16 Things I learned from surviving a near-fatal road accident (Part 2)

16 Things I learned from surviving a near-fatal road accident (Part 2)

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Below is the second instalment of an earlier blog post, “16 Things I learned from surviving a near-fatal road accident”. Click here to read Part 1. 

9. It’s very hard to comprehend that a traumatic event happened to you if you can’t remember it.

My memories of the accident are scattered. An ambulance. Aldrin asking me questions about my medical insurance. The realisation I had no front teeth. My new floral jumpsuit being cut off. Clumps of dried blood in my hair. All that, but no memory of the actual collision. Some days, I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that it happened to me.

10. Just because something bad happened to you, doesn’t mean you deserved it.

People often talk about ‘karma’. The cause and effect belief that if you do good, good things will happen to you. Vice versa this suggests bad outcomes are a result of bad actions.
After my accident one of my biggest questions was, ‘why me?’. If karma was true, I must have done something to deserve this. But what could I have done that would proportionally lead to a horrendous hit-and-run? 
The answer, I realised, was simple. Nothing. I did nothing to deserve this. Life is unfair. Shit happens. End of.
11. Accident recovery is more than what you see on the outside.

Throughout my recovery I’ve struggled more than the eye can see. 

Flashbacks. Dizziness. Concentration problems. Short-term memory loss. Recurring dreams about car crashes and crushed scooters. And let’s not forget the emotional side of things, too.

12. The key to emotional recovery is finding a sense of purpose.

If I had to give one piece of advice to other road-accident-recovery-newbies, it would be this: find a way to feel useful and appreciated.
It took me a while to find ‘my thing‘. I made a half-hearted attempt to learn how to play guitar. I had a wonderful time volunteering at a local kindergarten. I spent more than a year exploring a newfound love for sewing (a.k.a.  The Bag Lady ). 
And then I found a passion for accessibility advocacy. Creating Able Amsterdam has given me a renewed sense of purpose, achievement and appreciation. It pushed me to learn new skills and network within the disability community. All this has been instrumental in keeping me motivated throughout difficult days.
13. Recovery isn’t linear.
A lot of people assume my ability to cope is directly correlated with time. In reality, accident recovery is a rollercoaster ride. Some days I feel pretty good, while other days I feel utterly helpless. Up and down the rollercoaster I go. 

14. Social media can be an amazing source of support and motivation.

To my surprise, I found a lot of comfort in social media. Instagram is full of accounts with motivational recovery stories, including @em_carey and @majotorrealba. Similarly, Facebook groups like “Broken Femur Victims Unite” and “Car Accident Survivors Support Group” connect thousands of international survivors. It’s been great to share experiences and feel understood.

15. Sometimes, laughter really is the best medicine.

Another crucial ingredient during recovery is a sense of humour. I’ve cried of laughter with a friend after my dentures flew out mid-sentence. I’ve had friends tell me supportively to “break a leg!” before important hospital appointments. My walk-in wardrobe was christened the ‘hobble-in’ wardrobe. 

When I passed the time sewing Bag Lady tote bags, my friends brainstormed totally inappropriate but funny collection names, like “tragedy totes“, “pity purses“, “disability duffles” , and “hit-and-run handbags“. You just can’t expect to survive this thing without a laugh.

16. Surviving a road accident will change you forever.

I don’t think anyone can survive such an experience without getting some sort of a wake up call.

My own accident led me to an unbelievable appreciation of privacy, dignity, mobility, and independence. I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at these words before all this. Yet now I value them more than I can articulate.

This was the second instalment of an earlier blog post, “16 Things I learned from surviving a near-fatal road accident”. Click here to read Part 1. 

Click here for more blog posts.

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Josephine Rees

My name is Josephine Rees (1993) and I am Dutch-British. I was raised in Tokyo and Moscow and moved to The Netherlands to study Anthropology & Human Geography in 2012. After briefly living in Thailand and Cambodia, I am now based in Amsterdam. I love exploring Amsterdam and hope to help others by sharing accessibility tips.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Denise

    I’ve just found your blog and read your story. I’m a stroke survivor in a wheelchair myself, and I like to read about how others in wheelchairs are getting along, and maybe get different viewpoints. I don’t know anyone else in a wheelchair in real life, and it makes me feel less alone to have an online community. And I really appreciate your humor, I always love a good laugh.

    1. Josephine Rees

      Thank you Denise! I’m happy to hear my blog has helped you. I don’t know anyone in my circle of friends & family in a wheelchair either — so I know how isolating and difficult that can be. Even if people around me offer me lots of support, there’s something comforting about being in touch with others in a similar situation. One of the best things for me was searching relevant hashtags on Instagram, (“wheelchair”, “wheelchairlife”, “babewithamobilityaid” and many more) revealing a world of bloggers and Instagrammers who have learned to adapt, overcome, and thrive. It has given me hope and it’s shown me reduced mobility shouldn’t stop you from getting the most out of life. That’s a message I hope to pass on through my blog too. 🙂

  2. Shiho

    I read your stories and this blog post really impressed me. I’ve only seen you smiling and being open to everyone around, but you have overcome tremendous amount of difficulties that no one can imagine. And it is amazing that you have started to make this website with accesible places for wheelchairs. I’m sure your work will help a lot of people with wheelchair to explore Amsterdam, which looks a bit not-so-wheelchair-friendly because it’s an old city.

    I showed your instagram photos to my 6 yo son, including the stiches and x-rays. He was at first surprised, and then he told me you are very brave and strong because she can walk again. He also said it’s very cool that you have(had) metal pieces on your legs. I really think that one day soon you’ll give a class to school children about your stories. I’m sure children will learn a lot form you.

    Again, thank you for sharing your experiences, and it’s amazing you have made your experiences into this website. Keep on going!!

    1. Josephine Rees

      Thank you for your lovely words of support Shiho!

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