My daughter, Leigh Jackson, inspires me.  I know, I’m her mother, but I think she will inspire you as well. In September of 2007, my daughter was a competitive cheerleader, doing back-flips and gymnastics. She dreamed of college cheer and one day becoming a doctor. Then everything changed.

I’ll never forget driving to the Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium on LPGA Blvd for a high school football game. Dark clouds gathered in the sky and I made sure I had my umbrella. Leigh was far ahead of me with her cheer squad on a school bus.

During the game, I watched from the stands as my daughter performed a basket toss. I could tell something went wrong as it didn’t go straight and Leigh was the only base to catch the flyer. For anyone who doesn’t know, in a basket toss the flyer can go up to fifteen feet in the air. There are two side bases, a front and a back spot to catch her when she descends, four people.

My daughter had a reputation for NEVER letting a flyer hit the ground. She didn’t this time. Somehow, she caught her all by herself. She squatted, the flyer landed mostly on her left shoulder, her body twisting to take a force equivalent to a car wreck.  If not for Leigh, the flyer would have landed on her head. Yes, Leigh is a hero!

Immediately after placing her flyer safely back onto the ground, Leigh grabbed her back, but then continued to try and cheer. I thought she was okay at first, but I was so wrong, it was the beginning of a nightmare.

I’m not going to type here about the eight months of horror that followed. Suffice it to say that my daughter missed her entire junior year of high school, unable to sit, stand, or walk without assistance.  A parade of doctors had no idea what was wrong with her. The best spine specialists in Florida looked at her and could not figure it out.

Finally, my chiropractor, Dr. Buckley, looked personally at a CT scan of Leigh’s spine and saw the crushed facet joint in her back. A facet block injection from a pain specialist and Leigh was able to walk for the first time in almost a year!

I wish I could tell you that all was well after that, but it has not been.  Leigh has suffered with chronic pain ever since. The injections stopped working, we went on to other procedures, but the end result is that Leigh still struggles with mobility and pain related to her back.

And what about her dream of becoming a doctor? Leigh needed two credits to graduate high school at the time she injured her back. She could have taken the easy road. Done them online and graduated, but not my girl. She went back to school her senior year, took FIVE AP classes and graduated Salutatorian of her class. She went on to graduate with honors from Stetson University and has been accepted to the University of South Florida’s Morsani School of Medicine. She achieved all this while fighting through back pain that at times makes even sitting impossible to bear. I am in awe of her.

Do you have a dream? Do you sometimes feel as though the odds are stacked against you and there’s no way it will ever come true? Don’t give up. No matter what life throws your way, if you want something bad enough, be like my daughter and stay in the fight. The only way to fail is to quit!

10 Responses to “Who inspires you?”

  1. Selena Fulton says:

    Jan, your daughter is truely an inspiration. Without thinking of herself, she saved that other girl, and she is still going for the dream. 🙂

  2. jan says:

    Thanks, Selena. I’m so proud of her.

  3. Laura Kirkland says:

    What an inspiring story, Jan. Thanks for sharing it. I know Leigh will be a Great Doctor!

  4. jan says:

    Thanks, Laura. I think so too. I believe her experience will make her be more compassionate to her patients.

  5. Abby Sharpe says:

    Wow, Jan, that’s crazy! Kudos to your daughter – was there any doubt that she’d be a doctor when she so selflessly stopped the flyer from cracking her head open?

  6. jan says:

    There’s no doubt, Abigail. It’s her calling for sure. She loves to help people.

  7. Heather Ashby says:

    What an inspiring story, Jan. God bless your daughter – and you – for all you’ve gone through. This certainly is a terrific example of Never Give Up! Congratulations to Leigh for her acceptance to Medical School. She’s going to be an awesome doctor.

  8. jan says:

    Thanks, Heather. Glad it inspired you. Whenever I think of giving up on my dream, I think of Leigh. And you’re right, she will be an excellent doctor!

  9. Lorna Dishman says:

    Wow, what a touching story Jan! I’m in awe of your daughter too! I can understand how she inspires you, but I’m sure you’re part of the reason she kept going as well. She is lucky to have you.

  10. jan says:

    I’m glad Leigh’s story spoke to you, Lorna. And thank you.

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