Carla Felip is a well-educated woman with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French Literature from Simon Fraser University. She also holds a Diploma in Human Resources Management from BCIT. Back in high school, she received the academic honour of being class valedictorian. She can speak and write English, French and Spanish. Over the years, she has become a shrewd business woman who has invested smartly in the markets and in real estate.
“Yeah,” you might ask, “Carla has an impressive profile, but is it worth writing home to Mother about?” Well, as a matter of fact, her tale is one of inspiration for many of us.
At age 25, Carla began her much anticipated career in Human Resources and had been recruited to work for a big name in the technological sector. Her dream was altered six months later. She was on her way to work one cold morning when the road on which she was driving became unexpectedly slippery with black ice. Her vehicle spun out of control into incoming traffic and was t-boned by a truck.
Carla woke up in the hospital after coming out of a three-month coma, with no recollection of the accident. This is when she learned that she had a brain injury and that she would have to work hard at her rehabilitation and make adjustments to her life style.
Prior to the accident, Carla’s life was a whirlwind of activities that included work, study, Salsa dancing, socializing and mountain hiking. She had a steady boyfriend and they both were in the midst of making plans to live together.
Carla admits, “I was angry at first. My life changed career wise and I couldn’t do my Salsa dancing anymore which consumed much of my spare time. My boyfriend left and I ended up living in a place I didn’t like.” That being said, Carla did not lament her fate for too long. She was determined to live a happy life and took action.
First, she insisted on moving out of the home where she was at the time and purchased a ground level condominium where she could live independently. Her parents happened to live on the 12th floor and they insisted that she had dinner with them every night. This way, she could live independently but not in isolation.
A few years later, Carla, her sister and brother-in-law became partners in the purchase of a large house that she now calls home. She says, “It’s working out very well. My sister and I have become closer than ever and, while I have my own space, I can integrate with the family as much as I want.”
Carla accepted the fact that she could not Salsa dance—at least for the time being. To satisfy her passion for dancing, she has become an avid spectator of musical performances. She says, “I love musical movies where much dancing happens. I love Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Grease, Mama Mia, Hairspray and movies like that. Ricky Martin is my favourite performer. Oh, my god! I have a poster of him by my bedside. I just love everything about him. The day I found out he was gay was the saddest day of my life. I cried!”
Carla is curious about the world. She has travelled to destinations including France, Panama and her native Chile where she tries to go once a year to visit her extended family. While she visited her uncle’s house in 2010, the Chilean earthquake struck. She reports with humour, “Despite the walls shaking pretty badly, there was no structural damage and no one was harmed. Nonetheless, we were all pretty shaken.”
As far as a relationship goes, Carla says that her boyfriend leaving just after her injury was a good thing in the end. “I feel lucky that he left when he did. It avoided me a lot of pain in the long run.” Carla has dated but no one has caught her attention yet. Although she would like to meet Mr. Right, she’s not desperate. A few years ago, she met a man who wanted to marry her, but she declined. Sylvia Hoeree, Program Manager, states, “She’s vibrant, beautiful and passionate. In time, she’ll find what she’s looking for.”
Every Thursday for the last four and a half years, she has enjoyed attending the Acquired Brain Injury Program at Semiahmoo House Society. “She makes Thursday quite fun,” says Rodney Field, Support Worker. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her unhappy. She has an adventurous sense of humour and we like to banter back and forth. We get along very well and we know where the boundaries are. It’s all fun.”
As a result of her brain injury, Carla has no function in her right arm and has a twisted right foot causing her mobility issues. She has recently undertaken acupuncture treatment for her foot and this has helped stimulate the nerves, resulting in increased mobility in her leg. She says, “Acupuncture is a miracle. With that and physiotherapy, I’m confident I’ll walk normally again.” Rodney confirms, “The girl might just pull it off. A couple of years ago, we always had to take a wheelchair for her whenever we went out and now all she needs is her walking stick.”
Carla has gone a long way since her accident, physically, emotionally and spiritually. She believes in the power of prayer and positive self-talk. In addition to being an enthusiastic conversationalist, she is friendly, authentic and full of smiles.
Sylvia captures Carla’s essence succinctly when she says, “Carla had the world by the tail and she still does. Even after her accident, she hasn’t lost her passion; she hasn’t lost who she is.”
(As it turns out, Carla was found not at fault for the accident. It was determined that it was caused by a faulty road which allowed water to seep from under the pavement, accumulating on a section of the road and freezing overnight. To reduce the occurrence of black ice and potential accidents, the city reconfigured and repaved the entire road.)
By: Louise Tremblay, The Semiahmoo Foundation
Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community.
The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.