Paralyzed woman inspired to move by remarkable act of kindness
Although the photograph shows a girl appearing to sit still in the front seat of a fire engine, Darbi says she was really rambunctious as a child.
"Whatever we could get our hands on," she says with a smile. "Playgrounds, trees, climbing!"
The now adult Darbi shows me pictures from her past: hoola-hooping at home, doing team sports at school, and playing soccer at the University of Victoria.
"It was awesome! It couldn't be better! " she says of her active life. "And then things went a little sideways. "
During one of those soccer games, Darbi's feet started feeling numb and tingly. It spread up her legs. Four days later, on her 22nd birthday, Darbi was completely paralyzed from head to toe.
She could barely even blink. "You almost watch life move around or witness your life move around you," she says of being trapped inside her body.
Darbi was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome; her nervous system was being attacked. She spent three months in the intensive care unit at the Victoria General Hospital before her mouth started moving again.
Although she couldn't talk, she had never been so grateful for her mouth. "When somebody came into the room I could smile at them," she laughs.
But Darbi couldn't do anything else, let alone realize her dream of attending the FIFA Women's World Cup Final. which happened to be "just across the water" in Vancouver that year.
"The next thing you know, they walk into my room," Darbi recalls the day her two favourite nurses arrived and told her their plan. "[They said] 'We've got it booked'. And I thought they were joking. [I said] 'That's a mean joke!," Darbi laughs. "But it wasn't a joke!"
The two Victoria General Hospital nurses – Sarah and Libby – had helped raise thousands of dollars in cash and services to get Darbi and all her medical equipment from Victoria to Vancouver to watch the game live. They arrived at the stadium just in time to see the first goal scored.
"There was roaring and cheering!" Darbi recalls crying happy tears. "It was very emotional, very overwhelming."
It was a remarkable act of kindness that inspired Darbi to feel hopeful and stay motived through her rehabilitation. After seven months of perseverance, she could finally walk out of the hospital with some help.
"It was a long walk," Darbi laughs. "But I did it!"
Three years later, Darbi is working as a kinesiologist helping others rehabilitate their bodies.
Although she still lives with physical limitations, Darbi says she's grateful for the insights the experience taught her. "Even though it was a terrible event, I wouldn't give it up," she says. "[It's] mind-blowing to be in that place where I appreciate."
Because it taught her – beyond a doubt – that kindness, empathy, and gratitude, have the power to help save a life.