By Josh Saunders
A paraplegic is defying the cruel comments that she’s ‘HALF A WOMAN’ after a horrifying car crash that left her unable to use her legs by becoming a model.
Lena McAllister, 26, from Carlisle, Cumbria, had to be brought back to life multiple times after being struck 90ft through the air by a 40-tonne lorry, moments after crashing her car.
She miraculously survived the accident in 2009 with multiple injuries including a shattered pelvis, broken femur and a T12 to L1 spinal cord injury that left her a paraplegic.
After ten months in hospital and a care home, she was shocked to hear a cruel comment from her boyfriend that she was ‘half a woman’ because of her accident.
Lena ditched her ex and used his horrid words to inspire her to change people’s perceptions about disabilities, even entering Miss Cumbria beauty pageant last year.
Now an aspiring model she’s determined to show others that disabled people can be ‘just as sexy and attractive’ as able-bodied models.
Lena, a part-time property development accountant, said: “While recovering from my accident, an ex-boyfriend did not help me, he tried to smother me and held me back for a while by not giving me my freedom.
“He told me that I was ‘as good as half a woman’ since I was in a wheelchair, which cut me deep and that I didn’t ‘act or dress like a woman’ anymore.
“Those words made me more tough and with relationships, I won’t put up with anyone who will treat me as delicate or fragile.
“While I was recovering in hospital an older woman in a wheelchair told me, ‘Don’t settle’ and at first I didn’t understand what she meant.
“But now I know that I shouldn’t compromise or settle with things because I have a disability, nothing should hold me back.
“I have fire in my belly, I want to prove everyone wrong, why should I hide or feel sorry for myself because I’m disabled.
“I will keep on showing everyone what I can do and not let life hold me back.
“I entered Miss Cumbria last year and while I was out of my comfort zone I really enjoyed it all, everyone was great, lovely and supportive.
“I did it to show others that you can be in a wheelchair and do everything anyone else can, I was onstage with the other girls and was equal to them.
“I think I came around fifth place but for me it wasn’t about the winning it’s about redefining disability, I can do anything I want to.
“Now I would love to be a model of diversity by showing life goes on, that disability can be attractive, scars are beautiful and life doesn’t stop.
“I can be just as sexy and attractive as any normal girl who models, just because people have a disability it does not mean they are undesirable.”
Lena’s accident happened eight-years-ago, while driving home on the motorway when she lost control of her car.
She crashed into the central reservation and moments after stumbling out of the vehicle, her car was hit by the lorry, nearly killing her.
Lena said: “I can’t remember much of it, but I moments after getting out of my car, a 40-tonne lorry hit the car and I was thrown 90 feet down the motorway.
“I was found resting against a concrete bollard, originally it was thought that I had broken my neck.
“I had such an awful lot of injuries there were doubts whether I would make it, I broke a lot of bones and was in a very bad way”
She was put into a medically induced coma after lifesaving surgery, so that her body could heal and operations could be performed on her shattered pelvis, broken femur and spine.
Lena would spend ten months away from home, six in hospital and a further four relearning basic skills many of us take for granted.
She said: “It didn’t hit me until I was on the ward that I couldn’t feel my legs, they were like lead, I kept trying to move them but I was paralysed.
“At first, I couldn’t feel from my chest down but after a lot of hard work I can now feel down to my hips, initially I was like a new-born baby unable to do anything at all.
“At first I couldn’t even get dressed and struggled to sit up because my body was so weak it was like jelly.”
During Lena’s recovery she battled to come to terms with her disability and says more resources need to be made available to others in a similar position.
She said: “I don’t think there’s enough support for people going through this, two people I knew from the spinal unit committed suicide.
“It can be very lonely at first trying to learn how to do things, for me there is no one else in my family with a disability so it was hard fighting to prove what I can do.
“It made me a determined and gave me a hunger to do everything people said I couldn’t or shouldn’t be able to do.”
Over the years following her accident, Lena has learned not to let her disability hold her back and has embraced challenges.
In celebration of this, she entered Miss Cumbria last year, in the hopes of inspiring others and now wants to full-time model through Models of Diversity.
Lena said: “It took me a long time to really get back to being myself, to accept the scars and disability, but now I love life as much as I did before I lost the use of my legs.
“I try to live my life as much as I can, I love being a tourist and seeing new things, going on nights out, cooking, socialising with friends and more.
“Just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean your life stops, in fact, I believe in some ways it gives you more of a hunger to do more and see more.”
Models of Diversity (MOD), are a charity who advocate and support the use of diversity throughout the fashion and beauty industry.
Angel Sinclair, founder of MOD, said: “The first thing I noticed about Lena was her beauty, the way she just oozes confidence and holds such a great energy about her.
“At MOD we are all about disability not holding you back and being that Lena showcases exactly this, that is why we feel she greatly represents MOD.
“Lena is such a great role model for MOD, it takes a lot of strength to overcome abuse especially when its directed at her disability as Lena wants this to be showcased as something that is a positive representation of herself.
“By ignoring the abuse she faced, Lena is showcasing how important it is to not let others bring you down when it comes to being successful in what you want to achieve.
Angel, a former model, founded the campaign after featuring on TV show Gok’s Miss Naked Beauty in 2008, she campaigns for models to reflecting and representing the diversity of our society.
She added: “I would like to add that Lena as one of our ambassadors is setting such a great example to others to stay positive and to always stay true to your dreams and ambitions regardless of what others have to say.
“Her strength and positive outlook is what adds to her drive to being successful and this is something we always encourage and love to see at MOD.”
For more information visit: www.modelsofdiversity.com