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Retired Nurse Recovers from Devastating Car Accident

As a retired hospice and medical ICU nurse, as well as a past manager of a neurological outpatient center, Debbie Zima, a native of Chicago, helped countless patients overcome a range of illnesses, injuries, and other health-related setbacks throughout her 30-year-long career.

But, she likely never imagined that she would one day become a patient herself, due to a devastating car accident.

The unlikely turn of events all began on December 5, 2011. As Debbie drove through Holland, the city’s Christmas lights were aglow, emitting a rainbow of colors. Wreaths were hung on the doors of neighborhood homes. And the majesty of another wintry day was being enjoyed by hundreds of Holland residents.

Unexpectedly, Debbie’s car slid on a sheet of ice and skidded into a nearby tree.

She knew instantly she was injured. Sharp pain raced throughout her body. After paramedics arrived, Debbie was transported to Holland Hospital.

Debbie was told that she had broken nine ribs, an injury that would require physical, occupational, and recreational therapy. She chose to have her rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

“Having worked at Northwestern University in the past, I was very familiar with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC),” Debbie said. “I chose Mary Free Bed because I thought it would be like the RIC.”

While at Mary Free Bed, Debbie was especially thankful for the assistance she received from physical and occupational therapists.

“The physical therapy was wonderful as it helped me learn to use other muscles, aside from my upper body muscles, to move around,” she said. “Occupational therapy, meanwhile, helped me relearn how to dress, shower, and conduct other similar everyday activities.”

In addition, she was quite pleased with her overall experience at Mary Free Bed, including the condition of the hospital and the professionalism of its staff.

“The facilities were clean and the doctors were trustworthy. The transport aides were also very kind, and they always ensured I arrived at the right place at the right time,” she said. “And my nurse was excellent, which is saying a lot, coming from a fellow nurse.”

Now, just a couple months later, Debbie is fulfilling a goal she originally had when she arrived at Mary Free Bed – to be able to walk again. In fact, she is doing much more than that.

She is currently a member of the Holland Woman’s Library Club as well as the American Association of University Women. She is also a wife and a grandmother.

And she does not believe she could have recovered so well and so soon without Mary Free Bed’s assistance.

“I am grateful for the care I received,” she said. “I don’t think I would be able to walk right now if I had not gone to Mary Free Bed. I cannot thank everyone enough at Mary Free Bed for their care, laughs, and, most importantly, for saving my life.”

Filed under: Multiple Trauma



jean simonson

March 5, 2012 at 11:30 am
I was a very good friend of Debbie’s when I worked at Northwestern ICU.
She popped in my mind last night although I haven’t had any contact with her since my wedding in 1976.
I am so sorry to learn of her accident, but good to know she is doing well.
I will be in Chicago in May for a wedding and wanted to touch base with her. I do not have any information about how to contact her. I googled her name and your article came up complete with an image of her.
Would you kindly give or forward this message to her and hopefully she will contact me. 919-787-1129 or jcmorof2 @aol.com or jeancheely .com
Thanks and my best regards to Debbie. Jean Simonson Cheely

Kitty Groch Medica

I have known Debbie since we were student nurses together…yes, we were young together and have remained very good friends. We traveled together, skiied together and worked side by side at Northwestern. This article highlights a very special woman who has done much to help others throughout her career and I would imagine sharing this difficult experience about herself will continue to do just that. A very unfortunate accident could have taken her life, but I believe God continues to have plans for her. Best wishes on your continued recovery dear friend. Love, Kitty


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