I was crushed by a New York City bus and had to completely rebuild my life. Here are 5 lessons I carry with me from that experience.
- Former real-estate agent and dancer Amy Jordan was hit by a
New York Citybus in 2009.
- She could no longer work her previous jobs and spent the years since rebuilding her body and life.
- She learned to trust her instincts, accept change, and that she had to do the work.
Everyone has come home from a long day, taken off their shoes, and, in response to a partner or roommate asking, "So, how was your day?" replied with, "I feel like I got hit by a bus."
I too have had this experience on many occasions.
Then it happened to me. On Friday, May 1, 2009, I was crossing the street in New York City. I was working as a residential real-estate agent and had just closed a client deal and was on my way to my office.
One moment I was in the crosswalk minding my own business. The next moment, I was face down on the pavement and couldn't move.
It was a rainy day, and the ground was damp and dirty. I felt fuzzy, like I was in a dream. A few moments later I heard, "Ms. Jordan, do you know where you are?" "Who is the President of the United States?" "Do you know what day it is?"
Why all the questions? I thought, still unable to move. I had lost all feeling on my right side. A moment later, the same voice said, "Just relax. I am a paramedic. We are going to get you out from under the tire of this bus."
The cliché line had become a terrifying reality. I had literally not only been hit but run over by an NYC express bus.
The gory details that came to follow are their own story. In a nutshell, my right leg was completely crushed, nearly amputated, and rebuilt. I had a total of 20 surgeries. I spent two months in a burn-intensive care unit, fighting daily for my survival.
I'm a dancer, and it was quickly apparent that life as I'd known it was over. My body was structurally different.
I'd been teaching
I was visibly deformed and now had mobility challenges. A lot of necessary attention was paid to rebuilding my body. What I found missing was attention to how I would rebuild my life.
It's been 12 years since the accident. These are the
1. Trust your instincts
The first hospital wanted to amputate my crushed right leg. I said no and demanded a second opinion.
I have the utmost respect for doctors and medical professionals, but I knew at that moment that amputation was premature. I also knew I wasn't in a hospital equipped to treat that level of trauma.
I got on the phone and found a team of medical professionals who could handle the severity of the situation. I was transferred to one of the world's best burn ICU units. They took on the task of rebuilding my battered body. I wasn't afraid to not only question the first hospital but find the best place for me at that moment.
2. Keep seeking answers
There was no playbook for rebuilding my body and my life. So I kept trying things out to learn what my new body was capable of doing.
Being a dancer and fitness instructor, I found a gym that felt emotionally safe and worked out and took classes. Sometimes, I had to leave or modify what I was doing because it was too physically taxing. I sought out new rehab trainers who understood my physical and emotional goals.
I let go of any shame or guilt if something I tried didn't work. Ultimately, I continued to seek new ways of literally moving around in the world. I knew if one thing didn't work, I could find something that would.
3. Change happens, and that's okay
The day I was discharged from outpatient rehab was rough. I asked my physical therapist, "This is it?" She reminded me that I had come back from near death.
After a good cry and a brief wallow, it was time to look ahead. I had to get comfortable with the fact that I was starting completely over and everything would be new and different. My body had new needs. I was working through major trauma and severe PTSD. I learned to give myself space and grace to adapt and accept my new reality.
4. Something magical can come from tragedy
Before being pinned under the tire of a bus, spending months in a burn ICU, enduring 20 surgeries, and doing thousands of hours of rehabilitation, I never would've imagined how much value this journey could create.
People began to ask me how I had such a miraculous rehabilitation and positive outlook. My business coach encouraged me to write a book. I started writing my experience by committing one hour a day to the writing process. I was led to a publisher. The book was released in 2018 and was awarded the 2019 EVVY award for best nonfiction book.
The day of the accident I vowed that if I survived the night there would be a victory dance. In 2015, I founded The Victory Dance Project, a professional dance company. The mission is to make the impossible possible with the power of movement.
I also became the subject of a documentary feature film. Working with my dance company, I met photographer and director Brian Thomas, a two-time Emmy nominee who choreographed and danced for Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Paula Abdul, and Liza Minnelli, among other entertainment icons. He thought my story could be a source of inspiration and expressed an interest in creating a documentary.
The movie, "Amy's Victory Dance," chronicles my journey dancing with my professional company for the first time since the accident. The film has won over 40 international awards and official film festival selections.
If you told me this in the beginning, I would've responded with a few choice expletives. But hindsight is 20/20. I now make a daily vow to create value and use my experience for good.
5. Do the work
Emotional and physical rehabilitation takes time and effort. I don't miss workouts because it's how I manage my pain without pills.
I rest when I'm tired. I say no to gatherings or events that are too physically demanding for me. I put a significant amount of time and energy into my physical health.
It's a commitment. I've learned that diligence and self-care manifest real results. I also make no apology about what I need to do for my body and my mind.
My question is always: How much do you want to improve and what are you willing to do to make it happen? It's not magic. The rewards for the effort are amazing.
With all its physical challenges, I'm grateful for my life today. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to be the change I want to see. Whether I'm speaking to large audiences or coaching one-on-one, I tell anyone that if I did it, so can you. It might not be quick or easy, but the lessons are profound and long-lasting.
If you're in the muck of the struggle, just know that it does get better. The most beautiful lotus flower blooms in the muddiest water.
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