By Alyce Collins
A DEVASTATING car accident left this woman with a lifelong spinal cord injury but she isn’t letting this stop her from living life to the fullest and has since SKYDIVED out of a plane despite being confined to a wheelchair.
Laura Beck (29) from Chattanooga, USA, was driving home with her husband after celebrating his birthday in November 2016 at a seafood restaurant in Louisiana when their vehicle skidded over a puddle.
Laura was falling asleep in the passenger seat while her husband Jacob drove them home, but she woke up clutching onto the dashboard as she felt the car skidding out of control. The car flipped three times and hit a tree, and the roof of the car crushed Laura’s head, leaving her paralysed from the chest down.
Jacob, who was uninjured, called the emergency services after fearing that Laura was dead. She was transported to hospital immediately where they discovered that her spine had punctured her spinal cord.
Laura was in the ICU for 10 days, followed by another week in hospital after doctors removed shards of bone from her neck to fuse her spine together. She woke up with almost no movement in her hands, core or legs.
Both Laura and Jacob have always been lovers of the outdoors, so being told she could never walk again was difficult for Laura to digest initially, until she decided that being quadriplegic didn’t have to stop her from achieving her goals.
Immediately after leaving the hospital, Laura went to a rehabilitation facility to learn about her new limitations and to rebuild what strength she could. For a year, Laura dealt with her new lifestyle until she was ready to face new challenges.
In September 2018 Laura went skydiving, a memory she will cherish forever. Her and Jacob also plan on renovating a camper van to accommodate Laura’s wheelchair, enabling them to still go travelling through America.
“On November 28, 2016 we celebrated Jacob’s birthday at a seafood restaurant in Louisiana,” said Laura.
“Jacob’s birthday was on the 29th, but at 11.55pm we had the car accident.
“I was falling asleep, but I woke up at 11.50pm and told myself to stay awake to scream ‘happy birthday’ at him at midnight.
“Five minutes later we hit the puddle and I remember grabbing the dashboard and screaming. Then I woke up in blackness because I couldn’t see anything, and Jacob was frantically screaming at me to still be alive.
“The last thing I remember until waking up in ICU is the emergency service responders asking me to count to 10.
“Jacob used a pair of trousers his mum got him for his birthday to catch the blood coming out of my head.
“I was in the ICU for 10 days and stayed in the hospital for another week. My spine fractured and punctured my spinal cord at C6. They removed the shards of my bone in my neck and fused my spine from C5-C7.
“I was on extremely hard drugs when they initially told me that I’d never walk again. One of my most vivid memories from the ICU was my oldest sister coming to the side of my bed and I looked at her and said, ‘I don’t want to be an old hag in a wheelchair’.
“She had tears and said, ‘then don’t Laura, you get to choose who you are going to be in this wheelchair.’ After she said that, my whole perspective changed. We get to choose how we respond to the happenings in our life, whether good or bad.
“When I first left the hospital, I was flown to a spinal cord injury rehab facility in Houston. The rehab was so hard and draining, but my husband and I had such a strong support system through our family at this time.
“The first year of my injury was really rough as I was sitting in my chair incorrectly which was causing my piriformis to pinch my sciatic nerve.
“For about six months I was vomiting and in such extreme pain. I had a seating clinic lady help me correct my sitting posture and I have had so much fun since the pain is no longer unbearable.”
After continuing her rehabilitation program for a year, Laura was able to try new challenges as she hoped to get a glimmer of her former life back. In November 2018, Laura and Jacob drove through Utah, Arizona and Colorado and other states, staying in their tent with their two dogs.
Laura wants to show others that it is possible to find the positive outcome in difficult situations, as she refuses to be defined by her disability.
“From the beginning, I have always been the type to try new things and do what scares me,” said Laura.
“My husband and I moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2014, without jobs because we wanted to be able to hike and be in nature. We also both want to see the world.
“We’re going to create our own adventure van and travel across USA. We decided there’s no reason we can’t do everything that we wanted to do before the injury, it’s just going to look a little different.
“Travelling has changed the most in that I don’t have a fully functioning bladder, which means that when we’re driving, if I know I have to go to the bathroom we have about two to five minutes before I will go on myself.
“We have to rush to the side of the road and catheterize me so that I can go.
“I was at a triathlon camp in summer 2018, and I decided I would go skydiving that year, so I went in September with three other quadriplegics.
“I didn’t know what truly living felt like until I jumped out of the plane, it was one of the best days of my life.
“Getting up to 15,000 feet in the plane was just a teaser. Anyone who loves adventure should try to do it at least once in their life because it was worth the fear.
“The message that I want others to see is that hard things happen to all of us. We may not fully understand another’s battles, but we are all here for each other.
“The most important thing in life I believe is to find joy during whatever life deals you. It’s not easy to do so, but I believe it is possible for everyone.
“Don’t let life tell you that you can’t do something. Find the humour and joy in all that life tried to break you with – that will always be what I say has saved Jacob and I from letting life destroy us.”
You can follow Laura’s journey by visiting @anhonestquad.