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‘I just look for the light’

With a single blast of a shotgun, Phoenix Elder’s life was changed forever.

The “unloaded’’12-gauge shotgun sent a spray of buckshot that tore the flesh off the bone of Phoenix’s left leg and embedded shot in her right leg.

She didn’t feel the flesh being blown away. It was only when her left leg went numb that she realized she had been shot.

“My boyfriend and another friend were looking at the gun that was always unloaded and with the safety on,” Phoenix said. “But not this time.”

Phoenix is a May 2020 graduate of Troy University with plans to enter graduate school in the fall and work toward a career in marriage and family counseling.

But that was not on Phoenix’s mind as her friends rushed her to an area hospital.

“All I wanted to know was ‘were they going to be able to save my leg,’” she said. “I kept asking, ‘Can I keep my leg, please? Can I keep my leg?”

Phoenix was given hope that her leg could be saved. But, when the doctor arrived, he spoke stunning words; her leg could not be saved.

“I couldn’t even cry,” she said. “But the hardest part of that moment was my boyfriend knowing he was the one handling the gun.”

Not only was Phoenix having to accept that she would lose her leg, she was also told that she had tested positive for the coronavirus. She would have to go through this nightmare all alone. That was devastating emotionally.

It was five days after Phoenix’s  left leg was amputate above her knee, before she could cry.

She began to experience the fear, the frustration, the hurt and anger of her loss.

“Mentally, it was very hard,” she said. “I had a meltdown.”

Phoenix’s hurt, her loss seemed more than she could bear. The challenges of living her life with only one leg seemed like a mountain too high to climb.

Then, the words of a hospital nurse gave her the confidence to move ahead with courage and assurance.

“‘All you need is enough light for the next step in front of you’ is what the nurse told me,” Phoenix said. “And her words have guided me through. I just look for the light to guide my next step.”

Phoenix has had to rely on that guiding light and the love and caring of her family to lifther up.

There were and are many “knots in the wood” but Phoenix said there is always enough light for her to take the next step.”

A next step is a giant one. “Learning to walk with one leg is a challenge,” she said. “I’m using a walker but my balance is not good enough for me to use a crutch. One day, I’ll have an artificial leg and there will be enough light to guide me with that step. And,I have the love and support of a wonderful family and supportive friends to help me along the way.”

Phoenix said she has accepted the fact that her life will be lived in a different way than she had thought. But she is thankful for each day before her and looks forward to graduate school and to the career she has planned.