Recently, I was asked to share my story with a group ofamazing young women. But just before, we read the children's book by Max Lucado, You are Special. And this little talk ties into this theme that each of us are children of God, and we are special.
I remember going up snowboarding for the first time and seeing the sun shining over the beautiful mountains as I was standing on top. The challenge of maneuvering my body over my snowboard down the mountain was exhilarating. Although I had endured a lot falls and spent a lot of time on my bum, I couldn’t wait to until the next time I could go back. It was a magnificent day.
Unfortunately, my snowboarding career was cut short on February 5, 2009. I was at Sundance, nearing the last runs of my day. I went up the side of a little hill to try out a new trick, but didn’t land it. I got back up, pushed hard and got some momentum to do another trick off the bigger hill. But 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 have any control below my waist. There was only excruciating pain all over my body. As I waited for snow patrol to come, I said a prayer God for relief from all the pain and comfort to calm the fear that something really bad had just happened. I was life-flighted to the nearest hospital (the most expensive ride of my life and I can’t even really remember it).
After 16 hours of surgeries and intense drugs minimize the intense pain, I woke up in the ICU. I remember thinking, “It was just a few broken bones, but I’ll back to normal in no time” (I was on a lot of drugs and didn’t know the gravity of the injury). I couldn’t do much on my own as I was hooked up to oxygen all the time, couldn’t even sit up, and was constantly dizzy and in pain. I had never felt my body 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. However, my health kept declining, I lost my appetite and what little food I ate wouldn’t stay down. After a series of tests, I learned I had pancreatitis, a result of the trauma to my pancreas and was placed on a feeding tube that bypassed the pancreas (who knew the pancreas could affect so much?). I was so tired and sick all the time. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I learned the horrible news that I had complete spinal cord injury, which meant I would never be able to walk again.
Words cannot full express the amount of shock and hopelessness I felt. I was overwhelmed with fear of what future (or lack thereof) lay 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. I couldn’t sit up by myself. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t dress myself. I couldn’t do anything for myself. As an extremely independent and active person, it hurt deep down to the core. I felt completely broken and alone. 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 I wouldn’t be able to walk again.
Despaired and hopeless, I remember asking, “Heavenly Father, why me? Why did this happen? What do I do now? Please help me.” I knew life wasn’t going to be the same and I was afraid. The prospects of life without my legs seemed bleak.
My answer came in a thought that prompted me to stop relying on my own legs, but to rely on my savior, Jesus Christ to carry me through. He is my legs now. He has suffered all the pain and sins of the world and He knows exactly how I was feeling. He loves me and is with me. I can rely on His strength until I regain my own. He wants me to find joy so I should not give up. The days ahead won’t be easy, but you will be whole again. Peace and calm overcame me, and I knew it everything was going to be alright.
I spent the next couple of months in the hospital, learning all I could and giving this no legs deal another chance. Admittedly, there were some long, painful days in physical therapy and I was a grumpy pants on some of those days. But I set little goals that would challenge and encourage me to keep pushing through. Little by little, I grew stronger, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I felt God’s strength and presence each step of the way. And life got better.
From those initial days at the hospital, I never would have thought that life could be so good. I was about ready to give up, but I’m glad I didn’t. I have learned so much in these few years, and have gain so much perspective and purpose for life. I’m grateful for the outpour of love from my friends and family. I grateful for the strength I receive from my Heavenly Father and in the knowledge, that He has a plan for me. I’m grateful for the opportunities to grow from hard experiences and help others who are struggling as well. My disability has taught me to understand and reach out to others with disabilities—people who are generally forgotten. I now see great potential in everyone and am passionate about helping others see and unlock that potential.
We are Heavenly Father’s children and we are special merely because we are so and we are blessed with great power within us. We have many unlocked talents to contribute to the world and we must discover them. The Plan of Salvation is real and there is purpose in everything that happen to us. Our trials are only but a short moment in the eternal spectrum. We matter to Heavenly Father and we can rely on Him. Trials will come to challenge us and mold us into who He knows we can be. He puts things in place to help us get through them and most importantly teach us and strengthen us.
President Uchtdorf said, “It is often in the trial of adversity that we learn those most critical lessons that form our character and shape our destiny.” I don’t necessarily know what my destiny is yet, but I do know who I am and what I believe. I know who is always on my team, and that brings great comfort. I know that whatever career it is that I end up in, my job is to love and serve Heavenly Father’s children, and I can't think of anything better than that.
It is my hope that you know that you are special in the eyes of God, whose opinion matters most. Don’t ever give up. Take your trials, whatever they might be, in strides, because Heavenly Father knows that you cannot become the person He intends you to be without facing difficulties. You are uniquely equipped to tackle the situations that you find yourself in. It’s not always going to be easy but remember that it’ll be worthwhile – just as you are. Trust in Him. He is with you every step of the way to help you become what He knows you can become. He loves you and is so eager to hear from you so he can help you. You are His child and you are stronger than you think you are. You have great potential and purpose, please have courage and seek those out. There are marvelous blessings in store for you.