10 years ago my life changed. Full of adventure and on the other side of the world. I was travelling alone, when I was hit crossing the road by a motorbike. It hit me at full speed. Head on. It drove over my legs, leaving them shattered all over the road; unable to move and barely conscious. Yes, it was one of the best things that has happened to me. No I’m not mad! And no, I didn’t have a head injury. With the benefit of hindsight, I know this to be true.
Before you put me in the box labelled ‘crazy’, I better explain why. Going through that experience has taught me more about life and resilience than any other experience before or since. You never know what you’re capable of and what strength you have inside until the shit really hits the fan.
I was incredibly lucky at the scene. Strangers ran to help, urged me to stay awake and kept me alive until an ambulance arrived. They saved my life. Emergency surgery, 42 screws and a patchwork of titanium plates did their best to piece together what they could, but after my surgery the doctors told me if I got an infection that could be fatal. I was alone. No one knew I was in hospital and I had to face the fact I wouldn’t be able to see or say goodbye to my family if the worst happened. Luckily, things went in my favour and it’s given me a completely different perspective on life.
When faced with the prospect of life and death, life began to look unbelievable simple. All the worries I had before melted away and the win was making it to the end of the day. Driven by the fact, if I survived, I would be able to see my family. In that situation I felt so humble and grateful to everyone and everything keeping me alive. It taught me humility, gratitude and to live in the present. Facing the reality of life and death makes life pretty simple and wonderful. I was also on some pretty strong meds so I’m sure that helped too! For me it became so easy to appreciate everything, seeing the outside of the hospital for the first time, walking, breathing. It’s a lesson I often forget, and I still get caught up in the trials and worries of life, but I feel lucky to have been taught how simple life can be when you live fully in the present.
The kindness of family, friends, employers and strangers all helped in my recovery and gave me support in dark times. Often finding love and support from unexpected places and people. It made me more open. It made me challenge a lot of preconceived beliefs and aware of the silent struggles others may be facing. It deepened my friendships and created new ones that I wouldn’t have happened previously. I was able to connect with people on a deeper level, with a greater sense of empathy. It has made me more compassionate and understanding and taught me to see everyone as an individual. It showed me the difference a bit of kindness can make to someone. As I’ve got older this has become my purpose. To support others and empower them in times of need. People did it for me and it changed my life.
The possibility of losing my legs was very real. As well as the continual fear of one day being in a wheelchair forever can feel emotionally paralysing. But using that fear as a fire to live the best life I can, is the strongest motivation. 10 years on I’ve had a determination like no other. To live life on my terms. It made me more willing to take opportunities; knowing I’m strong enough to survive most things. I went on to spend 8 years living in Shanghai. Living life to the full and working in my dream job in fashion production. I travelled the world, started a family and have found my purpose in working to empower others.
To anyone who has been through challenges you will know how big those first small wins are. When you made your first step out of hospital or felt better for the first time in ages. Remember those feelings. Remember the strength you have. You are so much stronger than you will ever know because you have had to face your challenges head on with resilience. For those facing difficulty know you are not alone. Know that you are learning and growing from this even though it might feel like the worst now one day you may just realise you are all the better for it.
You can get in touch with Joanna via her blog: www.lifeinbreaths.com or follow her on instagram to see her mission is to create a community to support and empower others.