It’s not since becoming a mother that the gravity of this sentence really sunk in: “Your daughter is unlikely to survive. Her injuries are too great.” These are the words the emergency doctor said to my parents following the accident.
It’s been 18 years, almost to the day, since a 10-tonne garbage truck ran me down on a pedestrian crossing.
Over the coming weeks and months following the accident, more horrific sentences and questions followed. “Your daughter may lose both legs, the damage is so severe. She could still lose one leg. She probably won’t walk again. Prepare yourself for that. Gee, with injuries like yours perhaps you’d be better off in a wheelchair. With such disfigured legs, how can you be intimate with someone?”
People said a lot things. Thankfully I chose not to believe them all. Most I chose to ignore.
From the depths of despair and years of painful rehabilitation which followed, the words of mum remain: It’s not the accident which will define you, but what you do with it, and where you go from here. This gave me the belief that although I couldn’t fix what had happened, I could control what I did afterwards and how I went on with the rest of my life.
You never know when or how adversity it will strike. No one is immune. At some point in our lives, we will all be faced with it. What becomes important is our attitude, our ability to cope…our resilience.
It’s the wise and support words that I chose to believe, that ones that change you for the better. One of my best friends said: ‘You are so much more than your injuries.’
This was a huge lesson for me, believing that I am not defined by my legs. They are two incredibly scarred, barely functioning and disabled legs, yet they are mine and they don’t define me as a person. I’m so much more than that. I have come to learn - and it has taken a while - that we shouldn’t define ourselves on what we believe
I still live with the repercussions of my accident every day. I’ll always have a severe limp. I can’t run ever again. I will never be an active parent. I’ll never bike ride with my children. There are so many things I can’t do now because of the accident. I can hardly walk without shoes on and I wear pressure stockings all the time. The list goes on. If I were to focus on what I can’t do - what I’ve lost - I’d be a mess.
Now I am here standing on my own two feet when so many said I’d never do that. I have a wonderful husband, three beautiful children, incredibly supportive parents, loyal and longstanding friends. I feel so incredibly blessed.
Adversity has given me an opportunity to focus on what I can do and what I have, with the scale finally tipped to how lucky I am.
Clare Sultmann is a wife, mother of 3 and the founder of Dear Molly.
As a survivor of a catastrophic accident, former barrister at law, published author, and nationally accredited mediator Clare has returned to work in a different capacity. Relocating to Noosa shortly after the birth of her first child, Clare found it difficult to make meaningful and real connections with other like-minded women away from her own network of friends. With this in mind, Clare’s idea was born. Dear Molly aims to provide connections for like-minded women in a real, meaningful and positive manner. It a platform to share, communicate and inspire other women about their ‘real’ life.