Martina's Accident

I was a newbie in Utah and had come out for college, ready to try new things and gain some perspective. I remember going up snowboarding for the first time. As I was standing on top of the beautiful snow-capped mountains, surrounding by absolute stillness, looking down into the openness of the valley, I was in awe. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Absolutely breathtaking. And I was so ready to take on the coolest sport ever...until I actually got on the snowboard and promptly fell over.

There were many falls, bum time, and choice words going down the hill the first time. I kind of really hated it and bless AJ for sticking it out with grouchy me up there. But I was determined to head back up that mountain again. Admittedly, I was too embarrassed to not go back up again. I had to prove to myself and AJ that I could do this. I was going to learn this damn sport and it was going to be fun. got better the second, third, and fourth time. The challenge of maneuvering my body, back and forth over my snowboard down the mountain was exhilarating. By the last run, I knew I had to come back for more. The next few months of this routine of trying new things and nailin' it were amazing!

Then, February 5, 2009. I was at Sundance, nearing the last runs of my day. I went up the side of a 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. Unable to move, freezing, and excruciating pain running through my body--I was helpless. All I could was muster a prayer God for relief from all my pain and comfort to calm my fears. 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, I woke up in the ICU. I knew I was on a ton of drugs to minimize the intense pain, but I still felt tons of pain and discomfort. I couldn’t do much on my own as I was hooked up to oxygen all the time. I 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 that I had complete spinal cord injury, which meant permanent damage and I would never be able to walk again.

Words cannot fully 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.

I was overwhelmed with despair and hopelessness. 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. All I could see was physical pain (that continues to this day), emotional strain, grief, depression, low self-confidence, anxiety, and worst of all, anger at God. It felt like life was so unfair to me and sometimes living felt like a major task. 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.

 I share my story with you to help you understand that life can change at any moment, and it's up to us to choose which direction it goes. I love this perspective from Thomas S. Monson, 
“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 to provide pleasant memories for the future…Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family.”

The accident is one of the greatest trials I have faced. 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. Just like when I began my snowboarding journey and got back on that mountain again even after the crappy first run, I was able to see the improvements and joy from continuing on the journey. 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. It took a while but these bitter experiences allowed me to change my life around and see the sweet blessings of each day. AND I still am back on the mountain every ski season....monoskiing! 

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