Lara’s Gondola book launch

On 3 December 2008, I went to the launch of “Lara’s Gondola”, an inspiring book by a very impressive young woman, Lara Friedman.

Lara grew up in Australia and South Africa. While still at school she was selected for the junior netball team for the Maccabiah Games in 1997. She was on the bridge with the other Australian athletes when it collapsed and about 60 people fell into the polluted river below. Lara grabbed part of the bridge and hung on until she was rescued and taken to hospital.

In 2006, after working as a physiotherapist for three years, Lara decided to take a year off to go travelling and the book contains many amusing anecdotes of her time in the different countries she visited. While staying with her sister in a small village south of London, Lara woke one morning in May 2007 with a severe headache and felt physically uncoordinated. Suspecting she might be having a stroke, she got someone to ring an ambulance and was taken to hospital.

Lara had suffered a rare and complex stroke called “Locked in Syndrome” which meant that all voluntary muscle movement was paralysed, but her mind was perfectly fine. Initially, she could only communicate by blinking. “Think petrifying, think enormously challenging, think panic, think extreme frustration. My coffin was my body.”

Most of Lara’s Gondola is about how she faced this enormous challenge and the support she received from family, friends and health professionals. The story however is not all gloom and depression, but rather one of hope, optimism and is often very amusing.

I now have greatly progressed. I now eat everything, drink anything, am continent can stand with help and most productively, type on a normal laptop. I am still in an electric wheelchair. I found a freedom in the expression of writing and the story turned into an autobiography.”

And, what a story it is.

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