. That’s the beauty of the games — there are so many events.
For Rebound Planner, I’m continuing to get out there. I am able to offer support and coaching to people in whatever phase they are in, whether they’re in surgery, in rehab or been released from care, or even just meeting with a doctor for the first time to decide on surgery. Having it as a virtual option makes it convenient for people anywhere, but locally, I really enjoy working one-on-one with people so I would like to continue that.
You can learn more about Paula Franetti, her recovery, and the coaching services she offers at ReboundPlanner.com.
The Senior Olympics is a multi-sport competition for men and women over age 50 held every two years by the National Senior Games Association (NSGA). Arnicare by Boiron is a proud sponsor of the 2023 National Senior Games, happening July 7-18 in Pittsburgh, Pa. For more information, visit NSGA.com.
Paula Franetti is a speaker, author, and rehab specialist. Despite a near-fatal auto accident at age 60, Paula made a remarkable recovery and now competes in basketball as one of the nation’s top senior athletes. Today, she supports others recovering from accidents, injuries, and surgeries to achieve their highest level of health and well-being.