In November, Carol Decker came to speak to more than fifty Practical Nurse and Occupational Therapy Assistant students at Bates Technical College. They listened to her for an hour, and their attention never lagged in spite of what studies say about our shortened ability to focus. No one checked their phone, even though Carol would not have been able to see it to feel slighted.

Decker had three amputations in 2008 and is also blind due to complications from sepsis. She is now a motivational speaker who eloquently tells her story to audiences like those at Bates this past month.

DeckerShe ended her talk with these powerful life lessons:

Have Courage

If you can get over your fear, you can do anything, she said. Carol thought it helped her to have that fearlessness that she learned growing up with four brothers. She said we all can do with more fearlessness, even if we are not faced with the challenges of walking again or negotiating in a world without our vision.

Ask For and Accept Help

Carol repeats often that she could not do this alone. During her talk, she asked for help twice. Once, a student helped when she knocked over a water bottle. Another time, a student helped her with a gadget. She didn’t hesitate to ask, and they didn’t hesitate to help.

Decker emphasized that we all need to let others help us in order to become our best possible selves.

Let Go and Forgive

Letting go of her past and the way she used to do things allowed Decker to move into the amazing life she has now. She has become extremely flexible in how she manages her everyday tasks. Instead of telling herself she can’t do something, she sets the intention to do it and then problem solves until she finds a way.

Forgiving herself and others for whatever happened in the past has opened her up to the infinite possibilities of today. 

Live in the Present

Last winter, Decker reached a new goal and went skiing with the help of Outdoors for All. When she fell into the snow with her children and husband, Carol said she could have easily died a happy woman.

In fact, she says her life now is good. It’s so good that she would not go back to the time before the sepsis if she were given the choice.

Those experiences, she said, are available to us all at any time if we fully live in the moments.

Have Fun
Decker laughs readily and has what her husband calls ‘infectious optimism.’ She made jokes about her blindness. She can see only occasional flashes of red, white or blue, which, she joked, makes her a patriotic girl.

Now Decker is working on more speaking engagements, and she’s writing a book. 

The Big Takeaway

Karrie and Carol
Carol Decker (L) with guest blogger and Bates instructor Karrie Zylstra Myton.

After listening, one nursing student said, “My life is changed forever.”

No matter what abilities you have now, Decker’s lessons can help you in your career and life.

Because, after all, we are all only temporarily ‘abled,’ even if we never experience Decker’s challenges. Eventually our eyesight goes. Our bodies fail us. But we can still live beautiful lives with great courage, the help of others, flexibility and laughter. 

About the author

Guest blogger Karrie Zylstra Myton is an English as a Second Language and developmental English instructor at Bates Technical College. A finalist for the Pierce County  Library Flash Fiction (or not) Writing Contest, Karrie also writes on her personal blog.

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