I was so thrilled to be invited by Toyota to attend Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend. Toyota was playing a big part in the event as they would be honoring a local woman with an award. Part of Oprah’s tour includes the Toyota Standing O-Vation award and on our stop, Team Toyota athlete and Brand Ambassador Amy Purdy joined Oprah to present the award.
Amy Purdy has quite a remarkable story herself; at 19 she became sick from bacterial meningitis. The illness was so severe her legs had to be amputated from the knee down. Her story was shared with us in more detail with this video:
Not only did Amy survive against the odds, but she became a Paralympic bronze medalist snowboarder, a “Dancing With The Stars” finalist, and the co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports. She shared with the crowd that she was able to get through this major trial in her life by asking herself this question: “If I were the author of this book, how would I want the story to go?”
By claiming that moment and posing that question to herself, Amy says she was able to daydream again. She said she was able to “feel the snow” on her face and figure out how to do the things she wanted to do, despite the challenges.
After learning more about Amy, it was time for the Toyota Standing O-Vation award to be given. We the audience did not know who would be honored, so I was excited to learn which woman in my city had done something amazing enough to be honored by Oprah. We were then introduced to Yamile Jackson. Grab your kleenex, because here is the video:
Yamile Jackson is originally from Colombia, but made Houston her home many years ago. She was an engineer working in the oil and gas industry when she became pregnant with her first child. As sometimes happens, the pregnancy had complications. At 28 weeks pregnant, Yamile developed preeclampsia and required an emergency C-section to save the lives of her and her baby.
Because often preterm babies do not respond well to touch and because Yamile wanted a way for Zachary to feel like she was with him even when she could not be, she developed the “Zaky” – a hand shaped pillow that the parents can keep with them so that it absorbs their scent, and then leave with the child. Because it is fashioned like a hand, the Zaky allows the child to feel cuddled and protected, as if the parent was there even when he or she cannot be. Yamile’s company, Nurtured by Design, has already been providing the Zakys to hospitals around the world. Toyota granted Yamile and her company $25,000 so it can provide even more.
“We all have power to bring about positive change in the world, and sharing that with others is how we express love and gratitude,” says Yamile.
When I asked her how she went from creating the first Zaky for her son to designing a mass produced product, given her background in oil and gas engineering, she told me she doesn’t know exactly – she just knew she had to do it so she started asking people who would know how to do it. She asked doctors and nurses about material that would be safe for infants and young children and those conversations and advice led her to where she is today. Because of her determination and inspiration, she was able to accomplish what she set out to do.
Learning more about these amazing women was one of the best parts of the weekend for me. Amy and Yamile are real life examples of women who listened to their calling and had the courage to live it. They each followed the thread in their lives that led them to do things they probably never imagined they’d be doing. Both of these women faced enormous life changes before they had the inspiration or ideas that led to their biggest accomplishments.
For Yamile, her emergency C-section and Zachary’s birth were essential to her finding her calling. Yamile says Zachary changed her purpose; once he was born she decided she would dedicate herself to help babies like hers. She’s definitely done that and more.
This award was a great way to end a weekend full of inspiration. I am so thankful to Toyota for making it possible for me to attend. (You can read my recap of Oprah on Friday night here and my Saturday recap of the Trailblazers here.)