Auger & Auger is proud to announce Jacqueline Loving as a winning recipient of our Disabled Scholar Awards for the 2020 Spring Semester. Multiple scholarships for $1,000 are presented during the spring and fall terms to college students across the United States who have exceeded expectations and worked hard to transcend the impact of their disabilities. All recipients of the Auger & Auger Disabled Scholar Award have achieved excellence inside and outside their classrooms, and are making a positive impact in their communities.
Jacqueline Loving’s winning essay revealed an incredible story of fortitude, one we are honored to shine a light on. You wouldn’t ordinarily consider living with disabilities to be the kind of learning experience that could propel you forward to amazing interactions and aspirations — and yet, “Jackie’s” journey has done just that.
Life would fundamentally change for 5-year-old Jackie one Friday afternoon when she fell ill on her way home from kindergarten. By Sunday the sickness had progressed to a high fever requiring hospitalization (Jackie had contracted an infection that was sending her body into septic shock).
“I was put on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) to prevent my internal organs from shutting down. The hospital staff did not expect me to live. After weeks on life support, and months in the hospital, my illness resulted in the amputation of my right foot and loss of most of my fingertips.”
Even when she couldn’t consciously hear him, each visit from Jackie’s father included a promise to get her that puppy she’d been longing for. Both wishes were fulfilled when she was able to return home and meet a new addition to the family (a dog she named Ecmo). Sadly, Ecmo was challenged by fused vertebrae in his spine, and Jackie felt helpless, wanting desperately to alleviate his pain and solve his mobility issues. Over time, her love of animals only grew stronger, replacing her feelings of futility with determination as she vowed to become a part of the solution for suffering animals.
“As overwhelming a challenge as everything was, I came to realize that the lessons of life learned along the way were at the heart of my passionate drive for success. One of the very first lessons I would learn was that I was not alone!”
Accepted by Shriners Hospital for Children, Jackie was fortunate to enter a unique health care system with profound expertise in the field of childhood limb deficiencies. Though it required frequent trips to California from Arizona for prosthetic appointments, the upside was huge. Jackie had the opportunity to meet other children like herself who were overcoming life challenges — an experience that taught her just how important contributing to the lives of others could be.
“I also became involved in the International Child Amputee Network (I-CAN) and was able to attend one of their conferences in Tucson. This exposed me to an incredible group of amputees living full lives despite the realities of limb loss. I met kids with no arms who were able to eat using their feet, and others with no legs who could swim (mostly with their arms), and even a lady pilot who steered with her feet. To have been treated unconditionally by at least this one group of people has made all the difference in my life.”
Jackie’s parents were nervous about how life was going to be for her, living in a small town with no other neighbors like their daughter. Keeping her condition a secret wasn’t realistic — it was inevitable that people were going to become aware. Surprisingly, they reacted positively to Jackie, teaching her that vulnerability was a good thing after all.
“Being vulnerable brought along with it another significant life lesson — how to accept myself for who I was. It was always difficult for me to fit in with other kids who thought I was different, weird, or crippled. The impact on my self-image and self-confidence took a long time to overcome, but eventually, I learned to adjust and understand this is who I am, inherently different. The key for me was to focus on what I am capable of doing — rather than what I am not capable of doing.”
Growing up with incredibly supportive parents taught Jackie the importance of working hard to overcome obstacles. Whenever anyone was rude, her father refused to let her use the excuse of disability. The gift of having twin sisters one year older than herself, who embraced her with unconditional love and friendship from day one, was the ultimate form of acceptance.
“It’s inconvenient having to worry about doing almost everything, but there is almost always a solution. When I wanted to learn to drive, my mother decided to teach me. After running over a curb and into a field, she found a school to teach me to drive with the use of hand controls. This adaptation involves a lever connected to the steering wheel which allows me to apply the gas and the brakes as required.”
Having graduated at the top of her class of 2019 from the Agri-Business and Equine Center public charter high school, she is currently attending the University of Arizona. Growing up and seeing so many people that dedicated their lives to helping children, Jackie decided to devote her life to a similar purpose. Her plan is to study veterinary medicine and be involved in the innovative research of animal mobility devices.
“I have always felt an emotional connection to animals. I remember seeing a movie about a dolphin who was fitted with a prosthetic and thinking, “he’s just like me.” I know this is what I am meant to do. Supporting efforts to research new and better mobility devices will also let me serve as a positive example for other child amputees seeking to overcome their challenges.
Having almost lost my life, and coming through it stronger, makes me appreciate all the blessings I’ve been given — and I work hard each day not to take any of them for granted.”
We asked Jacqueline Loving if she would like to share a message with our country, and the world — her response was equally inspiring.
“Take to heart that no matter what obstacles you’re facing it’s most important to remain kind, understand others and practice compassion in everything you do.”