Within a heartbeat a life can change forever. No one is immune from the unexpected, particularly the devastating kind that involves trauma of immense proportion.An athletic law graduate, working in a multinational firm in the heart of Sydney goes for her usual 10km morning jog in Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Having relocated only 8 months earlier from her home state of Queensland, Clare loves her new life. This particular Friday morning however, as she prepares for her usual run, she washes her face in the mirror and looks up. She stares at herself for just a bit longer, not realising that those extra milliseconds will change the course of her life forever.
As she steps out into the cool air of a Sydney’s winter morning she takes her first strides feeling light and free. Her life is going exactly to plan. Her career has only just begun and at twenty three years of age she feels the world is hers for the taking.
As she reaches the pedestrian crossing only metres from her house she looks both ways and begins to cross. She doesn’t see the garbage truck that is rounding the corner nor does the driver see her. Suddenly it is too late, she knows that, yet she flings herself backward as her mouth screams in agony. She is run down by the truck yet somehow is still conscious. As she screams out she watches in horror as her two legs are crushed and trapped under the front left wheel of the truck. For the thirty-seven minutes that follow she is trapped. She pleads for her life, for her legs to be saved.
Her grief is overwhelming yet her determination to get better, to rehabilitate and to walk again is more powerful. In her journey to walk again she literally takes two steps forward and one step back, yet she becomes progressively more determined than ever to overcome the obstacles she faces and to move forward in the context of adversity.
As she emerges from the sheltered life of her hospital room, Clare finds the world a very different place to the one she knew only six months earlier. She leaves hospital heavily dependent on crutches and is forced to face the reality of living life with a disability. Her grief at times turns to anger and her despair is overwhelming. Her mother’s words
‘Clare, it’s not the accident that will define you, but what you do with it and where you go from here’
resound in her ears and after much soul searching Clare decides that it is time to ‘get busy living’. She works harder than ever at her rehabilitation, endures thirty seven operations in the hope of improving her legs and mobility, and, with the help of family and friends, learns the true meaning of finding strength.
While undergoing rehabilitation she starts and completes a Master of Laws Degree at the University of Sydney and begins part-time work within the legal arena.
On her return to Brisbane in April 2006 Clare begins work with the newly established Charity Youngcare. It is through this experience that she meets a man who will change her life. With the love and support of him by her side, Clare is admitted as a Barrister-at-Law in Queensland and in June 2010 they marry. As Clare looks at her son born only one year later, she reflects on what was said to her by her mother in one of her darkest times. ‘Things will get better Clare, I promise’ she said. Indeed they have she thinks.
This is the incredible story of a young woman whose spirit and strength carries her through the darkest of times. But Standing on my own Two Feet is a story much bigger than one person as Clare’s account of her trauma is a universal story of how a human being can overcome the most difficult and unexpected obstacles.