Esquimalt woman writes children's book after surviving debilitating crash
Sandra had intended to give the plush elephant to her dog as a chew toy, until an unexpected question popped into her head.
“I thought, ‘The elephant is white,’” Sandra recalls. “‘What would she feel like in her [grey] herd because she’s a different [colour]?’”
To answer that question, Sandra couldn’t help but consider how her own life became irrevocably different after being in a car crash when she was two.
“The car spun around and I flew out the window like a rag doll,” Sandra says.
When Sandra woke up after two months in a coma, she was told a quarter of her brain was damaged and the left side of her body was paralyzed. She spent almost two years living in a hospital and dreamed of becoming a star.
“As a kid I would sing ‘On the Good Ship Lollipop,’” Sandra smiles, showing me pictures of herself as a confident child. “I’d try to tap dance like Shirley Temple did.”
Sandra was undeterred by the damage to her body, until she went to school and one of the moms did something she’ll never forget.
“Her daughter was sitting beside me and she just yanked her daughter away and said, ‘Stay away from her,’” Sandra recalls. “And I just looked down at my shoes and tried not to cry.”
Sandra saw that her shoes (attached to metal braces) were different that the other kids. She realized that her left hand moved differently than theirs. And the charismatic performer started retreating into herself.
“I didn’t want to be stared at,” Sandra says. “I didn’t want to be looked at.”
Which brings us back to that chew toy. It inspired Sandra to start writing a story about a white elephant enduring life in a grey herd.
“I was the white elephant in school,” Sandra says. “I was known as ‘that girl with the hand.’
There’s a scene in Sandra’s story where the white elephant gets covered in mud and momentarily discovers what it’s like to look the same as the other elephants. Although that never happened to Sandra, she did experience something similar to when the white elephant is sprayed with water, her true colour is revealed, and a grey elephant still wants to play with her.
Sandra met a boy in school who saw her and chose her.
“He gave me my first kiss,” Sandra smiles. “And I wrote this story about him and how he helped me.”
The boy helped reignite Sandra’s confidence to cope with the bullies, eventually create a happy family, and now become something even better than the “captain of the good ship Lollipop” — a published author.
Sandra’s book is titled “The Shy One” and is available at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre, or by contacting her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The children’s book illustrates how powerful it can be when we celebrate differences and practise kindness.
“I hope [the reader] takes away that you have to reach out a little bit,” Sandra says.
As the last line of the book says, “It only takes one to make a difference. So let that one be you.”