Feeling normal: That’s something Stefanie Schaffer has been searching for during her long recovery from the severe injuries she suffered last July in a boat explosion in the Bahamas.

On Monday, the 23-year-old from Rutland regained some of her independence, getting behind the wheel of her new car.  Schaffer, who lost both legs in the explosion, thought it was something she’d never do again. 

“I felt normal for the first time in a long time,” she said. 

Since returning home from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, Schaffer has been fitted for prosthetics and is learning to walk with crutches.

“It was a big accomplishment because I for so long wanted to get the crutches and not have to use a walker or wheelchair any more so it’s been good,” said Schaffer.

Stefanie’s mother Stacey remembers when her daughter would take trips to the store or pick up her little sister. But those errands stopped after the explosion. 

“It’s just one less thing that I have to depend on other people for. It kind of feels like everything now I need help with or need someone with me, and I can’t really do anything own, so this is not a small thing, it’s a very big thing that I finally got back to do on my own.”

Like driving. 

Schaffer’s custom Chevy Equinox comes from North Country Chevy dealers and Mobility Works.

“What we’ve installed in Stefanie’s car is an electronic push rock hand controls, a spinner knob and a pedal guard, so she’ll be able to drive,” said Charlie Manago of MobilityWorks in Essex Junction.

Everything she needs to be able to get down the road safely, on Monday she took the car for its first test drive.

Stef was a little slow to start, but a quick trip around the block and she was back driving like she never stopped.