A teenager from Lacombe, Alta. is overcoming the odds after a car crash nearly ended her life.
In August 2015, Amanda Burt was 16 years old when her car was crushed by a truck doing highway speed on a country road – or at least that’s what people tell her. She has zero memory of the crash.
“Me and my friends, we went shopping and we were driving back to Lacombe. But then I got lost I guess, and we were trying to find Lacombe. Then we got hit.”
Her two friends suffered serious physical injuries but would both live.
Amanda’s injuries were more internal. The whiplash from the crash was so severe, it caused brain damage.
“I hurt my brain stem, which is the part that’s there to help you do all the things you don’t think about – like breathing,” she explained.
From the time first responders arrived on scene, Amanda was unconscious. She was flown by STARS air ambulance to Calgary, where she remained in a coma for weeks.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through and ever want to go through.”
Her right side was paralyzed, her lungs collapsed – she couldn’t even lift her own head.
“I went from being a 16-year-old girl to basically an infant. I had to wear diapers and people had to keep wiping my mouth because I drooled all the time.”
“To see your baby like that – it doesn’t matter if they’re 16, 17 or 25, they’re still your kid,” Amanda’s mom, Nicole Burt, said. “It’s hard to see them going through that – the pain they’re going through.”
Amanda didn’t just lose her memory of the crash, she lost the nine months leading up to it. Now, when people as her about the year she was 16, she doesn’t know if it’s really a memory or something someone told her.
She spent 13 months in hospital, much of it at the Children’s Hospital in Calgary. There, she was surrounded by children undergoing chemotherapy. At night, she’d forget what happened and ask her parents if she too had cancer.
Doctors didn’t know if Amanda would ever recover. She spent 13 months in hospital undergoing intense rehabilitation. Her parents captured it all on camera.
It’s been 15 months since the crash – and she’s defying the odds, making a miraculous recovery.
“If we didn’t take those pictures, she wouldn’t have believed us. It’s so hard for anybody to understand where they were, to where they are now.” said Nicole.
Amanda is still relearning the basics, like how to move her fingers to give a thumbs-up.
“I still have problems walking. My whole right side was paralyzed, but now it’s coming back to life,” she said.
“I don’t even know how to tie my own shoes. I forgot how to do a bow.”
Despite the hurdles, she refuses to give up. Every day is a new obstacle to overcome.
“When people tell me, ‘Oh you can’t do this’ – in my mind, that’s like a challenge. So it’s like, ‘OK, watch me then.'”
Her life will never be the same but it’s far from over. The crash stole so much from her but she’s still optimistic.
“It honestly just put it all into perspective for me. Everything that I used to think was important, like the boys and the makeup and the clothes I was wearing – it all became non-existent.”
She credits the support of her family and friends with her astonishing recovery.
“I would probably still be in the hospital, unable to move, unable to walk. I don’t even know if I would be able to talk at this point. They are everything to me.”
Her parents have been her biggest supporters.
“My comments were, ‘She is going to make a full recovery,'” her mom recalled. “There was no doubt, ever, in my mind.”
“She was going to do whatever she needed to do to get to where she wanted to go and she’s done that, everyday,” her dad, Randy Burt, said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
Amanda’s goal now, is to run a marathon. Her dad will be training right alongside her.
“I could have done so many things before that I can’t now but I wish I could.”
She hopes people can learn from her sharing her experience – that life should never be taken for granted.
“It sucks to see people who are like, ‘My life sucks.’ But I would have given anything to be where they were, where they are.”
It’s something Randy certainly learned from his daughter.
“It could have been way worse, it could always be worse. Be thankful for what you’ve got and be optimistic, you’ll move forward.”
Amanda has one message for anyone having a rough go at it.
“Brush yourself off and keep fighting. And remember, you are wanted. You are beautiful. You are needed. You are an individual. You are you.”