RUTLAND, Vt. – It’s been roughly 18 months since Stefanie Schaffer’s life was changed forever.
During a vacation with family and friends in the Bahamas, a tour boat they were on burst in to flames after an explosion. One person died in the blast and at least nine others were injured. Stefanie and her mother Stacey were among those rushed to the nearest hospital, where Stefanie had both legs amputated. There was a chance she wouldn’t survive.
She battled kidney failure and other complications, including the uncertainty and shock that comes from sustaining a traumatic injury.
“I was so upset, I couldn’t speak to anyone about anything,” Stefanie said. “I just sat there feeling miserable.”
As days went by and the feeling persisted, she decided to open up and talk about what happened with family and friends. The change in attitude helped her delve into the recovery process, but more challenges came when it wasn’t certain she would walk again. In fact, there were quite a few things Stefanie wasn’t sure she’d be able to do anymore. Through strength, support and positivity, however, she’s checking goals off the list.
“I never thought I’d be back in school, especially not this soon,” Stefanie said. “I never thought I’d be driving, and I am. I never thought I could be physically active again, and I’ve found ways to do that.”
On Thursday, she spoke at the Rutland Regional Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, which was themed ‘strength and resilience’. It was the first time Stefanie had spoken in front of a large group about her recovery process. It’s a message that hits the core of the night’s theme.
“I’m hoping to make this senseless and crazy thing that happened to me make a little more sense by sharing my story and helping people in some small way,” Stefanie said.
As she finishes college, Stefani is considering obtaining a Master’s Degree to help victims of traumatic injuries. Already, her positivity and appreciation of life itself is a powerful message.
I have learned to bike with my hands and swim with no feet,” Stefani said. “I have kayaked and traveled. I have met new people, cheered my sister on, laughed with my family and had glasses of wine with my friends. I haven’t just survived; I’m learning how to really live.”