“There is no going back, but only forward. Rather than dwelling on the past, we should make the most of today, of the here and now, doing all we can… Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family.”
On February 5, 2009, I was snowboarding at Sundance Ski Resort, nearing the last runs of my day when I went up the side of a hill for trick, but didn’t land it. I got back up, pushed hard and got some momentum to do another trick off the bigger hill. Not only did I not land it, I fell straight on my back and rolled over several times. The wind was knocked right out of me. I remember trying to get up but not having any control or feeling below my waist. Unable to move, freezing, and excruciating pain running through my body–I was helpless.
All I could do was call for help. While was waiting for ski patrol, I said a prayer to Heavenly Father, asking for help to alleviate this pain and anxiety I was feeling. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew I was in bad shape. I was life-flighted to the nearest hospital and checked in for the long haul.
After 16 hours of surgeries, I woke up in the ICU on a ton of drugs to minimize the intense pain, but still in constant pain and discomfort. I couldn’t do much on my own. I was on oxygen and was constantly dizzy. I had never felt my body so weak and unresponsive to my commands. Ten days later, I was moved to the rehabilitation unit to begin physical therapy to regain my strength and occupational therapy to learn how to maneuver with my turtle shell on until my back was fully healed.
I was so tired and sick all the time. I later learned that I had sustained a complete spinal cord injury, which meant permanent damage and I would never be able to walk again. Wait…Never, ever? I was in worse shape than I thought. Words cannot fully express the amount of shock and helplessness I felt.
I was overwhelmed with fear of what future (or lack thereof) lied ahead. What am I supposed to do with my life now? School? Career? Family? I didn’t know how I was supposed to do anything by myself anymore since the simplest of tasks like sitting up or getting dressed by myself seemed like insurmountable tasks. As an extremely independent and active person, it hurt deep down to the core to not to be able to do simple tasks for myself.
Despair took over. I felt completely broken and alone. Why me? Would have, should have, and could have kept running through my mind. Shock. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. I’m pretty sure I hit all the stages of grief. I was ready to give up on everything.
Try as I may to wish it all away, the prognosis wasn’t going to change. The fact of the matter was that my legs could no longer walk again. Gone were the days of feeling sand beneath my feet, or pushing my legs to go as fast as they could go, or even, snowboarding…
What was the hardest thing you went through during this time?
The emotional aspect of this loss proved more challenging than the physical. The hardest thing for me going this experience was getting over the grief of not being able to walk again and figuring out how I was going to make do with this new life, yet feel like I was still me. I was always very athletic, doing things from dance to running track to snowboarding—I used my legs all the time. I defined myself as a very an independent woman and using my legs was integral to keeping everything about me going.
When I lost my legs, it felt like something very precious to me was taken away. I felt mad, helpless, disappointed—like I was forced into a life that I never, ever imagined for myself. I was heartbroken and frustrated, having to relearn how to do simple tasks different from how I’ve always done them. I didn’t like having to roll around and get super sweaty just to put on my pants. I had the hardest time with the new bathroom routine and having no control over my bowels and bladder. I was so frustrated by the pain I felt all the time.
I struggled with knowing who I was anymore, knowing my self-worth, and understanding why God would allow this to happen to me. I was surrounded by friends and family who were telling me that I would be OK and that I could do this, but I felt so alone, like no one understood what I was going through. I was so sad.
What advice do you have for people going through a hard time?
The advice I would give to anyone going through a hard time is to keep on going because it only gets better from rock bottom. The turning point for me was when I focused on what I could do and what I had control over. What happened already happened and there was nothing I could do about it. I am here now. Now is what I’m looking at. Now it what I can focus on. Now is what I can work with, and what I do now will set the stage for my future.
This quote by Thomas S. Monson sums it, “There is no going back, but only forward. Rather than dwelling on the past, we should make the most of today, of the here and now, doing all we can… Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family.” I can only control myself and I will tell myself that I can do it until I can. No, I can’t walk, but I will make the most out of what I can still do. I will get back up. I will figure it out. I will make the most out of day to day. I will live in such a way that I love this new life.
We are born with an inherent resilience. Use this resilience to face our challenges headstrong. We have abilities beyond our comprehension. We can do hard things. We can take on challenges like a boss. In fact, we are our own bosses. We choose how we respond to challenges. We can face circumstances we never thought we’d find ourselves in, and say, I can do this. I am capable of this. We can do what seems like impossible things. For believers, we’ve got God and Christ by our side, cheering us on. We’ve got to keep going. And one month from now, one year from now, one decade from now, we’ll be grateful that we kept pressing forward.
What helped you the most during your trial?
What really helped me during my trial was surrounding myself with people who constantly showed me love and patience and made me laugh. Family, friends, doctors, nurses constantly told me I was still me and that I had so much to offer. These people celebrated all my small victories with me from pushing myself up a ramp to eating food on my own. These people who reminded me it was a process and to be patient with myself. These people never gave up on me, even during my depression. And these people who have followed me through the year and remind me of how far I’ve come.
Another thing that helped me during my trial was becoming more empowered as I figured out new ways that worked for me and being able to see that I can still do things for myself and others. After two and a half months in the hospital, I got back into real life, finding ways to do what I love, and trying to be as independent as possible. I figured my way around my apartment and school. I got a job on campus and started volunteering with various community programs. I got to make a difference in people’s lives! I surrounded myself with friends, new and old. And I proved to myself that I was still me, and in fact, I am a better me. I am stronger than I ever thought. I can do anything!
Share an update on your life now
10 years have passed since my accident and I am here. I am in my now. I am happy. I am grateful. I graduated from college. I am married to my college sweetheart and we have three little sweet babies. I am an IT project manager. I am a volunteer for an organization that helps kids with disabilities get the therapy they need. I am a volunteer for families of Asian American descent in the community. I am a hand cyclist. I am a traveler in a wheelchair and have been to 26 countries.
I am able to share my experiences and journey at www.clanhuntington.com, and have been able to touch people’s lives. And I am a friend and follower of Christ. I made the choice 10 years ago to live my life in such a way to shape my now, taking on challenges proudly, and I will keep pressing forward to shape the rest of my life. I am a better person than I was before and I have learned so much through this experience. I know God loves me. I know He makes all things possible for us to grow. I know I am a valuable person, I have so much to offer, and I can do anything—even get back on the slopes…in a monoski that is.