I woke up and saw the undercarriage of the Toyota Land Cruiser poised on top of my body. My friends told me that the first thing I asked, in a very calm and polite manner, was, “If you wouldn’t mind, when you get a chance, could you please take this truck off of my legs?” At that moment I sensed something was wrong but didn’t know the depths of what had just happened. Yet, I instinctively knew I needed to be extracted from where I was currently laying in the cool Dubai desert sand, so as to not lose my legs. Over the next hour, my existence vacillated between consciousness, dying and unconsciousness. There were periods of eerie tranquility mixed with threads of severe panic. The feeling of life leaving my body and blood oozing out was surreal.
Suddenly I was in the hospital. And I was completely paralyzed from the neck down. A few days later, the realization hit me: MY body was no longer MINE - I no longer could control anything. In one fell swoop, I had lost all motor and sensory function.
When I was given my official diagnosis, it didn’t make much sense to me. My reality hadn’t truly settled in. Ten days later, I had been transported via air ambulance to the US, where I quickly became hyper focused on both my physical and occupational therapy. During this period, my father would whisper acronyms of strength, quote powerful people who had overcome incredible adversity, and encourage me to treat my in-patient rehabilitation like I was training for the military.
My therapists, Isa and Sheena, were amazing and I took advantage of every opportunity given to me to do as much as I could to get my body working. My team of doctors were incredible, especially Dr. Steven Kirshblum, and I was even afforded the opportunity a couple of times to meet the great Christopher Reeve, before his passing.
I struggled with DADA - denial, anger, depression, and acceptance - from the onset, whilst PTSD and grief settled in soon thereafter. I had been moved from my home of Dubai and learnt ten days after my car crash that I had lost the love of my life that same day. Although he too struggled like I did to breathe and stay alive until our rescue showed up nearly 90 minutes after our car crash, he just...didn’t make it. He was dead. And even though I felt as if my heart was too, I remembered that how, from a young age, I had been amazed at how resilient the heart is. So I did not allow his death to break me. I knew on a profound soul level he never would have wanted that for me anyway.
Recently I came across this quote from Abraham-Hicks: “Someone asked us recently, ‘Is there any limitation to the body’s ability to heal?’ And we said, ‘None other than the belief that you hold.’ And he said, ‘Then why aren’t people growing new limbs?’ And we said, ‘Because no one believes that they can.’”
I have found it to be incredibly true, that what we choose to believe can indeed dictate what we achieve. There is nothing more important than a positive mental attitude to bring us out of the depths of despair and help us rise to the challenges we face in life.
For it is ultimately, these challenges that not only shape us, but also teach us profound lessons that we must carry through this life to enable us to keep getting better and stronger. And if we are truly lucky enough to still have A LIFE then I believe we have a duty to teach others and be of service where we can, with an open heart and attitude of Gratitude.
Photo: Margaret Malandruccolo
Hair, Makeup & Styling: Melanie Manson
Kaftan: Asa Soltan