John HartBarbara Harlabakis working on the treadmill as part of her recovery process at South Yuba Club on Searls Avenue in Nevada City.
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In 1991, Barbara Harlabakis was involved in a near fatal head-on car accident. Her skull was fractured in three places, her brain was swollen, she had a concussion, and all ribs were broken along with a finger, foot and knee.

Blood flowed from her ears for 10 days. Where her flesh was not ripped and torn, it was bruised, so much so that she looked like a “licorice stick.”

She had blood clots in her lungs and had terrible pain in her head

After initial stabilization at Sierra Nevada Hospital, Barbara was taken to the U.C. Davis hospital where she was not expected to survive.

Making her medical situation even more complicated, Barbara is an insulin-dependent diabetic.

But doctors hadn’t reckoned with her will to live and her prior conditioning.

She had finished a bike ride in China 60 days earlier. With months of physical and occupational therapy, Barbara learned to walk (initially she had no balance), talk (much of her initial language made no sense), and feed herself.

Amazingly, through determination, the help of her daughter and family, and lots of therapy, Barbara was back at work less than nine months later.

A few weeks ago, a colleague suggested she join a climb on Mt. Shasta. Initially, Barbara declined but the idea took hold.

“I took this 62-year-old trashed body with all its aches, pains and injuries to a trainer so I could get it ready for the climb,” she says laughingly.

Barbara may not have entirely recovered her old self, but her sense of humor and perspective on living each day to the max are fully present.

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