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Jodie O'Connell, Destiny's Ride

I am Jodie O'Connell, and I would like to tell you a little about me. I was your average 16 year old who loved to laugh and have fun. Little did I know just 6 weeks before my 17th birthday my life was going to change forever. On June 25, 1985 it was the first day of summer going into my junior year of high school. I was suppose to go to my friends 16th birthday party, but my Boss would not let me have the day off.

Somewhere around 2:00 I was helping this elderly gentleman with his order (I worked in a deli/meat market) and I remember very clearly how he was confusing me. So I went into the cooler to grind the meat and all I can figure is I pushed my fingers in to far into where the screw worm was (there was no plunger so we used our hand) because before I knew it I was trying to reach to the switch to shut it off and was screaming for help. It was actually a gentleman on crutches who finally came to my rescue.

My Dad was the first to arrive. All he could say was everything was going to be OK, but I knew he was just as scared as I was but he stayed so brave and never let me know for one instant of just how scared he was. Being a parent today I can only imagine how he felt on that day to see his daughter in this way.

When the doctors from Yale arrived it was to their amazement that I was still alive they thought I would have bled to death by now. I remember trying to move my fingers telling my Dad I didn't have a hand, as I began to see the cruel reality of what had happened.

They quickly disengaged my arm and brought me to Yale New Have Hospital. I don't think I'll ever forget the moment that they asked my parents to leave the room as they then proceeded to tell me how much of my arm I was going to have to have amputated. Well I cried so loud they quickly brought my parents back in the room as they tried to console me. All I could think about was what is going to happen to my life. The modeling career I had always dreamed of having, riding horses and what was my day to day life going to be like as a girl with one hand. .Most of all who would want to fall in love with girl with one hand. With all these things racing through my head as I laid there just crying.

The surgery was successful and within a few days I had begun to be my old self, the happy go lucky girl. My Dad stayed with me and he begun to see me get better as my positive attitude returned., but he knew I still had a long road ahead of me. I was fortunate that my dad had accumulated so much sick time he stayed with me for weeks while he changed my bandages and taking care of me. As a side note my Dad went before the board in Connecticut and helped be a major influence in the law for a parent to have job security in the event a child was sick or injured.

I was released from the hospital a week early because I was healing so well and there was no sign of Gangrene which was a concern for everyone because the machine was so old, and after to be discovered that was outlawed from OSHA standards.

After about 4 weeks I was given the approval from the doctor I could go back to riding horses. I cannot even begin to describe how the horses helped in my healing process. They made me obtain a feeling of unconditional love both for myself and them. As the days and weeks passed I noticed how I was becoming stronger and feeling better about the “New” me as I started to accept what happened to me.

My self esteem and confidence was growing stronger everyday. I was beginning to challenging myself to learn new things and not to rely on others to do everything for me. I soon realized I had the ability to use my mind as way of figuring how to do things with 1 hand by picturing it my mind and working it through until I found the best way to do it. I quickly started to become more independent. My Dad says it was the stubborn Irish within me that made me so determined to exceed despite my amputation. During this time I was teaching myself how to care for the horse, tack up the horse and eventually ride. My friends began to rave how I was becoming a better rider now then when I had 2 hands.

I believe the horses have a healing quality within them, and that is why they are used for therapy in many different aspects that enable them to enrich peoples lives and provide the healing we need. I believe they knew there was something different with me and their patience with me while I learned how to work with them, it was like they knew and understood. I spent a lot of time at the barn learning how to groom, saddle & bridle the horse and then riding. I eventually become very good at riding and it later discovered that I excel in Dressage because that it is primarily leg work with little hand.

Before I had my accident I had signed up for the swim team. By mid August I was in the water training and although I never came in first I had become a good swimmer. Being on the swim team had it's challenges because I had to let everyone see I only had one hand, and for many years I always “hid” my arm so no one would see because of the fear of how others would think of me and judge me based on what they saw without knowing me. I still get those fears every once in a while but I continue to get better each and every day.

Back in 1996 I had this idea of helping others with amputations like myself and enable them to have the same benefits of the healing from the horse as I had experience many years prior. My goal was to use the horses as a way to help others improve their confidence, inner strength and self esteem. At the time we had 30 acres, so we put in a barn and got some horses, and then soon after I became the mother of 2 wonderful children, so I put everything aside for them to be the best Mom I could be.

Then my life took another direction when I became a single Mom learning to do everything all on my own, not having the security blanket to keep me safe or take care of things that I was unable to do with one hand. I spent the 2 years learning and growing and finding that it is I who has to love me before anyone can. It was a difficult journey because loss is never easy whether it is a loved one or a limb, or even a way of life you were so accustomed to.

There is so much healing that happens over time, but you can over come any difficulty and the road is not always easy but you eventually begin to understand why this happened to you. It's part of a greater purpose in your life, and maybe you don't see it now or until it comes to fruition that it makes sense. You cannot lose the belief you are a special person. I learned at the young age of 17 that I was a fighter, and I think that's how I've made it this far, because I refuse to give up. Where there is a will there is a way, no matter how many obstacles you face because they are mere stumbling blocks to get us to our final destination. I think my divorce taught me that more than anything.

In December of 2007 my dream came back to me with the message “Finish what you started”. I did not understand until I was being faced with layoffs at work I needed to find a job to support my children in the event child support ever ended or my job ended then what would I do? How would I support my children?

In January I did soul searching and through the help of the wonderful person who was in my life at the time I rediscovered my “Destiny”; My purpose in life,. So I took it a level further, and I went to have my aptitudes tested to see what career I would excel it and don't you know it's teaching and counseling and being a small business owner focusing on the one thing I am most passionate about.

Today I am making my dream come true. I am in the process of starting the business I dreamed about so long ago. I am training to become a licensed Therapeutic Riding Instructor through NARHA. I'm am locating a facility to run it out of, focusing more on a horse rescue facility which would bring love to those horses that were abused and unloved.

It is my goal that “Destiny's Ride will up and running within the next 3-6 months working with people with the upper extremity as we learn together how to strengthening our balance, care for the horse and then riding. I believe others will benefit from the horses as much as I have, and help build that self love, confidence and self esteem that I experienced.

To my knowledge I'm the first to start this specialized recreational riding. I prefer not to be labeled as Therapeutic riding facility, but rather a recreational riding for more of the “Spiritual” healing that's within us an the horses.

I believe that I will offer a service unlike all the others, because I have 1 hand, and I can relate to most everyday challenges, and because I have self taught myself how to ride and care for the horse, and I want to bring my gift to others and let them share in the wonderful love a horse has to give.

If you are interested in finding out more about Destiny's Ride, or you are interested in being a part of the program or any general questions, please feel free to contact me at anytime. I look forward to hearing from you and hope I get the chance to meet some of you in the near future. Thank you for letting me share my story and my Dream..

Wishing you much love and blessings

Jodie O'Connell
Lee, MA

jodie0868 [at] msn.com
Destiny's Ride Website

If you want to be a SuperHands Kid or Hero, or know any inspiring stories that would be a benefit to this site's viewers, please send me an email. Thank You!

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