It was the spring of 2016 and 17-year-old Beatrice de Lavalette was waiting for a flight when she was hit by a terrorist attack at Brussels Airport.
Along with severe burns and spinal cord injuries, De Lavalette lost both of her legs below the knee.
But she says that without these events she wouldn’t be who she is today… and that person is she’ll be competing at the Paralympics in Tokyo as part of the American Para-Equestrian team.
Equestrian is a passion not only for De Lavalette but for her family as well. She started riding at the age of 3, and by the age of 12 she was already taking dressage.
Returning to the saddle was no easy task given her injuries, but she was determined to do so as soon as possible. Five months after the bombings, she’s there thanks to thrift, determination – and extensive rehabilitation and retraining efforts.
“I had no muscle, I was just skin and bones, so being back on the saddle with no sense of balance was really uncomfortable. But with time, I was able to build up the muscle and work on my balance, and it got easier with time,” she told CNN.
Of course, De Lavalette received a lot of help and encouragement during her journey – from family, friends, doctors, and hospital staff – and from her beloved horse, DeeDee.
Unsurprisingly, De Lavalette was distressed as she tried to cope with her injuries. She admits she cried a lot in hospital until an unexpected visitor turned things around for her.
“DeeDee saved my life,” De Lavalette said in an interview with The Doctors. “My mom found a way to get DeeDee to the hospital parking lot. I said, “Where’s my [wheel] chair?” “
“I went outside in the rain and as I got closer he came up to me and put his head on my chest. That moment made me feel like I wasn’t going to give up on life.”
De Lavalette put in a lot of hard work to get to where she is today. Adjusting to your body’s new norm is in many ways like learning to ride all over again.
But when her efforts began to pay off, the Paralympics seem like the perfect way to showcase their hard-earned skills.
After making his first appearance in 2020 as part of America’s Para-Dressage team, De Lavalette is set to travel to Tokyo, where she will ride a “great” 14-year-old Dutch whiz named Clark.
“The reason I’m recovering so well is because of my horse,” De Lavalette told News 4 JAX.
De Lavallet said: “I can’t change what happened, but I can be myself. As I’ve said many times, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. What more can be said? Nothing” what if “I have a new life ahead of me,” she says on her website. “The most important thing is that I’m alive and I feel that I can make something spectacular out of my life.”
We’d say, she already has.
Watch her story below…