In June 2015, Jessica Stevens was turning out of her road when she was hit by a car travelling towards her at more than twice the speed limit. Having taken almost the full force of the impact, she was airlifted to hospital, put in an induced coma and didn’t wake up for six weeks. In fact, doctors told her family she would probably never wake up – and if she did, she would certainly never go home again. Four years on, Jess has made an absolutely remarkable recovery. And now she is sharing her story in her book Everything is Broken, out now from Filament Publishing.
Jess and I have known each other for more than ten years. We met on our first day at uni where we were sharing a flat, and lived together for two years in total. Although I moved abroad in my third year and we saw less of each other after that, we’ve had some absolutely brilliant and hilarious times together, and today we still share many catchphrases, nicknames and special memories that were created all those years ago.
I try to stop myself thinking about the ‘what ifs’. If I’d left the house 30, or 10, or maybe even 5, seconds earlier or later that day, then it’s unlikely that any of this would have ever happened at all. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, I could’ve done a million things even slightly differently that day. Every time I catch myself thinking like that, I have to tell myself it’s all negative stress, all counterproductive. I could spend the rest of my life wishing I’d done something even slightly differently that day, but what’s the point? I have to accept what has happened.
It is strange – and horrible – to think how close Jess came to not being with us today, but her book is an amazing tribute to her persistence and her refusal to give up on life. Everything is Broken charts her journey, beginning with the day of the crash and moving through her time in hospital, her inpatient and outpatient rehab and her gradual return to work and ‘normality’. Piecing together events with the help of medical records, email discussions of treatments and her parents’ memories of that awful time, Jess talks about her determination to stay positive and to not let herself spend time dwelling on the past and wishing things had happened differently.
Writing has helped alleviate the negativity I felt: once the words are on paper, they are no longer eating away at my mind.
Writing this book has clearly been an emotional but important step for Jess. It is an utterly honest and personal account, written almost entirely from her own perspective and helping her come to terms with what happened. The impact of the accident on her and all her friends and family – the fear they felt, the uncertainty, the anger – is clearly there, but the overriding message is one of positivity and encouragement. The support Jess received in the wake of the crash has played a huge part in her recovery, and Jess is now keen to share her story so that she can help others who are going through the same thing as her.
Jess’s book also highlights the amazing role played by the NHS, her therapists, personal trainers, lawyers and countless others in helping her lead an independent life again. She was even recently invited back to visit the London Air Ambulance team, who were one of the first on scene after the crash – you can read more about that in her blog post here.
Ultimately, this is a moving and eye-opening account of a life-changing event for which Jessica nearly paid the ultimate price. It’s an emotional read, especially for me, having known Jess before the accident. But it is also an inspirational story of survival and of hope, and one that shows just how much Jess has achieved and overcome.