Sonoma Stories: New Santa Rosa author lost much of herself to a car crash, but not her faith
Inga Lizdenyte’s life has, by any measure, been extraordinary. She was 22 when the car her 26-year-old date was racing through the capital of Lithuania slammed broadside into a utility pole so violently that the vehicle tore in half.
There was a time when some would suggest Lizdenyte (liz den EAT ah) author a book, and she’d reply that she couldn’t imagine herself writing one and, if she did, who in the world would want to read it?
A book? The concept that once seemed absurd now fills 500 pages and is available for purchase at local bookstores and online.
The Feb. 12, 2000, crash cut away both of her legs above the knees and paralyzed her left arm. Despair suppressed her life for years.
Today the 41-year-old, Lizdenyte, who’s regularly seen zipping along Santa Rosa sidewalks in her electric wheelchair, can’t imagine not having written “Unstoppable: It’s a Choice.”
“I put all my heart into it,” she said. “I was honest, open — brutally open, I would say.”
She found the seven-year project hugely helpful to her healing.
“I did not cry as much after the accident,” she said, “as I did writing the book.”
Early in June, the book received at the San Francisco Book Festival honorable mention in two categories of judging — spiritual/religious and biography/autobiography.
Lizdenyte is set to speak from 6-8 p.m. July 11 at Santa Rosa’s Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Her self-published “Unstoppable” began as a series of letters to her brother in Lithuania, Valdas, who reached out to her at a time he found little reason to live. Lizdenyte said writing at length to Valdas about her own adversities and salvation helped him, and it certainly was therapeutic for her. Now she hopes the book will prove of value to others who struggle.
“My big conviction is that we always have a choice. We always have a choice to give up, give in,” said the proudly independent survivor. “And we have a choice to fight.”
The story this fighter tells is a Christian story.
“Many see me as a strong person,” Lizdenyte wrote, “but I was not born strong. I became strong.”
She showers gratitude on many in Lithuania and in Sonoma County who helped her as she toiled to reclaim her life, purpose and happiness after the crash that killed the man she was dating and almost killed her.
“I couldn’t imagine how to continue with nearly half of my body gone,” she wrote.
She’s now a legal resident of the U.S. and a staffer of the Santa Rosa-based Disability Services & Legal Center, as well as an author who aspires to become a full-time life coach and inspirational speaker. She gives most of the credit for her rise from pain and hopelessness to Jesus Christ.
She assured Valdas of that in a letter in her book: “Brother, Jesus Christ is alive in the spiritual realm, though we don’t see him with our physical eye. And prayers in his name are truly answered … I will be honest with you — I don’t know how I would have handled the consequences of the accident if not for my faith in the Lord.”
She concedes in her book that even with divine help, much of what she experienced through her recovery was utter agony.