Teaching life lessons 12 amputations later

Teacher returns to classroom after amputation

MIDLOTHIAN -- After one near-fatal case of the flu and 12 amputations, Jennifer Campbell is back in the classroom -- doing what she loves. 

"I feel that I have even more to teach them now than I did before," said the 5th teacher during her first week back on the job. 

A month after we first met Campbell during a physical therapy session at Baylor University Medical Center, we revisited her standing at an interactive board, teaching English Language Arts to two dozen 5th graders at McClatchey Elementary School in Midlothian. 

"She doesn't have her fingertips, but she's not that different because she can still do a lot of other things," 10-year-old Kinzy Rowney observed.

The student says her new teacher is an inspiration to her. "I had brain surgery, and [Mrs. Campbell] has had stuff -- and she's still overcoming it ... and so am I." 

"It brings such purpose to me -- the pain that I've gone through," Campbell remarked. "To be able to use this for kids is beyond rewarding."

In December, 2014, Campbell had the flu and ended up in the Intensive Care Unit in a medically-induced coma. In an earlier interview, one of Campbell’s treating physicians explained she had Sepsis, which led to multi-system organ failure. Poor blood circulation eventually forced surgeons to amputate her right leg below the knee, part of her left foot and all 10 fingertips.

Nearly two years later, Campbell uses a prosthetic leg to make her way around her classroom. She has a wheelchair on standby. The mother of two reprised her role as an educator last month, after she said the president of the Midlothian School Board told her she belonged in the classroom. 

"They called me at a time when I didn't believe in myself," Campbell admitted.

After meeting with Campbell, McClatchy Principal Courtney Carpenter said Campbell's journey aligned with the school's mission of promoting purpose, passion and pride. 

"It was just her attitude that gave confidence for me to know that this was not going to be an issue for our students," Carpenter said. 

Campbell is honest about feeling hindered and discouraged by her physical limitations at times.

"But again," she reiterated, "I just have to persevere and I have 26 kids that are watching me." 

Complications with her partially amputated left foot threaten a more extensive amputation, reaching below her left knee. While doctors monitor the foot, Campbell is determined to finish the school year and maintain a positive outlook. 

"I'm filled with such joy every day, just that I get to be here,” Campbell said smiling. “Every day is a blessing and is a gift."

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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