Somerset Storyfest Report 2019 – Part Four
LUNCH – In my previous post, I said I changed sessions. I did go to the ticket office during the lunch session. I didn’t get to see who was slimed, although I suspect it was Belinda Murrell. I changed one of the Friday sessions and kept this day as its original schedule. I’m so glad I was one of the half dozen (older level students) to make it over to the Year 11 Common Room to hear Clare Sultmann speak. Her story is amazing, inspirational, and at times, graphic description of events the reason a mature audience attended.
Session 12.45 pm to 1.30 pm – Year 11 Common Room
The story of Clare Sultmann is one of strength, determination and adversity. After a devastating blow, she demonstrates how her unwavering determination has her standing on her own two feet.
The 23-year old aspiring lawyer woke up one morning to start her normal daily routine and headed out to complete her 10km circuit run. Little did she know that very morning would change her life forever. Over the coming months, she battled,
not only to stay alive but to save her legs and walk again on her own two feet. Although the physical and mental obstacles she faced were overwhelming, her strength and determination were unwavering. Standing On My Own Two Feet is Clare’s first novel and autobiography which chronicles her journey from despair to happiness with a myriad of life lessons learned along the way.
Clare introduced herself by saying in 2000 she started writing ‘Standing On My Own Two Feet’, the title would make sense shortly. The book was published in May 2013.
She continued to give the background to her life. When she was young, she didn’t know what to do. She went to Uni at UQ and graduated with a Business Degree, still not knowing what she wanted to do, she obtained a Bond University scholarship and lived in Robina while studying Law at Bond. She was always very athletic as a Junior Tennis champion in Queensland, she also succeeded in Dragon Boats National Titles. Fitness is a very big part of her life. When she completed her Law degree at Uni she would move to London, using Sydney as a stepping stone. She always planned things, that was the way she was. Her law degree was fast-tracked. January 2000 drove down to Sydney with her parents driving behind her. Their only daughter needed to ring every day to say she was alright. May 2000, she lived at Bondi Beach going for a 10k run every day before catching the ferry to work. She felt very accomplished. Her work at KPMG she was a consultant in the area of taxation. In fifteen weeks, she would be going to London.
Sydney was cold. On this Friday morning, 18th August 2000. Unusually she had a ‘should I or shouldn’t I’ feeling about going for her run, it was cold and it would be so good just to hop back under the covers at 6 am. Shaking herself out of that reverie she began her normal routine, got dressed, into her leggings and t-shirt and headed out for her run. Clare was determined to keep fit as outward appearance was important to her. At 23 with her life planned out, blond hair tied back for the run she headed out.
Only 200 meters from her unit a garbage truck didn’t see her and ran over her. Worse, the truck stopped on top of her. All she felt was a deep burning. There was an ambulance on the next corner. She was screaming. No one would answer her. Police arrived and she continued to scream at the garbage truck man. ‘You’ve already ruined my life.’ The truck had to be lifted off her to release her. She was taken to St Vincent’s hospital. She was conscious and spoke to her mother who said she was driving down. She asked her mother – why are you driving? Her parents drove to Brisbane and caught a plane.
The ambulance paramedic gave her 2000 dose of morphine, enough to kill a horse, which gave her no relief, she was in agony. The Triage Code One – degree life-threatening situation. They operated for thirteen hours to save her life, with three surgeons.
Her thoughts when she woke were. Do I have my legs? Yes, but! What about my job? In intensive care? She was lucky to have kept her legs, but the garbage truck had severed blood flow, her veins and arteries were gone. It was a question of – life or limb?
In September 2000 she began a month flat in bed. In October she’d been in hospital six months. Learning to walk again and the skin grafts were the next challenge. Clare was in incredible pain when standing.
The support from family and friends saw me through. ‘Let’s get these legs moving,’ was her mantra. Most nights she had visitors. Forty-two are still some of her best friends. She’d write letters. Her mother stayed at her side the whole time. She had thirty-seven operations. And was in the rehab hospital from February 2001 for over six months. She was twenty-three and was now a different person. She got very depressed. Her mum always said ‘Clare, things will get better.’
The lessons Clare felt she’d learnt through this ordeal were. You need much love to get through this. In prosperity, our friends know us. In adversity, you know who your friends are.
There are defining moments in a person’s life that show your future strengths. At eleven or twelve in 1989 in a tennis competition. She was asked if she was going to forfeit or play on. Getting up after a fall is what sets you apart from others. That’s what she did.
Bikers groups get terrible press, but, when she was in the hospital the ‘King Cross Bikers’ came to give patients presents. ‘Skull’ was the father of a kid who had a teddy bear, with empathy and care, the boy chose to give it to her.
Clare said her mother told her. ‘It’s not the accident that will define you. It’s where you go from there. You are so much more than your injuries.’
Oprah Winfrey quote: ‘What do you know for sure. No matter what you think, nothing is certain. Spirit can overcome.’
In 2011 she returned to work part-time. Work gives you a sense of purpose. Her work kept her focused.
Clare graduated with Master of Law Degree from Uni of Sydney in May 2004.
The book was cathartic.
How the book was published was with help from Johnny Elvers (not sure if I got this name down correctly) and Peter FitzSimons edited. The book was everything from her journal. The publisher Halstead Press came on board.
Then she showed photos of her at the Dorset Orthopedic Clinic, Hampshire, UK November 2005, sitting beside a cabinet filled with prosthetic limbs.
She began working for a charity – ‘Young care’ in April 2006 to 2007 for Age-Appropriate Care. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in helping others.
She met her husband Cam and they married in 2010. She has three children William, Joseph and Amelia.
She has gone on to the Bar as a Barrister.
Has a women’s networking site – Dear Molly – and lives in Noosa.