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Here comes the sun

Deondra Scott.
Deondra Scott.

When Deondra Scott, 25, was airlifted to the hospital after a terrible boating accident on Lake Norman, doctors weren’t sure she would live through the week. But months later, Scott is recovering and determined to overcome life’s struggles with a positive attitude. Scott, a Charlotte resident, woke up the morning of June 25 anticipating a fun day on the lake with her friends. Their rented boat joined hundreds in an offshore party on the lake, but after Scott jumped off the boat for a quick swim, Scott got sucked into whirling propellers. Other boaters pulled Scott from the water. She suffered severe lacerations to her legs, a collapsed lung and the amputation of her right arm and breast. For days, her life hung in the balance.Now, Scott is feeling blessed to be alive. She keeps a bright smile on her face, and she’s thankful for the hundreds of people who joined together to show their love and support. She hopes her recovery will inspire others to rise above their own challenges, she says.“I love to talk, and I obviously love to share my story,” she says with a laugh. “Even though I’m still working to get over my hurdles, I know that I’m going to be able to help somebody the way I want to be helped right now.”

A swarm of supportBy the time Scott reached the hospital, she had lost two-thirds of her blood. Doctors said she had more lake water in her body than blood. Doctors at Carolinas Medical Center performed multiple surgeries as her friends swarmed the hospital waiting area, anxious for news. Each day that passed gave reason for hope as she woke up, was taken off the ventilator, and started to smile. Scott recalls having a party in her room when she was well enough to receive visitors. She was so excited, she remembers, that the nurse turned the heart monitor off because of the rapid, loud beeping. When visitors were allowed, her room was filled, she says. “People were sitting out in the waiting room for hours to talk with me for 20 minutes.”While Scott, who worked as a server at both the Concord Mills Olive Garden and Vida Cantina in uptown Charlotte, was focused on her recovery, friends and coworkers were busy gathering donations and brainstorming fundraising ideas. Aware that medical bills and other financial obligations would soon pile high, LaTrecia Caldwell, a coworker and friend, immediately helped the family open a bank account for Scott’s benefit and began researching charities that could donate to Scott’s cause.Klaus Werner, who was at the scene of the accident, donated a website that includes Scott’s story, regular updates and a PayPal account through which people can give money. On July 25, Applebee’s at Concord Mills hosted a fundraiser that raised over $1,000. Servers from local restaurants volunteered their time to serve tables in designated sections and donated all their tips. Customers could buy yellow tickets for $12 and eat from a pre-selected menu. All but $2 of each entrée was donated to Scott. Katie Daniels, now a manager at Olive Garden in Winston-Salem, used to work with Scott as a server in Concord. She developed the campaign “Celebration of Life” for her friend. All proceeds from sales of colorful bracelets etched with the slogan went to Scott. Team members from Olive Garden organized a 5K at Frank Liske Park in Concord on Sept. 10. Each participant was asked to raise $200 in sponsorships, and prizes were awarded to race winners and to the person who raised the most funds.

fGratitude and griefThe inner battle between gratitude and grief is a struggle Scott faces daily. “My biggest struggle is me,” she says. “I’m fighting anger and I’m fighting anxiety.” It is difficult to face her new reality, and she has been forced to re-learn normal activities like eating left-handed, pulling her hair back or writing in her calendar.The future is a day-by-day process, she says, but her hopes for the future continue to grow stronger. “I would never give up on my dream of singing,” she says. Though she has thoughts of inadequacy, she fights them and reminds herself that she could be the world’s first one-armed pop star. She sees herself as a trailblazer, and wants to dedicate her life to motivating people. Caldwell is confident that people are already inspired by Scott’s recovery. “That girl is amazing,” she says. “I don’t know why this accident happened. However, I do realize I don’t know how many people God was able to touch because of Deondra that otherwise He wouldn’t have been able to touch.”Another dream of Scott’s is to write a book. Her bubbly demeanor and passion make her a compelling storyteller, and she hopes to share stories from throughout her life. Some would be funny, she says, some sad and others emotional and inspirational. She plans to include the story of her accident at the end, so that people will see that no matter what happens in life, they can overcome. “I’ve lost a father [to illness]. I’ve lost a limb. I’ve lost all sorts of things,” she says. “Every day I still have a smile on my face I always believe that positivity is key.“Without the things that people have done for me, I wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Scott says. “I’m so thankful for all these people who went out of their way to help me and love me – really love me.”

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