A young woman has opened up about the moment her "life changed in the blink of an eye", after sharing how she overcame a spinal injury to start her own successful makeup business.
Elimar Depaula, from Florida, revealed in a now viral video on TikTok that she was the victim of a shooting in 2019 and was left paralysed and unable to walk. But the 20-year-old has made an inspiring recovery to get to where she is today and launch her business Queen Cosmetics.
Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle, Elimar said the day of the shooting, August 8, 2019, "was just another normal day".
At the time she was in her second year of college to get a business degree and working as a paralegal.
"I was sleeping in the passenger seat while my ex-boyfriend was driving when he cut someone off," she tells us.
"The two of them started arguing back and forth and next thing I know the guy pulls out a gun and starts shooting at the back of our car and I got hit on the back. I didn’t feel pain right away but I knew I got shot because I felt something hit my back and jerk me forward in my seat."
In the video, which has been viewed over 1.5M times, Elimar shared the last photo she has of herself standing unaided before the accident. The bullet went straight through her spinal cord, and she was left paralysed from the waist down.
"They told me to try to move my toes and my legs. I tried and tried and tried and I couldn’t," Elimar remembers from when she first arrived at the trauma centre in hospital.
"They left me for a couple of hours and that’s when a group of doctors came in to tell me the news that I was paralysed from the waist down.
"It’s all blurry to me because I was under so much medication but then my parents finally arrived from Florida to come be with me."
She spent a month in hospital learning how to do basic daily tasks again like showering, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, before she was allowed to go home.
"But after I left, I visited multiple doctors and they said I either was never going to walk again or had very little chance of recovery."
Despite returning home, her initial prognosis was difficult to process, with Elimar admitting she put off going to therapy until the following year because of her mental health.
"I didn’t start going to therapy until about the beginning of last year because the way my life changed really took a toll on my mental health so I spent months depressed in a bed depriving myself of food," she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
"When I finally started going to therapy it was really hard physically and mentally. Just taking one step took everything in me."
But she was determined and as time went by Elimar got stronger and stronger.
"I went from standing on a machine called a standing frame to wearing metal braces up to my waist, to now just wearing braces to support my knee and ankles," she says.
"I’m still continuing to go to therapy and I work a lot harder now. I go every single day from 4-6 hours a day. I feel a lot better and I can only thank God for giving me strength and allowing me to come this far, which is further than doctors told me I would."
Elimar says the incident forced her to take a look at her life and deciding what she wanted to do with it. That's when her desire to help her family - particularly her father - and her passion for makeup, saw the birth of Queen Cosmetics in June 2020.
"I had been wanting to do it for years," she says.
"I feel that I had been scared to take a risk before but since my life totally changed I decided I wouldn’t spend any more time doing things I didn’t have a passion for. Plus, at this point what did I really have to lose?
"Another thing that really pushed me is seeing how hard my dad worked. He’s already older so I just wanted to be able to take care of him and my family financially."
Elimar spent six months before the launch researching, designing, and contacting manufacturers, before starting to purchase samples and products.
"My dad and family have been very supportive," she tells us. "They always have supported any endeavours I’ve taken up in the past. He gave me a $200 loan to start since I didn’t have much."
Now she says the business has grown beyond what she could have "ever imagined".
"We’ve reached over 400k followers on TikTok, shipped to every state in the US and multiple countries, we’ve sold out many times now, and will soon be coming out with our 3rd full makeup collection," Elimar explains.
"The support has been insane and I couldn’t be more grateful."
And her TikTok video, which she shared with the caption "I hope my story can positively impact someone out there", has received just as much love and support.
"Not even a bullet can stop this amazing lady. I wish you success and a speedy recovery," was one of over 4000 comments.
"You are one beautiful brave young lady," another wrote.
"Very inspiring thank you for sharing," was another response, while a fourth person said: "You really are a QUEEN!"
And when it comes to the one message she hopes people will take away from her story - it's to "never give up".
"If you really are passionate about something and you know you’re good at it keep going, don’t give up on your purpose," she says.
"If you give up, you could be at the turning point, but then you’ll never get there because you gave up."
She also stresses that bad days are okay.
"But don’t remain in that dark place. Get back up and keep fighting because those who remain consistent will reap the rewards."
Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. Online support is available via Beyond Blue.
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