Last week was life affirming for me. I flew to Dallas, Texas, to interview a man, coincidentally named Dallas, whose face was totally burned off in an electrical accident. You read that correctly -- he had no face. No nose, no eyes, no mouth. He was recently given the first full-face transplant in the United States. Dallas has undergone 39 operations and counting. His old face was strong and handsome. Women were taken by his outward appearance but he says on the inside he was empty, both spiritually and emotionally.
I also met a woman named Jamie who suffered third and fourth-degree burns over 70 percent of her body. She was in a fiery solo car crash caused by her texting while driving. This mother of two has had 33 operations, many of them painful skin grafts. More surgeries are on the horizon. Jamie now spends much of her time speaking about the dangers of texting behind the wheel and teaches students, in particular, that these tragedies are completely avoidable.
By all accounts, both of them should have died in their accidents. Instead, and inexplicably, they persevered. They survived. And they thrived. They were both rushed to the same hospital following their life-threatening injuries. That's also where they later met and where they fell in love. They got married earlier this year. To Dallas, Jamie is the most beautiful woman he has ever known. He sees her through his sense of touch but he doesn't need eyes to see her joyous and tender soul. To Jamie, Dallas is a rock star, a man of quiet strength and powerful determination. They worship one another and they are rarely apart.
What should have been the tragic end of two lives is instead an incredible beginning of a brand new journey. Theirs is a love story of such purity and optimism that I was humbled and honored to be in their presence. Through all their challenges and all the pain, they claim that neither of them would trade places with their former selves. Imagine that. While so much has been taken from each of them, they say that much more has been given to both of them.
Dallas told me that when he was in the hospital he realized that he had a decision to make: he could get bitter or he could get better. Clearly he chose the latter. What a powerful lesson for all of us
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