By Codi Darnell
April 5, 2022
There are 365 days in a year. Most of them are days that pass by without much thought – the date just a marker to keep us oriented in time. It’s a way to keep track of assignments, registration forms, deadlines and all the other things that make the world go round. But every person has a few dates in the calendar that harbour a more significant meaning. The annual celebrations of birthdays, wedding anniversaries and major holidays stick out as special, however, there are other reasons a once inconsequential date can come to be something more meaningful. For people who have suffered spinal cord injuries, the date of the injury becomes one such day. Many choose to acknowledge that anniversary every year and, furthermore, even choose to celebrate it.
Some people call them Life Days, others call it their Injurversary. I’ve always liked the term Accidentiversary. Whatever you call it, it represents the same thing: the day everything changed. Celebrating a day that was very likely the worst day of your entire life may seem counterintuitive to some, but for many others, honouring this day in their own way is part of how they move forward in their new life.
This March 10th marked six years since my own injury. I am someone who has acknowledged this day every year since my accident, but my acknowledgement is more reflective than celebratory. It’s not a happy day, but it’s rarely sad – it’s peaceful. Like Mother’s Day and my birthday, my kids try hard to be extra nice to me and we usually attempt to do something together as a family. I honour this day to feel validated in my grief and in all the progress I’ve made in moving forward. For me, it is not a date I could ignore.
While everyone has their own reasons for celebrating the day of their injury, one of the common threads I see between many of them is gratitude. Gratitude for life and for second chances. But, of course, it can come in many forms. I reached out to two women who take the time each year to acknowledge the anniversaries of their injuries and asked what their Life Days mean to them. Meet Leah Nixon and Julia Rennie.
Leah Nixon is an artist and a mom from the United States. On August 14, 2018, a construction accident left her with a spinal cord injury and single leg amputation. To her and her circle, that day is now affectionally known as Leah Lived Day. This is what she had to say about it.
“If it hadn’t been for a retired Marine quickly tying his belt around my leg as a tourniquet, or the first responders giving me blood infusions, or the group of doctors and nurses who swooped in and did everything in their power to save my life, or my family who gathered around and called me back to life when I could feel myself slipping away, the day a telehandler fell on me could have easily been my last day on this earth.
It was a new beginning for me. A re-birthday, as I like to call it. Because I broke my spinal cord, I woke up in a different body – one that I’d have to learn how to use again. But I still had a body, and my artist hands and my brain (with zero brain injury!).
Life has been harder and filled with chronic pain, but better, amazingly. I’ve gotten married, I had a baby, and I illustrated my first children’s book, Best Day Ever!, in the three short years post-accident. I am more grateful to be alive than ever before. And that is TOTALLY worth celebrating!”
On February 28, 2009, Julia Rennie was in a car accident that resulted in a C4-5 spinal cord injury. She lives in the United States with her husband and, after recently marking 13 years injured, has this to say about celebrating her Life Day.
“I haven’t always celebrated my Life Day. They were nothing more than days of remembrance for a life I had lost and a new life I didn’t want. After being told that any recovery I would see would happen in the first two years of my injury, the anniversaries served as more of an expiration date on my life – I had no intention of living my life disabled.
There was no pivotal moment that changed the way I felt but, time went on and I continued to work on myself and my recovery. Through the people I met and the experiences I had, my obsession to change my reality shifted to accepting, even embracing it. I graduated university, moved alone from my home in the U.S. to Japan, started a career, bought a condo, got married, transferred back to the U.S., and just bought a house. I’ve created a life that I’m proud of, and I think that is what I celebrate now.
My Life Day is a day to reflect on how far I’ve come and fill up with gratitude for a life that only exists because I survived that accident.”
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