Dubai: Laura Everest was a normal expatriate family woman in Dubai, when one morning, her world came crashing down.
Seven years ago, while out on a morning run, she was hit by a car. Her body was completely smashed. Her right foot came off, her left ankle crushed and was facing back to front with the ankle bone exposed. She had separated her left hamstring (the area where the car had first made contact). She was left with a broken left elbow and half of her lower arm was missing.
“My right wrist was dislocated, as were all my fingers. I had fractured ribs and my whole back had gone into spasm. As you might imagine, running clothes don’t exactly offer you much protection from being rolled over tarmac, so I had plenty of surface damage. Not a very pretty sight. With unbelievable luck, however, I had no serious damage to my head or spine and had not ruptured any vital organs,” Everest told Gulf News, as she recounted her extraordinary story of survival.
On Mother’s Day in UAE celebrated on March 21, Sunday, we speak to this strong willed woman who fought death — just so she could get more time — with her husband and children. “I absolutely was not ready to die!,” said Everest, who has two children, son George aged 21 and daughter Anna, aged 16.
“I believe, just like every other mother, that part of our role as ‘mummy’, is to nurture our children and be a good role model. In fact, I thought I was nailing it until seven years ago when, unexpectedly, my life was brought to an abrupt halt [due to the accident].”
“No one can possibly guess how they might react in such a situation but my mind moved immediately into action mode and my focus turned to what needed to be done. Pain was secondary; I seemed to be able to disconnect from it for the most part. The will to live was overriding. My children needed me.”
Nine hours of surgery
Following the accident, she faced nine hours of surgery and a looming thought that she may never walk again. “My family was in shock and I knew I had to pull through. It was important to me that our children’s routine was interrupted as little as possible and that things felt as ‘normal’ as they could.”
Everest recalled the day she returned home, she was enveloped in bandages and mostly bed bound. “I insisted on going into the kitchen every day, in my wheelchair. I wanted to prepare the children’s lunch boxes. I couldn’t wait to get back to my regular routine of cooking and baking. As often as pain would allow, I would join everyone for dinner in the evening. I really wanted to feel normal.”
“My children fell sick almost immediately after my accident. The stress was getting to them. That is when we all stood together as a family and told each other that everything was going to be fine. I told my children, mummy was going to be fine. As a mother, it was not my injuries or my pain but knowing the fact that my children would not be affected by this adversely.”
She said she could not have come this far without the love and care of her family. “As a family, we built new routines of which the children were an important part. Being wheelchair-bound for the first five months, I needed lots of assistance. But I refused to be a victim. There is no point in wasting energy over things you can’t change. I wanted to get better and it was therefore essential that I put myself in the control seat, so I could manage my own recovery as far as possible and ensure that my children felt safe, loved and confident in leading their lives without worrying about me.”
Till date Everest, has had 17 surgeries so far — and more ahead. “My body is slowly being rebuilt with titanium!” she said. But this has not stopped Everest from working, travelling around the globe on crutches. “It hasn’t always been easy and we’ve faced some tough challenges but as a family, we haven’t just survived, but we’ve learnt to thrive.”
She said her children through the years have learnt to understand that life can test everyone in different ways but when it knocks you back, it does not have to determine the outcome of your life. “Each of us have a unique toolkit of natural resources — a hidden reserve of strength — that leveraged and fine-tuned, give us the power to achieve outstanding results. I have encouraged my kids to recognise their talents and to be confident in who they are and what they can become. I am so proud of the young adults they are growing into.
'Work in progress'
“I am still a work in progress. These testing experiences have enabled me to clarify my purpose and what matters most to me and empowered me to focus on where I can create meaning and impact, within my family and beyond, to enable others to flourish.”
With this in mind, Everest has just written a book titled “Rebuilt to Last; Choose to Flourish” and it will be available on Amazon soon. In this book, Laura tells us about her journey of defying expectations and beating the odds. Describing her roller coaster of triumphs and disappointments along the way, Laura helps us recognise that resilience is rarely a simple act of “bouncing back” but instead, a determined effort and process to climb our way back up each time we are knocked down.
Today, against all the odds, Everest is walking, engaging in sports activities everyday. However running or impact sport is not possible. “Pain is constant but I am determined that I don’t want to just exist, I want to feel that I am living my life with purpose. I have learnt that no matter what the universe hurls at you, however dire your situation, you can choose optimism, find meaning, hope and happiness. I appreciate everything that brings joy into my life, so much more.”