Shattered. But Not Destroyed. BY VANESSA ROGERS
n the evening of August 28th , 1999 my life changed forever. It was the Saturday before my final year of high school would commence. I was a 16-year-old girl with my entire life ahead of me. I was a gifted athlete, talented pianist, and an avid student. I was excited for a year filled with memories of friends, playing my favourite team sports and graduation. I had plans to attend university and play on the basketball team. That Saturday evening, I was in a horrific car crash. I was driving my car home on an unfamiliar road, when the paved road suddenly changed to gravel and the car swerved out of control. The car flipped, rolling heavily on the driver’s side roof, before landing upright. The roof was forced into my skull, compressing, and finally, crushing the vertebrae in my neck. I would soon learn from doctors that my spinal column had been damaged beyond repair. I would never walk again; I would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. As classes commenced at my high school, I was undergoing multiple surgeries to attempt to repair my destroyed vertebrae and spinal column. My C1 and C2 vertebrae were broken and my C6 and C7 had been crushed and shattered. The C6 and C7 had ripped through my spinal column sheath and rendered me a complete quadriplegic. According to specialists, with the most intense physio therapy, I might be able to relearn how to feed myself. Life can change in a moment. I had gone from an independent young woman with a future full of potential to a 16year-old newborn baby. I was in diapers, I had to be changed, I couldn’t feed myself, I couldn't even scratch my nose or move a hair off of my face! When I look back, I remember the feelings of hopelessness. My mother would hold me as I wept. I couldn’t even hug her back. I wondered who would want me like this? Who could love me like this? Would I ever get married? I imagined a wedding where my dress got stuck in the wheels of my wheelchair. 50
I was still alive but, I wondered what kind of life I could have. It was a very dark time for my family and I. While I was attempting to come to terms with my diagnosis, something miraculous took place. I started to feel, and move, my fingers and toes! Somehow the nerves in my spine had found pathways around my shredded spinal cord. Let me be clear, there was a less than 1 per cent chance of this ever happening. While it was amazing and brought so much hope and light it also meant that there was so much hard work to do. I had to do intensive physical therapy. I am talking tears streaming down my face as I dug deep and pushed myself as far as I could. It was so hard. But it taught me that I could harness my determination and stubbornness. That I had a stellar work ethic and could get through the toughest circumstances and come out the other side. I learned that I may have to try harder, work harder and work longer but, I could accomplish something I was told was impossible. At the time I had no idea how beneficial these lessons would prove to be in the future.