Story 7

I got hit by a car and survived

Hi, I’m Ioana, the human behind this issue of Upstairs. My main hustle is marketing and content writing, and my side hustle is teaching English. My prerogative is kindness goes a long way, and I believe there’s nothing a glorious cup of coffee can’t fix.

I am thirty, currently working as a marketer at a company in Iasi, Romania. However, this hasn’t been the role I prepared myself for throughout my life. In fact, after graduating from university, I worked as an English teacher and authorised translator. And after finishing my master’s degree, I continued working as an English and Romanian trainer for various companies. And for five years, this had been my calling, taking great satisfaction from shaping and contributing to the growth of young and adult minds.

But it all changed, one cold, snowy evening when, after having finished an English course, I got run over by a car while crossing the street.

A day in my life

My day would begin at 5:30 am because I would have courses that would start at 7:30, and I needed the time to get ready. When I used to teach at public schools, my day would end at around 8 pm, and I would go to bed at midnight because I also had to prepare the classes, course materials, grade homework, etc. I would even work during the weekends when I had private lessons, personal development courses, or translation jobs. So, I would say I had a pretty busy and active life that somehow made sense to me at the time.

One day, I decided to transition to self-employment, working full-time as an English trainer at a Language School, giving up the financial comfort and stability of being employed at a public school. With this decision, I took on another dream of mine, that of buying an apartment. And, I managed to get a mortgage on a flat, happy to finally have my own place. Next, I wanted to apply for a Ph.D. programme and travel around the world to expand my horizons.

My life blew up after the accident

With all these transitions and the busy schedule I had, the doctor’s diagnosis came as a shock. I had a tibial plateau fracture, type II that would mean introducing a 20 cm titanium plate and five screws into my leg, with the possibility of never being able to run again or ever going back to normal. It meant bed rest for at least five months, and I could not step on my foot under no conditions. I was completely devastated. 

Imagine that the first thing I did after realizing what had happened to me was to call my manager to tell her that I could not make the following day’s classes while the people that gathered around me called an ambulance. My manager said that I sounded so calm that she couldn’t believe a car hit me. I just did not want to accept the gravity of the situation or the fact that my life would not continue as usual.

The first months meant wearing diapers because I had a long, heavy cast that made it impossible to walk or move normally from the waist down (in addition to the excruciating pain). I lost six kilograms, my mom, who lived in a different city, moved in with me for a few weeks because I needed help cooking, washing, and cleaning. Then, my cousin would come to stay with me to lend a hand, or at times, I had friends that would help me with basic tasks that became impossible feats to achieve. So, what was the status at the time?

I was 26, I had to quit my job because I was physically unfit, I had no income, an expensive mortgage, and the first day in my new apartment began by being transported in a stretcher by two men onto my bed. I cannot express how hard the new reality hit me, and how much harder I forced myself to adapt and stay afloat in the “broken boat” that became my life.

With each fight I won, I rediscovered myself.

Amidst the chaos of the new lifestyle, many unimaginable, amazing things happened. Spending so much time in bed determined me to expand my perspective and tackle new possibilities. I hated the idea of being viewed as a victim, as someone dependent on others, with shattered morale (not just my leg) that had no other option than to wait discouraged.

I began to explore and identify what I could do, what made me me, and what I truly liked. What did I discover? That I wanted to write and connect with people. So in the first months, I made a blog and a Facebook page where I would write for comfort and joy.

Since I was 19, I wrote poems, short stories, even scientific texts for university, a hobby I didn’t treat too seriously. Now, with so much time on my hands, I began wondering what I could do to take things to the next level. And the field of marketing sparked my interest. I registered for online courses and started talking with people around the world working in various industries that needed help with content, noticing the needs required on the market. Within seven months after my first surgery, I collaborated with a PR company, writing articles, newsletters, and dealing with international clients, all from my little apartment in Iasi.

Of course, I became more confident, and I was thrilled to gain experience, even if the pay was not much. I was amazed by what I was capable of, and how my work turned out to be legitimate, useful, and with great impact for the clients. It was like rediscovering a new way of dealing with things. I’m saying this because I always believed that to be skilled and proficient at something, you need to study it at university, basically go through the educational process, and then practice. But in my case, it was all backward, and it worked. And for the first time in a long time, I did something on my own, based on my knowledge and skills.

The next surgeries toughened me

After half a year, a day in my life looked something like this: I transitioned from a wheelchair to crutches. I could cook for short periods, do some cleaning, attend physical therapy and medical exams by taking a taxi alone. I was delighted with myself that I could accomplish all these tasks by supporting myself on only one leg without help. I was regaining my self-esteem and confidence, although I endured sleepless nights, endless tears, and unimaginable pain. But these experiences toughened me, and I realized that I could take it one day at a time.

What is more, the most challenging and crushing periods of my life inspired me to find courage and fuel to move on. What came out of them? My favourite blog entries about braveryendurance, and hope.

By the end of the first year, I could walk on my own, and I regained some old habits. It looked promising, and I was dreaming of normality.

Not soon after this, I discovered that I had to remove the metallic implant from my leg, which would translate into a trying surgery, a long recovery, going back to the old lifestyle, a lot of time in the house, learning to walk. Yes, I was hurt, and I had panic attacks just recalling the previous way of living. Plus, the surgery meant many risks and even more damage to my leg if it proved unsuccessful. Luckily, it went well. Six months after that, the third surgery was even better, and it became easier to recover and be again on my feet.

In between the recoveries, I began teaching online, and I also got the fantastic opportunity of going to England to teach for International House during the summer. It was such a mind-opening experience because I got to interact with students from around Europe, with respected teachers, to observe a different way of managing things, and I learned a lot. Yes, I was afraid of my condition and whether it would be noticeable or if I could handle it, but the programme was so intense that I completely focused on teaching and the after-hours activities.

A bit of love helped me heal

Speaking of unbelievable things, after the accident, I got reconnected with my childhood sweetheart, and I fell in love. He lived in England at the time, but he decided to visit me, and after that, a beautiful relationship emerged. He contributed a lot to my well-being, providing support and care, even from a distance. And by the end of 2018, I moved in with him in Bath, prepared to begin my life in England.

The transition was not smooth. I continued my physical therapy there, I discovered other health problems, and I struggled to find my way in the new reality abroad. It was challenging to find work, and I would spend months applying for jobs while also continuing with my content writing projects remotely. Still, I was not going to quit. I knew that with resilience and patience, good things would come.

My career as a content writer and the new life I was settling into took a dramatic turn when I was offered a great job opportunity in Iasi. This meant I had to move back home and leave behind my plans for the UK. Yet, I took the risk and accepted the job, curious about the new chapter waiting for me. In July 2019, I began my first day as a content writer at Pixelgrade.

I really enjoyed working there because the people were welcoming, fighting against the current to provide amazing experiences, and they were experts at what they were doing.

But the winds of change carried on

Unfortunately, the job I enjoyed ended abruptly when they had to let me go due to financial issues. It was a dark day for me because I was beginning to feel like I had stability, a chance to grow, and do what I love. It hurt thinking I had made the big transition to Iasi for nothing.

Fortunately, Oana, their CPO (Chief People Officer), kept in touch with me afterward and put me in contact with the founder of a local NGO. I began working as an interviewer and storyteller, where I continued my collaboration with Oana for a wonderful project focused on the community’s well-being. The focus was on researching and creating better stories that captured the essence and mission of each interviewer. It was a rewarding and humbling experience.

At the end of 2019, my boyfriend and his cat, Shumy, moved in with me in Iasi, and I was finishing the project. Again, I was experiencing new dynamics and a new life, but one I chose to have where I had more control.

Even if at first it was unusual to not be on my own and to create an environment where we would all feel at home, in no time, it turned out to be incredible. In a few weeks, it was as if we had always been together. It was like an unwritten agreement where we knew to give each other space or be around for comfort and support. All in all, it was easier than expected, and I felt complete with Shumy and Flo.

When the pandemic was declared, I had just begun work as a marketing specialist, and after two weeks, I started working remotely. The transition was challenging because I was only getting familiarised with a few colleagues, and I still needed more time to adjust, understand their style and the company. But it became easier with time as I paid close attention, observing everyone, and now, it is a lot better.

At the moment, I can say I am enjoying a stable, pleasant life, and I’m hoping for better, kinder days ahead for everyone.

A few lessons that guide me

Don’t be too stubborn and convinced of your own ways. You are more capable and courageous than you thought possible. And the moment you leave room for a different mindset or approach, prepare to be surprised. And don’t fight it; see where it takes you.

Ask for help; it really is no shame in that. Doing therapy for my PTSD, it was pointed out that all my struggles and frustrations came from wanting to do everything myself, suffering much in silence. If I had simply asked someone to help me with groceries or accompany me during a nerve-racking doctor’s visit, I would have felt a lot better.

No one is to blame for the feelings you decide to nurture. Life is not easy, sometimes not even OK. But if you choose to blame external forces for your misfortune, you set yourself in a trap. You can control how to respond to something, what emotions to focus on more, and how you will act from thereon. Find the good in every little thing, and it will brighten your day. It’s true; I tested it.

Don’t compare hardships or challenging times people go through. Don’t say: “Oh, I had a bad day at work, but it’s nothing compared to what you’re going through.” Each suffering is particular. The way we respond to pain and how much it can affect us has little to do with how an event unfolded. For instance, the pain from a breakup can be similar to that of broken bones. So let’s not judge, and simply be accepting and thoughtful of other peoples’ misery. Sometimes, even listening to what someone has to say, without giving advice, can be the perfect behaviour.

In closing, my life has turned out surprisingly well, and I am pleased, even proud of how I handled it so far. I want to thank my family, loved ones, friends, and random people who offered to help and contributed to my support and strength. You are all amazing, and, from the bottom of my heart, I am grateful!

With kindness,

Contributors of this story: Ioana Făghian wrote this gem, Oana Filip edited it, Andrei Ungurianu put it all together, George Olaru designed it, Răzvan Onofrei was in charge with the development.

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