Rarely, does life unfold exactly as we had imagined. Sometimes, life throws us curveballs so unimaginable that we can no longer find meaning and possibility.
In 2004, I found myself in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak because there was a ventilator helping me to breathe. This was not where I had ever imagined I would be. After almost 8 years of post secondary schooling and one month away from writing my board exams to graduate from Chiropractic College, I was now fighting for my life.
I was told that I may never walk again. I was told that I would never be a chiropractor. I couldn’t see a meaningful future for myself. As I slowly accomplished small feats, I realized that my successes were not going to be achieved in an expected fashion. I was going to have to do things the way that I could do things and I was going to have to be okay with that. I had to be braver than that little voice in my head that said “you can’t do that!” I had to be brave enough to risk failing, looking silly and literally falling on my face.
At the end of this month, it will be 17 years since the seizure changed the course of my life so radically. And since then, there have been many ups and downs. However, it was during the most trying of times that I developed the resources and resiliency to weather the ups and down of life.
When I was told that I may never walk again I was scared, angry and confused. Every cell inside of me wanted this nightmare to not be true. It had been months, I was still at the hospital and still unable to move my right leg. Somewhere deep within I must have believed that I would walk again because when I closed my eyes I could feel my legs moving, walking and even running! When I dreamed, I was moving my legs, walking and running. I continued to do my daily rehabilitation exercises until one day I was able to wiggle the big toe of my right foot. I was so happy I thought I may have dreamt that it moved. Within a few more months I was able to move from a wheelchair to a walker. Relearning how to walk was frustrating, painful and scary. It was painful and scary both physically and emotionally… what if I was putting all this energy and hope into something only to be disappointed. While adjusting to using a walker, I learned to be okay with being the clumsy 28 year old slowly doing laps in Carlingwood Mall with the senior citizens.
Eventually, I was able to get around using a cane. It was then (5 years after the initial seizure) that I decided I wanted to complete Chiropractic College. In 2010, I became a Doctor of Chiropractic and I walked across the stage with my cane to receive my diploma. That year of Chiropractic College stretched my beliefs and I found bravery within myself that I still call upon when life gets me down. I was still dependent on a cane, my dexterity, balance and strength had changed and I was living on my own and about to be a chiropractic intern. I was treating patients but I was still using a cane. I knew I could do everything I needed to do to finish my education but I would need to do it my way. I was known as the chiropractor with a cane and once I embraced my uniqueness and stopped trying to hide my disabilities my true strengths and abilities emerged.
There are still times when I get frustrated when minor things do not work out as I had imagined. Then I remind myself of the possibilities that exist for me that were unimaginable 17 years ago. It took a seizure to teach me that life always has a way of working out, we just need to be brave enough to find out what we are made of.
“Great successes can be achieved by unconventional means. Sometimes, being out of your depth and stretching beyond the familiar, uncovers strengths that would otherwise be unknown.” – Dr. Julie Doobay
Copyright Dr. Julie Doobay 2021