“I’m back to doing what I love, and that is a miracle.”

January 25, 2023

Cindi Cottle is a lifelong long-distance runner who works part time offering home care to seniors. She spends her free time walk-running on the beach and enjoying quality time with her daughter and grandchildren. All this was put on hold, however, when a tragic accident left her with limited mobility and severe pain for nearly a decade.

Walking her German shepherd Ivy Rose through her apartment complex one night in 2014, Cottle was struck by a drunk driver who then backed into a parking spot, running her over a second time, and parked with her partially wedged into his rear right wheel well. “I cried out for help, but no one heard me over his music,” Cottle says. “My dog laid down next to me and wouldn’t leave my side.”

Fortunately, a man walked by and immediately notified the driver that he was parked on top of a woman who had by this point blacked out. The driver fled the scene and Cottle’s rescuer called an ambulance. “That little, old man saved my life,” she says. “If he hadn’t happened to walk by, I might not be here.”

Cottle had her left hip replaced a year after the accident and her left shoulder and left knee replaced a few years after that. Diagnosed with severe advanced osteoarthritis, she opted for physical therapy as treatment instead of undergoing any more major procedures. “I procrastinated for six years after that,” Cottle recalls. “Six years of a lot of pain.”

Finally, after the pain became unbearable and her physician father insisted, she made an appointment with Orthopedic Surgeon Matthew Gargulinski, DO, at Temecula Valley Hospital. Dr. Gargulinski realized Cottle needed her right knee completely replaced, and wasted no time scheduling her for surgery. Her procedure took place the morning of June 28, and she was released from the hospital the next day after passing physical therapy “with flying colors” as she puts it.

What really stuck out to Cottle was the postoperative care she received. “The nurses were wonderful, which amazed me because they are so busy. I felt loved and taken care of. Jennifer especially was a blessing,” she says of Jennifer Chojnacki, BSN, RN, ONC, the Orthopedic Program Manager at TVH. “She helped me so much from the time I woke up to the time I left. She was always there asking me if I needed anything.”

After being discharged from the hospital, Cottle returned regularly for physical therapy. “My physical therapist Becky Monteforte treated me like I was a queen,” she recalls warmly. “She pushed me to keep going so I could get back to my best. I couldn’t have done it without her.”

Cottle still goes to physical therapy and, although she suffers a little stiffness and swelling, the severe pain she felt for years following her accident is a thing of the past. “I thank God every day that I can get out and walk-run for an hour a day. I am blessed to have my life back,” she says.

To anyone facing a situation like hers, Cottle says “Don’t procrastinate like I did. I was in pain for many years when I didn’t have to be. Had I known it was this easy, I would have done it a long time ago. I cried tears of joy the first time I walked on the beach on my own again. I will never go to another hospital. I’m back to doing what I love, and that is a miracle.”