Are you living your best life?

Jan. 1, 2013
Hygienist describes how amputated leg prompted her to keep marching in life

by Jackie Alexander, RDH

Consider reading: A State of Flux: Helping GERD dental patients

Consider reading: The last 12 weeks

Consider reading: Can You Fit In with Multiple Dental Hygienists?

People often say to me, “I am so sorry that this happened to you.” But, you see, if it had not happened, I would not have become who I am today—Jackie Alexander

Have you ever asked yourself: Am I living my best life? If so, then you have to ask: Do I know what that means?

For me, those questions began at the age of 14. I saw the shotgun discharge and my life changed dramatically from that instant on. As I fell to the ground, things seemed as though they were in slow motion. The trees passed in the distance leaf by leaf, trunk by trunk. The impact to the ground seemed uneventful, but then everything began to move very quickly.

After a tourniquet, a 50-mile car ride to a small town, a crop duster airplane flight to Grand Junction, and six hours of surgery, I found myself in an intensive care unit. After 10 days and many hours of surgery later, the amputation of my left leg was the only alternative, but for my parents it was a blessing — a blessing that I survived as the doctors had little hope that that would be the case when I was admitted to the hospital.

Fourteen … do you remember being 14? I do very clearly. I remember — prior to the hunting trip — that I might have nice-looking legs, even though I probably would never fill out a bra. I was proud of myself for placing second in the Boulder County youth tennis tournament, I was excited about my last year in middle school (high school next year!), and I was beginning to wonder about boys. After the amputation everything changed. I would have only one good-looking leg and probably would not be the next tennis player in my family to attend the Colorado High School state tournaments. After three months of hospitalization in Grand Junction and Boulder, I returned home for Christmas, just in time to join my family on our annual holiday ski trip.

Alas, what a different experience I had while sitting in the hot house watching others ski down the slopes. Again, another realization that life would be so much different than I had planned. Luckily my parents noticed my distress, and we drove to Arapahoe Basin where they had heard of a new program designed for returning vets of the Vietnam War.

Snow skiing on one ski and outriggers. The instructor was hesitant as I had only recently been discharged from the hospital and still had many open wounds. My dad called my doctor, who promptly told my dad he was crazy. I do remember my father saying, ”You know, Doc, Jackie needs to know that she will be OK, that she will be successful at anything she chooses to do. She needs to know that she may need to do it differently than she would have before, but she needs to do this. So what can we do to be sure we protect her leg?”

Lots of Ace bandages and a ride to the top of the world later, I skied down, slowly, but Wow! I was skiing! I skied down to where my dad, mom, and three younger sisters stood. My parents had tears in their eyes, and that is when I knew I would be fine … that I had an opportunity that most never realize — to “live my best life.” I should live my life attempting anything, appreciating all people, and valuing each experience. For, you see, those are the gifts we are given daily. We just need to recognize each one as an opportunity for growth.

People often say to me, “I am so sorry that this happened to you.” But, you see, if it had not happened, I would not have become who I am today. The myriad of experiences I have had would never have happened. I have had the opportunity to live my life with the knowledge of what is important, whereas many don’t come to that realization until the end of their lives. Yet at that juncture, they have little time to “live their best life.”

So now I ask you: Are you living your best life? Have you listened to that little voice that urges you to your destination? If not, I would encourage you to start now. Don’t wait for the gun to discharge. RDH

JACKIE ALEXANDER, RDH, is a practicing hygienist in a community health-care setting in Sterling, Colo., where she owns a small farm and is enjoying country life with her sons and grandchildren. Jackie has provided numerous inspirational presentations to various audiences and is active in organized dental hygiene, serving in many capacities including president of the Colorado Dental Hygienists’ Association and District X trustee to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

More RDH Articles
Past RDH Issues