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Through Catastrophe Comes Clarity

What my near-death experience taught me about measuring the value of my life's work.

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Carole driving her Jeep Wrangler on a sunny Cinco de Mayo.

It’s a gorgeous, sunny, Cinco de Mayo Friday afternoon.

I’m heading to the beach on Interstate 10 in my Jeep Wrangler, top wide open. A few car lengths behind me, an enraged pickup-truck driver is weaving in and out of traffic. He’s forced to slam on his brakes. He spins out of control and hits the back of my Jeep.

I never saw it coming.

According to witnesses at the scene of the three-car crash, it was an all-time stunt woman masterpiece. My Jeep spins into a full circle, then rolls two or three times.

We land on the driver’s side and skid into place, ending up smack dab in the middle of the interstate.

Blood flows up like a fountain from my right hand and wrist. I unlock my seat belt and crawl out the top of the Jeep, crying out for help. People come running from all sides as I make my way to the shoulder of the road.

Thirty minutes later, I’m in a helicopter being airlifted to Gulfport Memorial Hospital on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Three years and counting

It’s funny what I remember that day. 

The scraping sound of metal against asphalt. 

Straps from the gurney pressing me into a painful shape as they lift me into the helicopter. 

Emergency room nurses gingerly picking through my eyelashes for glass shards from the shattered windshield. 

Cold metal scissors cutting through my favorite blue t-shirt, black fishing shorts and undies as I lie shaking, in shock and uncovered in the emergency room.

Finally, I recall the first surgeon telling me I’d never use my right hand again.

At the beach cottage after that long detour, where I started my new practice, HerNature Personal Branding.

Here I am, three years later. You could say I more than survived that incident. I have thrived as a result of it!

That surgeon who said I’d never use my hand again … well, I had a different vision of success for my life and my hand.

With a phone call to a girlfriend that same day, hand surgeon Dr. Rick Ahmad of Baton Rouge, La., took my case. 

After three surgeries, 10 days in the hospital, 35 tearful hand therapy sessions, six months of convalescing and one landslide of loving kindness—I made it to the beach and started a new business.

Today I work for myself as a career transition coach. My heart and mind are in a peaceful place. There is not a thing I can’t do with my right hand. And I’m focused on staying strong as the threat of COVID-19 looms.

The real-life impact

What saved me from dying? My seat belt.

What restored me back to life? My faith—in the power of God, but also in the people who guided me down the long road of recovery. I am alive and thriving because of dear lifelong friends (some I had not seen in 20 years), my brothers and sisters, and countless others who came to my rescue.

What became crystal clear? Two things.

First, my decision to follow my instincts and envision something other than the first surgeon’s “expert opinion” about my hand changed everything going forward.

Up until that point, I thought the only way to be successful and happy in my life was to accept the path others said I needed to take.

But the wreck helped me see: I am the one who decides what I create in my life, and it starts by being honest about who I am and what I value most and putting a plan in place to get there. (I wish it was as easy as it is simple.)

Second, there was nothing like a near-death experience to help me realize the true value of my life’s work. It’s not about my salary, career achievements and lifestyle by the beach.

The value of my life’s work is not about work at all. It’s about people. And it’s measured by the loving relationships I’ve managed to keep and grow throughout my years on this Earth.

By that account, I’m wildly successful and incredibly blessed. 

As founder of HerNature® Personal Branding, Carole Dupre’ guides high-achieving women in landing jobs and launching businesses that honor their true nature. She is a career transition specialist and certified personal brand strategist. She writes resumes and LinkedIn profiles and helps you build your brand online.

How has the pandemic impacted your career or feeling of purpose? If you’re unsure about where to start with your job transition, take the free Career Compass quiz to explore your next best career move.

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