Six years ago, I was in the back of a STARS helicopter fighting for my life.
That day, I was out at the lake with my family and best friend. It was a perfect day. But perfect days don’t always last.
I grew up on boats and my parents always stressed safety precautions. Unfortunately, accidents can happen to anyone and it only takes a split second. We hit a wave and I toppled overboard. I remember a stream of bubbles when I was under the boat and silence as I tried to get above water.
When I surfaced, the water around me turned red and I could feel unexplainable pain through my lower body. The propeller had sliced into my right leg.
I wondered if I would slip away, but my best friend pulled me up. I kept apologizing to her while she kept me awake and we rushed back to shore. I could see the fear in my mom’s eyes as she looked at me.
From there, it was a series of my family and community doing exactly what needed to be done. My grandparents, my mom and best friend by my side, neighbours helping – and STARS.
Long before my accident, my parents used to say STARS was an angel in the sky. She later told me that when they landed to pick me up, she knew I had the best chance of making it. It gave her hope.
STARS was available that day. And lucky for me, they began carrying blood on board a few months prior – the first helicopter EMS program in North America to do so.
I said my goodbyes before the helicopter door closed, not knowing what would happen.
I lost my leg, but without your support of STARS, I wouldn’t be alive.
My parents always taught me that giving up isn’t an option, and this would be no different. I was always a hard worker and highlevel athlete and this incident wasn’t going to change that.
I joined the national sitting volleyball team that year and have since represented Canada at the Rio and Tokyo Paralympics. I’ve coached and I continue to play standing rec volleyball.
Since my incident, I finished high school and graduated from post-secondary. I work in the agriculture industry and help at my boyfriend’s ranch as much as possible (especially during calving season!).
People tell me how inspiring they find my recovery, but to me, I’ve just been living my life to the best of my ability.
Where I am today hasn’t been the result of one thing or one person; it’s a collective effort and I am continuously grateful for everyone who helped me get back up. Please know that you make a difference. Thank you for your continued support and for a second chance.
– Jenn Oakes, STARS Very Important Patient (VIP)