I will never forget August 14, 2019. That was the day I got involved in an accident. A truck collided with my car and drove it off the road. My World was forever changed!

This is my #BeBrave story.

Left in a serious condition I was hospitalised for weeks with injuries including a broken chest bone, breaking my pelvis in 3 places, a fractured lung, cracked ribs and being paralyzed from my waist down.

Upon reflection, I remember my doctor’s warning during the time when I was lying in a hospital bed and couldn’t take care of myself. He said, “Gabi, you’re using humor to avoid confronting what has actually happened to you.” He cautioned me to be prepared for when the gravity of the situation hits me, and that we’ll deal with it then and he was right.

My doctor suggested to my parents that it would be more financially feasible to either admit me to a hospice or take me home and arrange for a hospital bed and a nurse to care for me. There was no physical damage that prevented me from using my legs, but the doctor advised us to give it time. The only explanation he could think of was that the blood circulation to my legs had been cut off while I was trapped in the car. The “jaws of life” rescue equipment had to be used to free me from the wrecked vehicle. I felt like a baby all over again. I couldn’t move and I felt like a prisoner in that bed. I had to be washed, fed, and have my hair and teeth brushed. I was forced to use diapers again and consume so many medications on a daily basis, which was a far cry from being the healthy and sporty person I couldn’t seem to picture myself as anymore.

Looking back at that time, I truly don’t know how I managed to survive. Anyone who read about my accident in the article or heard about it simply couldn’t believe how I made it through. I had so many questions that I couldn’t answer, and I doubted myself a lot. But now, I am healing and in a much better place in my life, especially with regards to my accident. I can confidently say that I am grateful for my parents, family, close friends, and all the medical specialists who ensured that I received the best medical care and helped me get out of that hospital bed. They gave me a second chance to life.

My second miracle – the first being surviving the accident – was regaining sensation in my right foot. My mom made it her mission to find a physiotherapist willing to come to our home to help me. The exercises paid off, and my doctor was pleased. All my breaks had healed perfectly, and my doctor approved the physiotherapist to get me up from the hospital bed. I remember that day as if it were yesterday; it felt like the first time I was standing up, and my upper body felt so heavy that I thought I could tip over any minute. With the help of my physio, a walking ring, and taking five steps, I finally felt like my recovery was getting somewhere.

Over the course of the months, I had to relearn how to walk using various aids such as a walking ring and crutches. Along with this physical challenge, I also had to deal with the emotional aftermath of my accident. There were days when I felt like I had been through a never-ending struggle. I would often find myself crying and questioning why I had survived the accident and why I had to go through all of this pain and suffering. It was difficult for me to accept the new version of myself and regain my confidence. But I knew that I had to be brave and keep pushing forward, assuring myself that I could overcome this trauma and that I had the strength to do so.

When I thought I was on the path to recovery, unexpected obstacles threw me off balance. Unknowingly, depression and anxiety seeped into my life, making it one of the darkest phases I’ve ever been through. I went in and out of psychiatrist offices, trying to find the right medication balance and talking about my experience, hoping to understand why I couldn’t feel alive again. After undergoing several tests and experiencing side effects, I was diagnosed with PTSD. Two weeks on the prescribed medication for PTSD, I started feeling less empty and more alive with each passing day.

In the past three years, I have experienced a series of ups and downs as I dealt with the aftermath and complications of my accident. Each new issue became a trigger for me, and I felt like I needed to address them in order to move forward and not let the accident define the rest of my life. Last year, I had to have glass removed from my hand that had been stuck there since the accident, and my physio team discovered that I had a PCL injury that was slowing down my full recovery. I found myself going in and out of surgeon’s offices and back to the hospital to have my knee fixed so that I could regain full mobility in my leg. This was something I desperately wanted because I had gained weight while being bedridden and having limited mobility.

A lot of people would stop me and ask how I managed to survive and recover, but it’s not as simple as just getting up and walking again. Only those closest to me knew what I was really going through, and what it still takes for me to have more good days than bad days.

Life can be funny, because sometimes the craziest things that happen to you end up being exactly what you needed. In my case, I honestly feel like God put me on my back for a reason. After my accident, I see things differently and appreciate life on a whole new level. I’m grateful for every person who stood by me, and I’ve learned an important lesson: we shouldn’t take today for granted because tomorrow isn’t promised. Most importantly, I’m thankful for life itself, and for simply still being here. I’m on a path to becoming a bigger, braver, and better version of myself.

I’m excited to find my purpose in life, and I hope and pray that it involves sharing my story with the world to spread a message of courage and hope. I’m learning to be kinder to myself, taking it one day at a time as I stitch myself back together, and finding comfort in the little things that bring me glimpses of joy and purpose.

I’m using this time to rebuild, help others, get healthy and fit, reflect, recharge, and find myself and my direction in life. My smile is slowly but surely making its way back!