I open my eyes, see the fog and the hospital lights, I close my eyes...
It was only after two weeks that I realised that something was wrong. I felt that everybody was trying to tell me something very carefully...
- We had an accident...' said my ex-boyfriend. "
This was the moment when the new life of Vaiva, the third member of our project The Giant, began.
Vaiva tells us:
"Everything today has a completely different meaning in my eyes. My perception of life has changed when the possibility of staying here was very fragile. I can say with confidence that I am living a second life, only now I am much stronger and more conscious.
I remember the 19th of January of 2008 very well. A guy we knew agreed to do me and my ex-boyfriend a favour by driving us to buy the car of our dreams. I woke up in the early hours of a British winter morning. I walked down the stairs, sat in the back seat of the car. The guys were chatting, and I fell asleep. I am grateful to fate that I woke up. Not immediately, and not the same, but I woke up.
It was only after a week or two that I slowly started to realise that something was wrong. Everyone was trying to tell me something carefully. I didn't feel any pain because I was on painkillers. I remember my boyfriend telling me that we were in an accident. I could not speak at the time because my breathing was through my throat. I had already undergone 5 surgeries.
The fractured vertebrae of the spine were reinforced with metal, a piece of hip bone was inserted in place of the vertebrae, surgery was performed on the fractured jaw, and a tube was inserted in the head, which pulled the blood that was flowing towards the brain. That's who I was that day, reassembled, born again.
Anyway, from the very first moment I felt that everything was temporary and I would get better soon. I didn't realise until then that I and my body would be completely different."
Vaiva's only knowledge of the accident itself comes from the story that the driver's out-of-control car crashed into a wall as it passed through London's notoriously dark Blackwall Tunnel. The crash was so strong that the car turned over, and Vaiva fell out of the rear window of the car and onto the other side of the carriageway. Fortunately, there was no other car on this very busy road, which could take away the last hope of survival. The ambulance arrived quickly and after examining Vaiva they told that she would not make it to the hospital alive without helicopter assistance. But luck was on her side again, and Vaiva was flown by helicopter to the Royal London Hospital - Whitechapel.
When Vaiva was a little stronger after the surgeries, she was timidly told that she had sustained a severe spinal injury and had only a fifty in a hundred chance of walking. But, as Vaiva herself says, hope, faith and perseverance were born in her. And so she began her second life.
The woman tells us:
"I spent 3 months in hospital and 1 year and 2 months in rehabilitation. Everything was familiar, but also new, because I had to learn how to dress, eat, hold a spoon. I was learning to do things that we don't often think about the value of, that we take for granted.
My own feeling was very strange. I could clearly feel my body as an object, as if I were watching it from a distance. It seemed as if my body and soul were separated. I started feeling my soul which was reassuring me that everything would be okay and I must not give up. The first time I rolled into the city in a wheelchair, I felt like I was in a movie and not playing my role.
My situation made me listen to myself. I know I have to go through everything...I have to learn to adapt and live a full life, just moving from one place to another with the help of wheels instead of my legs."
In the future, Vaiva plans to set up a charitable foundation and walk a long distance on her own legs. The money raised at the charity will be donated to the people in her plight, who are in a difficult financial situation, so that they could recover.
Vaiva tells us:
"I have some happy memories in my story. For example, while driving me down the street, the rehabilitation supervisor accidentally pushed the wheelchair harder down the pavement and I fell down. It's funny to me today because the first thought that came to me was that the wheels were not for me, I was falling off them."
It seems that many of us would be devastated by such an event, and few would find optimism and hope in a diagnosis of "fifty-fifty", not to mention the humour of falling out of a wheelchair. But Vaiva's achievements show that she was more than right to take this approach.
After the fatal accident, Vaiva learnt to adapt and carry out everyday routines on her own, driving a car, playing sports, travelling, going to concerts and musicals. She changed her profession and created her own job. In addition to her education in Lithuania, she complemented her knowledge in London with a diploma in business administration and finance. After ten years of dedication to her work, she didn‘t doubt and made a radical career change. Her love for her sister motivated Vaiva to try the beauty area, where her younger sister was already working. This is how Vaiva founded Temptation Studio, which is now in its fifth year. The studio has four Ergoline solariums and beauty parlours offering professional hair, nail and skin care services, as well as massages. And Vaiva has no intention of stopping, because there are no limits to perfection, she says.
The woman tells us:
"Only now I really feel strong and courageous when I say how good it feels to have a priceless chance to live. And I don't care whether I walk with high heels or use a wheelchair. I live a full life, and my greatest joy is freedom and independence. It may sound strange, but disability has great power.
Since I was a little girl, I used to tell myself that I wanted to be different. Today I am different. Every situation is a lesson and a valuable experience. Every event hardens you. I always try to reach my potential, to do my best. I realised that in order to change my life, I have to change myself, and in order to change myself, I have to change my mind."
Let's learn to listen to ourselves, to control our thoughts and to make friends with the giant that lives in all of us, even when we get a wheelchair instead of the car of our dreams.