July will mark ten years since my plane crash in 2007.
I will be speaking on June 16th in Weston at a Life Planning Network event-Sharing the lessons I have learned creating sustainable health practices.
Below is an excerpt from my book, Leading for Results, about this experience.
In July of 2007 I was in a plane crash in central Massachusetts. The four-seater Piper Cherokee in which I was a passenger crashed close to the end of the runway in a rural airport. The plane dropped down toward the end of the runway, then bounced back up and crashed into trees in a swamp some five hundred feet away. One wing broke off as the plane fell through the trees onto its side.
Emergency workers from several small towns arrived quickly and worked for over an hour to cut open the plane and evacuate the three people on board. They also had to cut through the deep growth in the surrounding swamp to evacuate us on stretchers. They took us by helicopter to an emergency trauma center at University of Massachusetts Memorial Hospital in Worcester. These rescue worker’s committed actions saved all of our lives.
I suffered fourteen fractures, including three compression fractures to my lumbar spine. I also had several brain hemorrhages. I was immediately put into emergency surgery. In the following weeks, at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston I was continuously challenged to learn how to use my body again. I was in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy every day.
For three months I remained in a back brace as I slowly learned how to use all my limbs again. When my vertebrae finally (thankfully!) healed, the brace was removed. I will always remember the day when I learned that my spine would not be permanently damaged. Words cannot describe the relief.
Recovery from chronic pain was an ongoing challenge. I was on life-saving opioids for eight months. The healing of my pain and the withdrawal from drugs was aided by the meditation that I did for an hour a day. This practice allowed the pain to gradually pass. I know that it helped because on the days when I did not meditate, the pain returned. Later on the behaviors I learned in Somatic Experiencing Therapy – healing from trauma – were essential for my long-term management of pain
At one point I was given the prognosis that I would never be able to work again – and even handed forms to apply for disability! But I refused to believe that (in spite of my fears) and continued to envision a healthy and full life, and persevered in learning how to recover. I understand that I was extremely fortunate that none of my injuries were so debilitating that they prevented me from re-creating my life.
Before the crash I had wanted to slow down, to have more time to reflect. In fact, I had written in my journal, “I need to carve out time to reflect productively, to strengthen my understanding of my life’s work.” Now I don’t need to experience traumatic events to recognize the importance of reflection. I have learned that in times of trauma or loss, it is important to take time to make sense of changes in our lives.
I learned forgiveness. This took years, but was worth the effort. Acceptance of myself and others allows me to have the precious gift of peace. I also learned to ask for and accept support – a lesson we all need to learn as we grow older. Friends, family members, colleagues, clients, trainers, coaches and therapists from many modalities all helped me get through the challenges I faced. Thank you all.
The legacy of the crash is still with me, but mostly in positive ways. I have retained the sensitivity that came from those years of being in recovery. I feel my own and other people’s suffering and emotions more clearly. I have learned that if I want to be healthy into my old age, I need daily practices to move and strengthen my body so that it is flexible and responsive.
The crash was an “early-warning” signal for me to learn what it takes to stay healthy as we age. Today I eat well, I work out in a group of happy older people at Greatest Age Fitness in Newton several times a week, and I practice Svaroopa Yoga with fellow yoginis.
I find that if I move a little bit every day I don’t stiffen up, and I retain the flexibility and balance I need to live a full life.
With my husband, Marc Sevigny, I bicycle, swim, walk, have regular massages and do Qi Gong (basic Tai Chi). We attend a 12-step fellowship where we can confidentially talk about personal concerns, receive spiritual guidance, and continuously learn how to detach with love. All of these practices sustain our ongoing health and happiness.
In return I have been given a life I love.
Though coaching, consulting, teaching and writing I am able to share a bit of the wisdom I have gained with others.
I can enjoy being with friends and family, and playing with grandchildren.
I create a loving marriage with Marc that gives us joy in even the simplest activities of daily living – shopping, cooking, and sharing meals.
For all of this I am eternally grateful.
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