Paula Franetti was driving to work in downtown Pittsburgh one day in 2016 when another car ran a red light and crashed into hers at full speed. The former Lady Lion point guard wound up with seven pelvic fractures, five spinal fractures, a collapsed lung, a ruptured diaphragm, and a concussion. She would not leave the hospital for nearly a month.
Among the things Franetti ’78 H&HD set her mind to was returning to the court for the National Senior Games; less than three years later, after an exhaustive rehabilitation process, she did just that. “It is the most exhilarating experience to know that I got myself well,” she says. “Once you’ve experienced that, it’s something that you never lose again.”
The journey inspired Franetti to write a book, Driving Force, about the process, and to launch a recovery coaching business, The Rebound Planner, that helps people tackle the practical, mental, and emotional challenges of both elective and emergency surgeries and the subsequent recoveries. She helps clients create plans to achieve their goals and encourages them to focus on the progress they make, even if it’s incremental. “Typically, everybody looks at what’s wrong,” she says. “They don’t look at what’s right.”
Franetti, who was a torchbearer for this year’s National Senior Games in Pittsburgh, was an energetic, charismatic player for Pat Meiser’s Penn State teams, says former teammate Peg Schwinge Schipper ’79 H&HD, who also plays for Franetti’s Steel City Quest team, which took the gold medal in the Division 3 65+ age bracket in the Senior Games. She says Franetti displayed the same energy and positive spirit during her recovery process. “How she handled it was simply amazing,” Schipper says. “She fought back so hard.”
Franetti still has a 4-inch screw in her sacrum, but says it merely serves as a reminder to not overdo it. “I respect my body,” she says, “because there was a time when I wasn’t sure if I was going to have my body all the way back.”