FARMINGTON, Maine — Army Sgt. Helaina Lake held a weighted ball in her right hand, reached back and threw it to occupational therapist Alice VanDerwerken on Tuesday. VanDerwerken threw it back and Lake caught it and positioned her hand to throw the ball again.
Lake’s right arm was seriously damaged in a suicide bombing on June 20, 2012, in Afghanistan. She took the brunt of blast on her right side. Her leg was shattered and index finger was severed.
The 24-year-old military policewoman is a member of the Maine Army National Guard and still listed on active duty. She is working to keep it that way.
VanDerwerken ran Lake through a number of exercises to help her increase upper body strength, motor skills and coordination. She finished the session doing squeezes with her hand on what looked like the pump portion of a manual blood pressure monitor.
Lake has a daily routine of one hour each of occupational and physical therapy at Franklin Memorial Hospital’s Stanley Health Center in Farmington.
Lake has settled into a new home in Livermore Falls with her son Aden, 3.
She spent her first night there on June 20, the one-year anniversary of the attack. She would have liked to have been with her unit in South Carolina, visiting the graves of the three men who died in the attack, she said.
She has kept busy sprucing up her house and doing some painting.
“Pretty much everything had to be stained,” she said.
From the occupational therapy room, Lake walked to the physical therapy area and behind the curtain of one of the stations.
She got up on the padded treatment table and waited for her primary therapist.
Loralie Franklin began the session touching Lake’s leg and talking to her. She rubbed massage cream on the outer side of Lake’s thigh where an abnormal growth of bone tissues has developed. It is also known as heterotopic ossification, a formation of bone in soft tissue.
Lake has undergone more than 30 surgeries since the attack, the majority of them on her leg to put it back together. She is set to return to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland for another surgery in early August. She won’t know what operation will be done on her leg until doctors examine it.
Franklin continued to work the cream into the tissues around the thigh area in an effort to make the skin come together without skin grafts once the excess bone tissues are removed.
Lake has made a lot of progress since she started her therapy sessions, Franklin said. She has more flexibility in her ankle and can bear weight on her leg and walk. Her right leg shows some stiffness but she has made progress on her gait.
When Lake came home in November, she was just beginning to put weight on her leg and used a walker.
Lake was always physically active, especially in high school, participating in several sports including track, field hockey and basketball.
She wants to be able to run again.
“As long as I can run, I will be happy. That is the goal,” Lake said.