As a sophomore at Princeton University, BJ Miller experienced a life-threatening accidental electrocution atop a parked train on campus. Due to the resulting traumatic burns, he lost his left arm below the elbow and both legs below the knee. He faced a torturous recovery and grew through it with the support of family, friends and his medical team. His mother had polio as a child and post-polio syndrome as an adult, so he had a running start on the world of disability. He sees the essence of his experience as a variation on a theme that every human goes through: “You bump up against things you wish were otherwise and you wish you could change, but you just can’t.” He believes that our pain comes from our resistance to change and encourages us to ride the changes, instead of fighting them. And he wants us to embrace vulnerability, as it is natural, essential, important and what links us to each other.
Jordan Thomas, founder of the Jordan Thomas Foundation, describes losing both legs (below the knee) as a result of a boating accident when he was 16. He got through it with the love and support of the people around him. Through struggle, pain, grief and hard work, he learned the value of asking for help, the joy of being of service, and the value of authenticity. He found his life’s work as a result of the accident and started his foundation in the hospital to help young amputees get unaffordable prostheses. His advice is: it’s OK to not be OK, things change (are impermanent), and “be true to who you are and go pursue your passion and your love for this life because, gosh, it can just, in an instant, flip.”
Samuel Moore-Sobel, author of Can You See My Scars?, describes an accident in which he was burned by sulfuric acid when he was 15-years-old. With second and third-degree burns to his face and arms, he had more than a dozen surgeries over the years. He attributes his emotional recovery to his psychiatrist who taught him to ‘assemble a toolbox’ to withstand future challenges.
Dr. Lise Deguire, author of Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience from a Burn Survivor, tells her story of surviving a childhood burn accident and growing through it over the decades with countless surgeries, hope, friendship and therapy.
Jacy Good, founder of Hang Up and Drive, describes losing her parents and becoming partially paralyzed as the result of a car accident with a distracted driver. Good says that each time you get into a car, you can be smarter and kinder by putting down your phone.