Lauren Huxley: Turning 30 and living the normal life nobody thought she could

Lauren Huxley gets ready for her 30th birthday party at her friend's house. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Lauren Huxley gets ready for her 30th birthday party at her friend's house. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Lauren Huxley doesn't remember the spring afternoon in late 2005 when she was repeatedly and violently beaten by a stranger, soaked with petrol as her family's home burned around her.

Thankfully, she's been spared the trauma of reliving the terrifying minutes of the attack and the frantic efforts that followed to save her life.

Doctors didn't think she would make it. The then 18-year-old was given a 5 per cent chance of surviving the horrific head and facial injuries that her attacker inflicted, leaving her unrecognisable.

Lauren Huxley and her family following her attacker's sentencing. Photo: Peter Morris

Lauren Huxley and her family following her attacker's sentencing. Photo: Peter Morris

Her family was told to say their goodbyes.

But next month, Lauren turns 30 – and she's never been happier.

On Saturday afternoon, 50-odd close family and friends gathered to celebrate the upcoming milestone, with the enormity of what she has achieved lost on nobody.

"The time has just flown by," Lauren told Fairfax Media this week. "It's a bit like my 21st – but so much better."

That wouldn't be hard – back then, life after the attack that made national headlines was still challenging, and she was about to have yet another operation, this one on the left eye socket that bore the brunt of the blows that rained down on her face.

Lauren has "lost count" of the number of operations and procedures she's had, and dismisses her medical ordeal with the same positivity and enthusiasm for life that has got her this far.

This time 11 years ago, she lay unconscious in Westmead Hospital. Her mother Christine, father Pat and big sister Simone kept a bedside vigil, willing her to stay with them. They will always bear the emotional scars from that time.

CCTV captured Lauren on the bus home, shortly before the vicious attack. Photo: Supplied

CCTV captured Lauren on the bus home, shortly before the vicious attack. Photo: Supplied

The happy teenager had been beaten with a heavy metal building tool by an unknown offender in their Northmead home, and he remained on the run.

But as Lauren slowly showed signs of life, a huge police investigation eventually netted her attacker, detectives arresting a career criminal Robert Black Farmer. He was ultimately jailed for more than 20 years.

Lauren spent more than six months in hospital, enduring nine major operations. In the early stages of her rehabilitation, her family was told she might never talk, walk, feed herself or live a normal life again. Her brain injury was too severe.

Lauren says her recovery would have been so much harder without her family. Photo: Supplied

Lauren says her recovery would have been so much harder without her family. Photo: Supplied

"But I've always been very determined ... I was able to prove them all wrong," she says proudly now.

Her favourite saying is that "the pleasure in life is doing things that other people say you can't" – and she lives that motto every day.

Lauren has a full-time job in the city, loves it and works hard (not even minding the hour-long commute each way from Sydney's north-west), is fully independent and has a busy social life with friends and family, including her proud role as aunt to Simone's two daughters.

Recently invited to speak at a community event condemning violence against women, she realised her own experience can help provide support and encouragement to other victims. She also wants to repay the extraordinary acts of kindness shown to her and her family, that continue to this day.

As she told the audience last month: "Never be ashamed of your scars, as it simply means that you were, and are, stronger than the person that tried to hurt you."

When she officially turns 30 on Christmas Eve, Lauren will be firmly focused on the future, not the past.

She wants to travel more – "everywhere!" – with New York, Europe and the Greek islands high on her list.

She also looks forward "to finding love and starting a family in the future".

"Mostly, I just want to live that normal life I was told I would never have."

Lisa Davies is the author of True Colours: Lauren Huxley and her family, from tragedy to triumph, published by Harper Collins in 2009.

smh.com.au

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