Day 19 - Em Carey
On the 9th of June 2013, my life changed in a single moment. One week earlier, I packed my bags and boarded a plane to Europe for a three-month trip I had been looking forward to for years. Five days into the trip, I found myself in Switzerland, jumping into a helicopter I was about to jump out of. Skydiving over the Swiss Alps had been a massive dream of mine for as long as I can remember, so I felt nothing but pure excitement and elation that it was finally happening. We were flying high above the alps, looking down at the tiny mountains which looked so big from below just five minutes earlier and as we were getting higher and higher, I remember thinking to myself ‘remember this moment’.
The feeling of free-falling was something I will never forget. I had always expected it to be a lot scarier but I can honestly say it was one of the best moments of my life. An overwhelming sense of calmness washed over me and I remember feeling like in that moment, I was exactly where I was meant to be. My daydream soon turned into my worst nightmare when the free-fall didn’t seem to stop. I felt the parachute come out and slow us down a little bit but we were still going straight down and even though I didn’t know anything about skydiving, I knew it was way too fast. The next minute, I’m lying face down on the ground with an unconscious man strapped to my back. When I went to roll him off me, I had the most brutal and heartbreaking realization of my entire life. I couldn’t move my legs. At all.
To this day, I have never been able to put the weight of this feeling into words and I honestly I don’t think I ever will. The next few minutes are the only minutes in my life I genuinely wish I could forget. All of the thoughts running through my mind were so completely opposite and surreal to the thoughts I was having just one hour earlier when I was a 20-year-old carefree girl, naively enjoying her holiday. My mind went from not having to think even an hour into the future, to thinking about the rest of my entire life in a matter of seconds. How would I go to Rome tomorrow? How would I be able to run again? How would I play with my kids when I have them? How would I even have kids? How would anyone fall in love with me? How would I ever feel happiness again?
Until that day, I had never faced a situation that was irreversible. Normally when you come across a problem in life, there is some kind of solution, some way to erase the damage or some way to move forward. There, laying on the ground, face in the dirt and an unconscious man on my back, there was nothing like that. I couldn’t move my legs, I couldn’t go back in time five minutes and I couldn’t deny the damage. The permanency of the situation broke my heart. I wondered how it would feel to live the rest of my life unhappy.
Flash forward three and a half years, and here I am sitting in my room writing this with a big smile on my face because I am genuinely happier than I have ever been. My broken heart became my greatest strength, my paralyzed legs learnt to walk again and the worst moment of my life, became the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It wasn't an easy path to get here, it has been one long, crazy, mind-blowing, upsetting, liberating, frustrating, life-changing journey but I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the ride.
When people hear about my accident, a lot of the time they just like to focus on the fact that I learnt to walk again, but to be honest that’s not what I am most proud of. Don’t get me wrong, the use of the legs is something I am thankful for every single day and I worked my butt off to get them back, but I don’t feel like that side of the journey is what I am here to share. The physical changes and improvements to my body have been surreal but the difference I have noticed in my mind is something which shocks me every single day.
I used to be one of those people who would wake up and unconsciously go about their day, someone who would look at a sunset and feel unaffected, someone who was living but not really alive. Now, I wake up and look forward to the day, I can barely look at a sunset without crying, I am so excited to be alive that I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I’ve found a way to see beauty in absolutely everything - the world, the people, the emotions, the lessons and I feel a kind of happiness which I had never experienced before my accident.