Five years ago, I had my life forever changed when the helicopter I was in caught fire and crashed off the southern California coast on Catalina Island. I was pulled out of the wreckage by my hair. Three lost their lives that day and three survived with critical injuries.
My story of survival soon made headlines and I was dubbed "The Woman Who Fell from the Sky," which is exactly what happened.
But what hasn't been told is how I turned the fight of my life into a mission to help trauma survivors across the nation. Here is how I took a deadly experience and turned it into something positive, something encouraging, and something life-changing.
I had 43 broken bones, burns on more than 40 percent of my body, a partial limb amputation, and after more than a month in a coma, I woke up.
It was through art that I found my strength to move forward and relearn the everyday movements I had since lost. Art gave me peace and healing in a time of extreme pain, discomfort and bereavement.
Although I endured numerous painful surgeries and a partial foot amputation, after two years plus, I did the seemingly impossible. In what was deemed a true medical miracle: I started walking again. I vowed from that day on to never take my life for granted, to help and encourage other trauma patients to see the power of healing through art and positivity.
Today I am vibrantly active and even back in the saddle riding my beloved horses with my family and friends -- something I never dreamed would happen.
The most important part of my story is the ability to step forward and share the next chapter in my life: Artists for Trauma.
My mission is simple: to empower trauma survivors, like myself, to find strength and confidence to re-connect with themselves, re-join their families, and to rise up to become productive, dynamic members of their communities once again.
Artists for Trauma pairs trauma patients with caring and compassionate artists, e.g. sculptors, painters, photographers, dancers and musical artists who work together to provide and assist recovery through the universal language of art.
Through artistic expression, trauma survivors are able to take positive steps forward in their healing process to regain their confidence. Vocal coaches, who usually teach singers, are helping newly paralyzed survivors learn how to speak again and artists are helping patients deal with their experience through painting and sculpting.
I know firsthand that the arts can have a powerful impact on recovery.
I attribute much of my own dramatic recovery to positively channeling my energy and emotions into creating art. Expressing myself through art allowed me to rise above and beyond the all-encompassing physical pain. I credit my engagement with the arts with helping me to heal and become the strong, independent survivor I am today and work to continue to be.
I believe that engagement with the arts has the potential to help thousands of trauma survivors accelerate their healing and give them a new lease on life.
For more information please visit www.artistsfortrauma.org