PHOTO: Dr. Jeff Huxford, the author of “Finding Normal,” with his wife Jacqui at Coffee & Coconuts on Wednesday, April 4, 2018 / Photo by Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
During a book launch event at his neighborhood coffee shop Wednesday night, Dr. Jeff Huxford and his family greeted friends and listened to live music while promoting a book he penned on lessons he learned after an accident that cut his medical career short.
As a junior high student growing up on a farm in Indiana, Huxford decided he wanted to be a physician.
“I guess I just wanted to help people,” he said.
Huxford checked all the boxes on his way toward achieving what he thought of as the “American dream,” majoring in biology, then attending Indiana University’s School of Medicine.
After marriage, a medical residency in east Tennessee, two children, and a move back to his wife’s hometown, Huxford felt like he had it made.
He was content in his family practice, and said he imagined he would spend his life in the medical profession, until a violent car crash shook his world.
On the way home from his father-in-law’s hardware store, a truck ran a four-way red light and smashed into Huxford’s car, sending him and the vehicle into a concrete pole.
Huxford was airlifted to a Chicago hospital, where he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury with severed neurons across the brain, broken ribs and a punctured lung.
The events that followed in the two weeks after his injury were lost to Huxford, who said his wife, Jacqui has related the details.
His first memory was awakening in his bed in the hospital. “I look out the window, and my room overlooked Lake Michigan, and I actually thought I was on vacation and I was looking at the ocean,” he said.
When Jacqui brought him his phone, the first thing Huxford, a Cincinnati Reds fan, did was to check the baseball team’s schedule.
After five months of intensive speech and physical therapy, Huxford surprised doctors by returning to his medical practice part-time, working his way up to more responsibilities.
“I felt pretty good about what I was doing,” he said.
But three years later, life took another turn when Huxford began having extreme headaches.
He went to the emergency room and underwent an MRI, which led doctors to believe that continuing to practice medicine was literally shrinking his brain.
“The longer I worked, the more chances there were of me making a mistake,” he said.
Having to quit his job frustrated Huxford, and for the first time in his life, he began journaling. He quickly realized he wanted to share how the accident had positively impacted his faith, and his attitude.
“I had this accident, and I should have died, but I didn’t,” he said. “I had this miraculous recovery they didn’t expect me to have.”
Huxford chuckled when he talked about, “going from being a doctor to a blogger.”
“I’m way different than I used to be, and I feel like I need to go somewhere else to restart,” he said he realized while living in Indiana.
The Huxfords had vacationed in Nashville the winter before, and both wanted to move to the area. After renting a home in downtown Franklin to try out the community, the family purchased a home in Berry Farms and moved in the summer of 2016, not long after Huxford began his blog.
That blog led him to pen a book about his experiences, “Finding Normal,” which is available online now through publishing company Morgan James. It will be available in stores this fall.
The book’s title comes from what doctors advised Huxford in the wake of his injury; he shouldn’t expect life to revert back to what it used to be, but he should work to find a “new normal.”
“I think my focus before this brain injury happened was, I want to stay as normal as possible,” he explained. But after the accident, he was forced to come to terms with that fact that the injury had affected him.
Though one wouldn’t guess by talking to him that he suffered a brain injury, Huxford said residual symptoms remain. He suffers from short term memory loss, difficulty focusing, obsession with routine, anxiety and depression.
“My medical record says that they suspect that within five to 10 years of the accident, that I’ll start showing a lot of decline,” he said.
However, after six years, he said he has yet to experience a decline.
“But I don’t want to take it for granted,” he said, explaining why he wrote the book now.
In the book’s foreword, Huxford sums up his new outlook.
“I’m coming to realize the importance and beauty of relinquishing everything to God, the good and the bad, the expected and the unexpected, even when I don’t know what lies ahead, what tomorrow may bring, or what the future may hold.”