#ShowMeYourBrave: They Said I’d Never Walk Unassisted, So I Ran
Sometimes, an act of bravery is an act of defiance. Several doctors and specialists told Jessica Guenard-Valiquette that injuries to her right leg were permanent, and that she’d never walk without a cane or brace again.
With courage and strength, she proved them all wrong. Sometimes, sheer determination and courage wins over statistical probability.
For the amazing full story of Jessica’s recovery from a serious accident, visit her blog.
21 years and 4 months ago, I was in a severe car crash that changed my life.
On May 24th, 1991, I was the driver of this vehicle. I am thankful for every day because I know how fortunate I am to be alive.
We did not escape uninjured. After leaving the road and hitting a small rockface, the 1982 Ford Escort flipped end-over-end multiple times. The force of multiple impacts tore the backseat from the floor — it crashed through the back window and was found outside the car. Eventually, when the seatbelt could no longer restrain me, I was thrown into the back.
I suffered serious injuries. I ripped the clutch out with my foot; I bent the steering wheel with my face, breaking my jaw.
My esophagus swelled shut, and one lung collapsed.
Eventually, with my body so weak, I developed pneumonia. My digestive system went into shock and would not work for days.
I was injured and sick, and I fought like crazy to survive.
Despite incredible care, 20 years later there are still after-effects. I suppose one never fully heals from injuries of that magnitude. I’ve had several surgeries on my jaw and still suffer from a nasty case of TMJ. It was years before I could chew anything harder than overcooked pasta. It is still difficult to eat many foods.
Due to the injuries to my ankle, which were initially overlooked in favour of saving my life, I spent about 10 years on crutches and canes and was finally given a brace to deal with a condition called drop foot. It was presumed I would likely not walk again without some minor form of assistance. It was presumed that because of the injuries to my jaw I might never play flute again, something I was very talented at and loved immensely.
I still play flute. I still walk with a limp and have reduced sensation in that leg, but I walkon my own. Not only do I walk — I run!
11 years ago I stopped using the brace and/or cane to help me walk everyday, instead I only use them on the bad days.
It was not enough for me to just defy the odds and walk unaided; 13 years later, I wanted to see if I could run.
8 years and 2 months ago I signed up for a Learn to Run Clinic at my local Running Room.
First a 5km race, then another, and another. I am neither fast, nor am I slow. I am still always secretly amazed that my body has let me continue to run one more race. I have continued to train and on May 1, 2011 I ran my first Half-Marathon. 21.1 km. 13 miles. In one day.
Many people think I am crazy. For others the distance is not that far. It’s important to remember that I have run with people that run multiple marathons a year. For some people, 21.1km is merely a fun run, not a challenge (they’re the crazy ones, by the way).
But for me? For me, this is overwhelming! Once, a handful of people who know medicine, but don’t know me, decided that the odds were stacked against me.
I decided they were wrong.
For as long as I can remember I have chosen to believe that my willpower is stronger than “the odds”. This doesn’t mean that I am not plagued by self-doubt. I wonder if I can do this, I wonder if I should do this. But really, the only way to know for sure is to actually go out and DO IT!
The brace, and the crutches and the cane stay in the closet, readily available, just in case. But I know I won’t need them. 20 years ago I could have accepted the fate offered to me by the doctors. I could have gone home and never played flute again, instead of going on to study music and psychology. I could have just accepted the brace and the cane. But always, always, I could see the end goal. The challenges were just part of the journey.
On September 23rd, 2012, with my friend Denise at my side, and our husbands at the finish, I became a Marathoner.
It is always worth it.
There are only two words you need to remember, when faced with a challenge, no matter how big or small.
The #ShowMeYourBrave Project asks people, “What’s the bravest, scariest, or most intimidating thing you’ve ever done?”. The idea of the project is to share stories of everyday bravery and human resilience to bring us closer together. In sharing, we not only find our voices, but we find support, allies, and others who have faced similar challenges. If you would like to submit your story, we would love to feature your bravery here.