Exclusive: Helicopter crash survivor takes first yoga class

Four years ago, mother-of-two Laura Sharpe and her daughter were in a devastating helicopter accident that claimed the life of three of her close friends. After 43 broken bones, 30 surgeries and intensive rehabilitation, Sharpe is back on her feet, returning to an activity she once loved, and sharing the experience with SheKnows.

Laura Sharpe

They told her she would never walk again. But two years after surviving the unimaginable, Laura Sharpe took her first steps.

“It was extremely emotional,” Laura told SheKnows of the moment she realized she would be able to walk again. “It felt as if my soul was bursting in joy. I was told I would never be able to walk, run, dance, think deeply or comprehensively, or care for myself and my 10-year-old daughter.”

From that day, to two years later, in a sunny yoga studio in West L.A., Sharpe has come a long way.

“I truly am a miracle, a testament of amazing medical care and divine intervention,” said Laura. “I don’t hide the fact of how blessed I am to be here, and excited to be alive and in this fantastic shape.”

In 2008 Laura, her daughter, and three friends embarked on what should have been a quick 15 minute helicopter flight to Catalina Island. The day turned to tragedy, however, when the helicopter experienced mechanical issues and crashed, leaving Laura with burns over 40 percent of her body and killing her three companions.

“One must process the reality of surviving while other precious life is lost,” said Laura of the recovery process. “The emotional residual of such a stressful fall leaves a memory that becomes only one aspect of the traumatic injuries.”

Looking at Laura today though, you would have no idea that she had been through such a horrific experience. Excellent medical work reconstructed her body, and years of rehabilitation helped her not only walk again, but regain the ability to enjoy exercise, which she has always loved.

“I don’t believe that I ever owned the prognosis that they gave me,” Laura told us. “I heard what they said, I never let it play into my spirit. I just continue to not have a finish line. As long as we continue to challenge ourselves spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally, we will always be in a state of success.”

SheKnows was fortunate enough to be invited to join Laura in her first yoga class since the accident. From downward dog to more challenging moves like a side plank, Laura bravely pushed her body to do things doctors once told her would be impossible.

Watch: Laura Sharpe’s first yoga class

But Laura’s journey has not only given her a better appreciation for life, it has inspired her to help others achieve that as well. Sharpe founded Artists for Trauma (AFT), a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of both civilian and military trauma survivors by pairing recovering patients with established artists from various disciplines.

“It truly takes a village for all of us to fulfill a successful life existence,” said Laura. “The village is our community, each and every one of us, individually and collectively. Artists For Trauma is about creativity, connectivity and community.”

Our yoga teacher, Etan Boritzer at The Hub in West Los Angeles, is a part of this network of artists, and he kindly dedicated his time to the cause for our recent lesson.

Throughout her journey, Laura Sharpe has never given up, and she continues to spread that same bravery and positivity to everyone she meets.

“I believe that by staying in the process of proactive activity — mentally, emotionally and physically — one is able to overcome and re-invent a new self. Be kind to yourself, love yourself, get to know the ‘new you.’ Accept yourself as you are. Seek expression, exercise, artistic engagement and loving human connection. We have so much to be grateful for!”

If you would like to get involved in AFT, check out their website for volunteering opportunities.

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