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As a second-year medical student at Howard University, Dr. William Dash faced a daunting challenge that he never anticipated. Instead of fighting to save the lives of others, the aspiring physician had to fight to save his own life. In 1998, Dash took ill while visiting his parents in Baltimore. What he thought was the flu turned out to be bacterial meningitis, a potentially fatal infection of the brain, which caused blood clots to form throughout his body.
“The clotting was most severe in my legs, and as a result I had very little circulation. There was no cure, and the only solution was a bilateral amputation of my legs just below my knees,” says Dash, now 30 and a third-year pediatric resident at Harlem Hospital.
While in intensive care, Dash says, “I was thinking, ‘It’s not my time. I’m 23 years old and I’ve got a lot of life to live.”
With no damage to his mind or his hands, Dash knew practicing pediatric medicine was still within reach. To the marvel of his doctors, Dash returned to Howard Medical School seven months after his amputation, completing the requirements for his medical degree in 2001.
Dash, who earned a B.S. in biology from Morehouse College, had dreamed of being a doctor since boyhood. He has always known that his gift was in working with children. Past volunteerism included involvement in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program of Washington, D.C.
“Kids are very resilient; you can always learn something from them,” says Dash, who finds pediatrics very rewarding. “When you save a child’s life, you could be saving them for 60 or 70 years.” Watching Dash make rounds today, it is not evident that he is wearing prostheses. Dash’s close call with a life-threatening illness and his remarkable recovery offers hope to others. An avid golfer, Dash says that when physically challenged people meet him and hear his story, “it’s obvious that it can be done. … They can overcome obstacles, too.”
As an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, syndicated radio show host, and author, Willie Jolley (www.williejolley.com) has come across many people who have converted daunting setbacks into incredible comebacks. Some of them have lost their mates, some have gone through a divorce, others have been downsized out of a job, and others have been diagnosed with cancer or some other life-threatening illness. “There is a formula that I found was consistent with all of them,” says Jolley, a formula you can use to keep catastrophe from derailing you from achieving your goals:
Stay focused. Don’t lose your vision, your purpose in life, or your long-term goals.
Make a decision. Is this a setback period or setback comma? Meaning, is this the end of the sentence, with nothing else to be said or is it a pause, a transition, with more to come in life?
Don’t hang around negative people. Surround yourself with positive, supportive friends and family.
Don’t be discouraged. Don’t stop. Keep moving, take action — even if that means seeking professional counseling.
Fire up your desire. Work on enhancing