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I chose to be a survivor
Local firefighters decided to change things up this year with their annual Ladies Diamond Dinner, a fundraiser for construction of a burn centre in Vancouver.
In addition to relocating to a larger venue — the Kamloops Convention Centre — organizers are bringing in someone who can speak about how valuable the project is for people who are burned.
Heidi Cave of Fort Langley is one such person, a woman whose life changed completely 15 years ago, but who lived to talk about it.
She will be the fundraiser’s keynote speaker, but will be in Kamloops this week at an event promoting her book Fancy Feet — the story of a young woman with a new boyfriend looking forward to life, a dream that was shattered when she was in a horrific car accident that saw her trapped in her upside-down, burning car at the bottom of a ravine.
“I chose to be a survivor,” Cave told KTW.
“I had a message in mind when I started to write the book, to tell it as honestly as I could.
“I’m not a celebrity. I’m your next-door neighbour.”
The accident happened 15 years ago when a driver going 100 km/h in a 60 km/h zone T-boned Cave’s car, killing her friend on impact and pushing her car into a fence and over into a ravine.
Half her body was burned before she was rescued and she spent two weeks in a drug-induced coma.
Both legs were amputated and Cave spent seven months at the B.C. Professional Firefighters Burn, Plastic and Trauma unit at Vancouver General Hospital and another five months at the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre learning how to walk with prosthetic legs.
While it’s a story of her own courage, it’s also a love story, a tale of two people who had been together just six weeks before the crash.
“My parents gave Scott an out,” Cave said of her now-husband.
“They gave him a speech about how he didn’t have to be there, how they’d understand if he just walked away.
“I gave him the same speech when I came out of the coma, but he stayed — and we did this together.”
“This” includes two children, a boy and a girl, a blog (heidicave.com) that records her life, an audience in the provincial legislative assembly that heard her story and a keynote speech to more than 3,000 firefighters from across the province at an event that also featured Hillary Clinton.
It includes realizing the accident had left her broken and there were no self-help books that could fix her. She needed time and love.
She needed determination.
And she needed to heal.
It’s one of the reasons she waited so long to write her book, to tell her story, Cave said.
Living through the trial “just drags you right back into the moment.”
Once it was written, which took her three years, she sent the manuscript to several publishers for the next two years before finding one who was interested.
A year of editing followed before it was finally published.
That moment was full of emotion, Cave said, because her story had come from “such a raw place.
“I’ve been asked if I ever wonder why this happened to me,” Cave said. “I figure why not? It can happen to anyone, so what’s the point of asking that?”