20 November 2018
It is said that it is not experience that shapes you in life, but rather how you respond to it.
We’ve all had those days when it feels like the world’s coming to an end and you’ve got too much going on. Yet, something comes along to snap things back into perspective. This weekend, I had one such moment. I met someone who really shook my foundations.
Freya Lewis is 15 years old. Last year, she was just metres from the Manchester Arena bomb that took 22 lives, including that of her best friend Nell Jones. Freya had catastrophic injuries that left her in a coma for more than five days, needed more than 16 surgeries and had to learn to walk again.
There’s no doubt that 22nd May 2017 will be forever etched in the minds of Freya and her family, yet speaking to them, it was clear that this remarkable family haven’t been beaten by the experience they should never have had.
As Freya speaks of her road to recovery, her focus is very much on those around her. On how she can positively impact others. How she could make Ariana Grande – the popstar performing that night – feel better?
I was honoured to meet Freya’s family to record the latest episode of my podcast. I started the series to share stories of inspirational characters and I can honestly say Freya is one of the most inspirational people I’ve met.
Finding the light
The family speaks of her two broken legs, broken arm and plethora of facial and internal injuries. The doctors at the time described them as injuries more often associated with a war zone. Yet it’s the mental injuries that could have done the most lasting damage.
However, Freya speaks with wisdom beyond her years when she describes how, mentally, she’s ok. Despite doctors persistently checking for signs of PTSD, so far, there have been none. Her advice? Talk. She says that from day one her family have encouraged her to talk about her experience and her feelings when she’s ready. Her drama coaches even created an emoji system for the days when Freya didn’t feel like talking.
That’s advice we can all take on board. Too many of us are guilty of shutting ourselves away to deal with our troubles; but more often than not things spiral downwards when we do this.
Nick, Freya’s dad, describes the importance of laughter – how Freya and two girls who were also injured in the attack were side by side in their hospital beds, recovering from horrific injuries yet there was laughter in the room. In the darkest times, there is so much light in finding something to laugh about.
There is no doubt that Freya has been changed by the attack, but she certainly hasn’t been broken.
Listen in to the full chat with Freya and Nick on my latest podcast. I’d love to know what you think of this remarkable family.
Thank you again to the Lewis family for joining me on Sunday – it’s a day I’ll always remember.