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The Day I could have lost my life -four reflections on Life, Purpose and Leadership

“Are you ok?,” my teenage son called from the distance. I am the kind of person who is always OK. I know how to soldier on. But I immediately knew that no, I was not ok. Not this time. I AM DEFINITELY NOT OK.

I left behind me a trail of blood as bystanders called the ambulance. My inner arm had three gaping wounds, I could see right to my bone with blood gushing out uncontrollably bleeding through two beach towels no matter how tight we tried to hold it together.

It was supposed to be a quick swim. An unfortunate fall over slippery rocks within the sand on the retreating tide had made me land on some other rocks. I tried to recover with my right arm and instead fell with my inner arm on a rock that must have had some sharp edges. I can’t remember details.

The ambulance did not come for 35 minutes. In fact it never came. I was about to faint when a bystander offered to take me to the Emergency in her own car. She was a hero. It was a courageous move on her part and I don’t even know her name to thank her.

Surgery and a number of days in the hospital in the lead up to Christmas. The doctors and nurses called it a miracle that each deep laceration had barely missed the main artery and main nerve. And I still hear the nurse say to me: “You are very lucky - This could have been your last day.”

There is no point asking myself why this injury happened. But at the risk of making myself vulnerable – I will share four key take aways I have had since:

1. Gratitude

Life is a miracle. Each day is a blessing. Yes there is a lot wrong in the world but there is even more right and the good always outshines any evil. Nobody knows the number of their days. Life might not always be easy or make sense but I am so grateful to be alive.

2. It is ok to not be ok

When I came home from the hospital I was desperate to work again right away the week before Christmas. The reality was I was not ready to go back to work at all. I felt exhausted from the pain relief, the general anaesthetics of surgery. And the more the drugs wore off the more I was forced to face the pain and the impact of the injury. Could it be that when we want to rush back to work we are actually trying to escape the sense of being vulnerable and are trying to avoid processing the pain and what could have been? Grateful for my wise leader at work who encouraged me to rest!

3. What if this had been it?

Accidents happen when we least expect them. We are rarely prepared. Going into surgery I couldn’t help but wonder: Are my affairs in order? Are there any unfinished tasks in my life? Would my family be ok?

I know it sounds cathartic but as I reviewed my life I was grateful that I had a strong relationship with God, that I have prioritised family, that I invested in strong friendships over the years, that by grace I have tried to keep a soft heart and not harness bitterness or unforgiveness towards anyone. Grateful that I have loved the jobs I have had as they have been an integral part of living my purpose each day. Grateful for the times I had been creative and the times I have had a chance to make a difference in the lives of others.

As I reviewed my life did I have any regrets?

Yes, I did. I regretted the times I had held back on backing myself, the times I didn’t believe in myself enough, didn’t dare enough. The times I waited on circumstances to change or waited on others to do the right thing. The times I didn’t make decisions – as this was a decision as well. The times I could have been more intentional about the future I wanted to create. The times I indulged in wishful thinking instead of making my next bold move.

And as I was wheeled into surgery and the anaesthetist sent me off to sleep with the question “which beverage will you choose for Christmas red or white?” I remember concluding my internal review with the heartfelt longing that there was so much more life I wanted to live, so much more I wanted to give. I wanted to fearlessly make the most of every opportunity going forward, not sweating the small stuff, not wondering what others would think. I wanted to spread so much more love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity in the world.

4. Healing & moving on

In the beginning there was the shock and the pain was surprisingly manageable. Then there was the cast. Irritating but stabilizing. Next came the fear of having scars on my inner arm for the rest of my life. Seeing the scars for the first time I decided I would be ok with scars. Super grateful for the medical team who stitched me up so well. Then each day having more sense of feeling return to the fingers and the arm. My right arm is going to be ok again. Wounds take time to heal but I am typing this with two hands! Most battles happen in the mind most healing happens inside, invisible to the eye, it is all a bit of a mystery.

Christmas was special and very different. I didn’t host the usual big meal. It was neither red nor white wine. It was just family. We drank Kombucha. For the first time ever the kids got to choose take away they wanted to get for Christmas! We had our first ever Christmas pizzas!

I know my last month of recovery is nothing compared to the recovery process others go through after major accidents. I am not writing this blog for sympathy but out of genuine interest: I am wondering if anyone else has ever experienced a “this could have ended differently” moment at any point in time and what lessons they have taken away from that for their life going forward?

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Oh Veronika, I had tears and tingles reading this post. You are such an amazingly positive and inspiring person. I am really moved by the points raised in 'What if this had been it', examining what I too wish to improve and change in my own experiences. Wishing you all the healing you need, physically and mentally.

best wishes, Lisa.

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