BURNSVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — Surviving a near-death experience will give anyone a new outlook on life.

Paula Coulter is still not fully healed from the injuries she suffered in the 35W bridge collapse, but is thankful for how far she’s come.

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Coulter and her family were in their van when the bridge collapsed in 2007, and she suffered severe brain and spinal injuries. Her husband and two daughters were also hurt, but not as seriously.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Now, visitors to Paula’s bridal shop in Burnsville may not see any signs of her lingering pain. But after 30+ surgeries in eight years, it’s still difficult for her to stand for long periods of time.

“For me, this place keeps me busy,” she said. “It keeps my brain having to think about stuff other than myself.”

After the collapse, Coulter didn’t regain full consciousness until six weeks later. Her daughter, Brandi, said doctors didn’t offer too much encouragement.

“A rehab doctor came and talked to my dad and I,” she said, “and told us that we should probably start looking for homes because she would never walk or talk again.”

Paula said even she underestimated how difficult her recovery would be.

“I was a runner before all this happened,” she said, “and I truly believed that I would get myself back there, I truly did. But … I don’t think I ever will be.”

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Her company, though, is a symbol of her determination to deal with the challenges and stay away from self-pity.

She and her family took a chance and opened Effie’s Bridal Trunk nearly two years ago.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“You never know if you’ll be here tomorrow,” she said, “so you just always have to appreciate what you have today, knowing that you just don’t know.”

Brandi said it’s been inspiring to watch her mother overcome the obstacles.

“To see where she’s come today, it’s just remarkable,” she said, “and she’s one of the hardest workers I know. She’s just non-stop and she’s so motivated to get better physically and mentally, and I don’t think anyone ever thought she would be where she is today.”

She’ll likely face physical challenges for the rest of her life, but she hopes by staying busy, she won’t notice as much.

“I have to keep telling myself, ‘don’t give up, just keep your faith and just keep doing it.'”

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The state settled with the family for more than $3 million for medical bills and other expenses. But Coulter said she’d give it all back in a minute, to have her health back.