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Lives changed forever: The real-life impact of a non-life-threatening injury

WATCH: The car Dawn Sabeski was riding in was hit by a truck May 28, 2017. She survived, but her life has been permanently altered.

A Manitoba woman who suffered serious injuries in a crash that killed her friend two years ago knows all too well that surviving a fatal collision doesn’t mean a person’s life will ever be the same.

Lives changed forever: The real-life impact of a non-life-threatening injury
Lives changed forever: The real-life impact of a non-life-threatening injury

Dawn Sabeski said she will never forget the day she was driving to a conference in Russell, Man., with her friend Judy Lavallee in May of 2017.

READ MORE: Lives changed forever: Winnipeg family deals with the aftermath of a fatal crash

They were seven minutes away from their destination when they were involved in a head-on collision on Highway 16.

“I remember I looked over to Judy and I said ‘Judy, that truck looks awfully close to us,’ and then I stuck my hand up to protect us and next I know I’m waking up and I look over at Judy and I asked her if we’re dead. She didn’t answer.”

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Emergency vehicles are seen blocking the road where Judy Lavallee was killed and Dawn Sabeski was seriously injured May 2017.
Emergency vehicles are seen blocking the road where Judy Lavallee was killed and Dawn Sabeski was seriously injured May 2017. Manitoba RCMP

Although Sabeski survived, she no longer lives the way she once did.

“I still have not slept through the night,” she said. “As soon as I close my eyes I get flashbacks of the accident and then it just freaks me out and my mind goes crazy.”

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Beyond the psychological impact, Sabeski suffered broken bones and internal injuries. She said she has undergone multiple surgeries on her pelvis, femur, hip and right hand.

“I’ve had my whole left side replaced, my hand replaced … my hand is all metal – they had no bones to rebuild, it shattered from the airbag,” she said.

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Her torn stomach lining was replaced with mesh, which she said is now leaking. Two years after the crash, she is awaiting another surgery — it will be her tenth procedure since the tragic event — to replace the mesh with leather.

READ MORE: 5 things to do if you’re in a car crash

The 45-year-old, who was in a wheelchair until last October, went from working three jobs to not being able to work at all.

Sabeski goes to physiotherapy twice a week in Selkirk where 15 per cent of the clients are crash victims.

“It takes a significant amount of time, energy, resilience to recover from these physical injuries,” Steelcity Physiotherapy & Wellness Centre owner Brad Bobrowich said.

READ MORE: Calgary man who survived 2 crashes at same location surprised at hospital with new car

Many clients don’t fully recover from their injuries, said Bobrowich, adding that Sabeski’s injuries are some of the worst he’s ever seen.

“What we try to do is look at the positives,” Bobrowich said.

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“I think what we we look at is return to things that they want to do in their life, things at home, things at work, things that give people enjoyment and I think she has great potential to do that.”

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WATCH: MVA injuries among the worst he’s seen, says Winnipeg physiotherapist

MVA injuries among the worst to recover from, says Winnipeg physiotherapist
MVA injuries among the worst to recover from, says Winnipeg physiotherapist

Given the nature of her injuries, Sabeski said she is thankful to be alive.

“I’m very thankful my kids still have a mom still,” she said.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance, an average of 2,500 people are injured on Manitoba roads each year.

Sadly, many are simply forgotten. While the public awareness of the crash quickly fades, the pain and consequences for those involved can last a lifetime.

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