Thursday, May 3, 2012

Finding Your Calling in the Midst of Adversity

My good friend, Dr. Dale Hull, experienced a major life change – not to mention a career change – in 1999. He was a highly successful OB/GYN physician at the time, but a freak trampoline accident suddenly rendered him quadriplegic. Because of his medical training, he knew at the moment he landed that his life would never be the same again. Not only would he be a different type of husband and father, he would also never be able to deliver another baby.

Dale’s recovery was an arduous, and ultimately miraculous process. After two and a half years of intensive therapy, Dale regained much of his sensory and motor function, and was even able to walk the Olympic Torch as it made its way to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where he handed off to Karl Malone. You can hear Dale recount his incredible and moving experience by clicking here

Despite his surprising return to mobility, Dale was unable to return to his obstetrics practice – his dream job. The door seemed to have slammed on his calling in life.

I’ve occasionally wondered what I would do if I was suddenly unable to be a professor. Could I find elsewhere the same sense of purpose and meaning I have in my work? Or would I, perhaps, withdraw into a state of bitter resentment?

These were the challenges Dale faced. He had no clear professional path to follow. But, he began to notice a need. When other spinal cord injury victims came to him for advice, he recognized that resources for these patients were extremely scarce, and few had the opportunity to receive the type of treatment he himself had benefitted from. In short order, Dale began to transition from being a physician to becoming a nonprofit founder and executive director. His organization, Neuroworx (click here to learn more), provides cutting-edge treatment and rehabilitation for spinal cord injury patients.

Dale could have shut himself away and resented the cruel hand of fate. Instead, he found a way to marry his medical expertise with his unique and unexpected life experience. He created a new calling in his life – one that provides him a deep sense of passion and fulfillment. You should see the light in Dale’s eyes as he talks about Neuroworx!

Dale reminds me that a professional calling isn’t just about what you love to do. It’s also about using your unique experiences – both the fortuitous and seemingly tragic ones – to serve in a way that only you can.

One last comment: Dale shared with me something last night that touched me deeply. Immediately after his injury, he was completely dependent on hospital staffers to meet all of his needs. A host of different nurses and attendants cared for him. However, he found that whenever one of the attendants washed his face – the only part of his body that had any feeling – he could immediately tell by their touch if they were just doing a job or truly giving care. I hope my students and colleagues can feel the touch of my service when I interact with them!

1 comment:

  1. Incredible story. I think it is easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget the "why" behind what we all do. Thank you for the reminder!