It is summer in the Southwest. Not a single cloud can be seen in the sky, the sun makes the water sparkle.
On this hot July day in 2001, 14-year-old Eirin Cecilie Gjedrem and a friend are on the beach, just a stone’s throw from her grandparents’ house, where she is spending the school holidays.
Eirin stands on the jetty and gets ready to plunge into the water, as she has done countless times before.
This time it ends fatally.
It was Sandnesposten that first mentioned Eirin’s story.
– Stop fooling around!
A split second after she has broken the water crust, Eirin hears a violent crash.
– Then I realize that something is very wrong, she says.
The crash turns out to be the sound of her head hitting a rock. Suddenly, Eirin is unable to move, all feeling in her body is gone.
She tries to scream but nothing comes out. Her face is in the water. She can’t breathe.
From the beach, her friend shouts that Eirin must stop fooling around. The cries become increasingly frantic.
Under the water, Eirin fights a silent battle.
Soon it is no longer difficult to breathe, Eirin notices. A warmth spreads through her body, and she sees a golden light dancing on the seabed below her.
– Am I dead now, she thinks.
Soon after, it rumbles around her, just as if there were thunder in the air.
What Eirin thinks is thunder is the sound of two people running through the bodies of water to save her.
Shortly after they have got her out of the water, she is rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
– I didn’t hurt anywhere, so I remember thinking that everything would be fine.
When Eirin wakes up in the hospital, she is in great pain and still unable to move. It is now that she receives the fateful message:
She has become paralyzed, and will never be able to walk again.
In that second, it’s as if the whole world comes crashing down for the 14-year-old.
– It was completely unthinkable to receive that message. I felt that my life was over, and that I had nothing left to live for, says Eirin.
Before the accident, Eirin was an active teenager, competing in swimming, tennis and gymnastics. She played piano, flute and violin, and was in both band and choir at school.
She spent the summers at riding camp, and in the winter she could often be found in the ski resort with snowboard, cross-country or slalom skis on her feet.
The future suddenly looks very dark for the active and cheerful 14-year-old.
– I concluded that I would never get to experience the things I dreamed about. That I would never get an education, get a girlfriend, get married, or have my own place to live, she says.
– I was sure of that.
But Eirin contradicts herself.
Eventually she understands that it is still possible to live a dignified life.
A life of content, joy and experiences, which will later become good memories.
Was going to live in a nursing home
She can thank her mother Gry for a lot.
After Eirin’s father died in 1998, it was she who had sole responsibility for her daughter.
– It has always been the two of us against the world, says Eirin.
Shortly after the accident, the municipality wanted to place Eirin in a nursing home. Completely out of the question, thought the mother, who instead took out a loan to build on part of the house, which was adapted for Eirin and the wheelchair.
– It is she who has fought for the freedom I have today. She has been a crazy warrior, says Eirin.
A few years later, another important person enters her life. At the age of 17, she met Steinar Frøiland through mutual friends.
They become lovers, and on 14 August 2010 they get married.
– I never thought I would get to experience that, says Eirin.
The couple had a strong desire to become parents. Eirin has been pregnant twice, but as a result of an underlying illness, both pregnancies ended in miscarriage.
– I am grateful to have experienced it despite the fact that it did not turn out as we had hoped for, says Eirin.
Live the dream
This summer it will be 22 years since the accident that turned her life upside down. Although the road there has been tough, Eirin has eventually managed to come to terms with the fact that she is paralyzed.
– I couldn’t understand how I was supposed to accept something that was so wrong, unfair and wrong, says Eirin.
– Acceptance is painful for many. I believe that not everything must be accepted. Rather, one can find familiarity with the situation, and learn to live with it in a way that makes sense, she continues.
What makes sense to her now is sharing her story with others. On the last day of last year, Eirin decided to make a long-held dream come true, when she published her first video on YouTube.
Her husband Steinar helps her with filming and editing.
Over half a million viewers
In one of the videos on the YouTube channel, Eirin talks about the fatal accident. The video has so far received over half a million viewers.
– The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Several parts of their own stories, and it is wonderful and painful to read them, says Eirin.
In the comment fields, you can also find healthcare personnel, who say that Eirin helps to give them a new view of, and a better understanding of, how they can meet patients in similar situations.
– If I can take all the bad things I’ve experienced and turn them into something good, then everything has been worth it, says Eirin.
Eirin now dreams of being able to make a living from social media and coaching, as she has previously trained as an HR coach.
– I really want to become independent from NAV, and get an income that enables me to pay for my own life. There is nothing wrong with using the welfare system, but if I have the opportunity to become financially independent, it is worth a try, she says.
Missing the chair
In recent months, Eirin has been bedridden as a result of a pressure sore on her coccyx. Among other things, she has been through tough treatment with antibiotics to get rid of an infection and inflammation that had gone all the way to the skeleton.
This has meant that she is more tired both mentally and physically than usual.
– Even though I am in a tough situation, there are an enormous number of things I have managed to achieve, she says, and adds:
– It gives me a real spark of life.
How long it will take for the pressure ulcer to heal is difficult to say. Until then, Eirin tries to make the best of the situation. However, she does not hide the fact that she misses a more flexible and active everyday life.
– Hopefully I will be back in my wheelchair by the summer. There is no guarantee, but one can always hope, she says optimistically.