I am a trauma survivor—one of the lucky ones.
In 2008, on my way to Catalina Island for a holiday weekend with family and friends, I survived a horrific helicopter crash that killed three other passengers. I suffered critical, near-fatal injuries that would change the course of my life forever. I fought my way through a coma for weeks and endured 43 broken bones, severe brain and spinal cord injuries, burns over more than 40 percent of my body, multiple skin grafts, the near-loss of an eye, and a partial limb amputation.
Since my 50-plus surgeries, I’m now entering my sixth year post-helicopter crash and I have a new body landscape.
There are many other extraordinary and inspiring military and civilian trauma survivors just like me: miracles who are alive and thriving against all odds. There are also many others and their families who have extraordinary new challenges that define and demand a different approach to living life.
To look at the sum of my parts today, an outside observer would be challenged to identify the length and breadth of the severity of all those injuries and the recovery process I endured, or see any representation of the volcanic destruction of cells that was for some time my physical body and mind.
It was definitely not easy and definitely not a linear healing process. It was three years before I could walk again and almost two years before I could see clearly with both eyes. There were many dramatic physical, mental, and emotional stops and starts in the healing process—particularly when it called for a partial amputation of my foot.
As a joyous, comprehensive, present-and-accounted-for, living-walking-and-seeing miracle, I am now a fully engaged mother to my daughter who is able to care for myself without assistance!
Today, I see most things in life through the eyes of recovery and reinvention from trauma. I see how the power of positivity and creative possibilities play a huge role in the quality of recovery for many, as it did for me. There are many poignant, insightful, funny and ironic twists of life revealed about the human condition during this type of healing process.
I’ll be sharing more about my outlook on recovery and exploring the healing processes for trauma survivors in my column for Parade.com. Check back each week for new features.
Learn about Laura Sharpe’s foundation, Artists for Trauma, which pairs recovering patients with established artists from various disciplines.