I was on a family vacation in the Bahamas when a day that started so normal, ended in a horrific boat accident. Nine people were injured, and one person died that day. My name is Stefanie Schaffer, and I’m one of the nine people injured.
People say that a miracle happened shortly after 9 am, on Saturday, June 30, 2018 – my “Alive Day” – I lived.
The Day My Life Changed.
It was a perfect sunny day in the Bahamas.
We chose the Island of Exuma, located about 130 miles south of Nassau, for our family vacation solely after seeing a travel ad of beautiful white-sand beaches and turquoise waters.
But what sold us? A boat tour. The very boat tour where the unthinkable would happen.
The boat tour was set to take us around the island, snorkeling, sightseeing, and the most interesting? To swing alongside the “Swimming Pigs of Exuma.” We didn’t make it to swim with the pigs.
My injuries included broken bones, internal bleeding, and a brain injury. But the most devastating damage? I was now a bi-lateral amputee. I spent one month in a comatose state. After waking up, I first noticed the casts that covered my body and my inability to speak or move at all because I was so weak. It didn’t all sink yet, though.
In the months that followed, I continued to learn of my injuries that were far worse, including failing organs, a broken spine that now labeled me a paraplegic, and most noticeable to the naked eye? My two missing legs. I knew I was in for a long recovery and a tough fight.
Life changed for me that day, in a very big way. At first, I felt only negative emotions: anger, loneliness, sadness. I was constantly asking, “Why Me?” But then, I decided I wasn’t going to let these injuries take any more than they already had from me. I was going to become whoever I wanted to be. I was going to give it my all and meet every milestone I wanted to meet.
The first month was hard. The desire to give my recovery my all was constantly tested by new diagnoses, illness, infection, and a reality that I was stuck living in the hospital for likely… a long time to come. I’m thankful my family was by my side through a time when happiness and “normal” seemed impossible.
June 30, 2019
Alive Day – One Year
After the first year, life was still challenging. I still needed surgeries, and I was still adapting to new routines. But, life was also exciting again. I was starting to picture my future again. I started a brand new journey of finding new roads, Chapter One of my partnership with the North Country Chevrolet Dealers.
I was learning how to drive again… this time, with my hands! Thanks to our partnership, StefFindsNewRoads, and my 2019 Equinox, I was reintroduced to freedom. I was exploring the outdoors again with my new dog Oliver in the back seat and on my journey of “finding new roads.” I found new hobbies, sports, and endless opportunities.
I’d started facing my fears. I was gaining back some independence and pushing myself in every aspect.
I hope to shine a light. I hope to meet people who can find comfort in my story. I will live and be inspired by life. My story and I will serve as a reminder to let in the miracles that come with being alive. Each time I’ve faced my fears, something amazing has happened. My biggest fear use to be public speaking, which seems silly now. I’ve overcome the terror of being on a stage, I’ve experienced opportunity, a sense of accomplishment, and only positive experiences – for both myself and for those listening in. I am so happy to be grabbing each opportunity coming my way. This is what life is all about.