This is part 6 of a series about experiences related to a life change at age 18 when I lost control of my car and became paralyzed from a spinal cord injury. See part 1 for more background.
I hung out with a friend’s family if my family was gone. Often we dreaded time alone.
Fear and Darkness
Apprehension set in at night when all visitors and therapists vanished. Even other patients’ families were unable to add comfort and had to leave. Fear flew in quickly as the kite on the stark wall beamed the last colorful comfort before the lights dimmed and visitors deserted. Couldn’t someone please spend the night? No, the rules prohibited such pampering. A call for help was as close as a simple fuzzy ball hanging from a cord near the bed! I think it had mercury in it and with a tap activated an alert to the nurses’ station.
Gone were the days of simple grunts or cries to get ’911-like’ prompt assistance as I had at the other hospital where I was considered a ‘special’ patient with ‘special needs’. I was now another paralyzed soldier in boot camp on a road to recovery.
Didn’t they know I could barely move my arms? The fuzzy ball was an innovative and effective device…most of the time.
The nurses could not hear my faint cries for help when I knocked the ball out of reach. This was a scary, helpless feeling….I remember some dark nights…nights when it was best not to cry and get my nose all stuffy and make things worse. I couldn’t move my arms much in the beginning. Wiping a runny nose or teary eyes while laying down was impossible and tears would only provoke additional fear and discomfort.
“Let’s try positioning you on your stomach tonight,” the nurses said with enthusiasm as they flipped my body, padded me with pillows to eliminate pressure – and oh yes – positioned my head so I could breathe. I fell asleep but woke in a panic as my face felt smothered and my fancy, fuzzy ‘calling’ ball was out of reach. My already quiet chirps for help were muted by the surrounding pillows and my paralyzed prone position. Helpless and scared, I talked to the One who was with me, never leaving me alone. Of course the nurse’s help always ‘eventually’ came and I was learning new patience and perseverance. A year later I had additional in-patient rehab and loved the experience of sleeping on my tummy each night. It’s amazing what time and experience does for perspective and courage, isn’t it?
New and different realities in our lives have the potential to shift us toward bitterness, hopelessness, and anger. We can feel so helpless when things ravel out of control..conflict, sickness, grief, financial needs, scheduling difficulties, etc.…we can choose to rant about them (as I often do in my journal) but at some point the ranting loses its appeal and I know there is a necessary shift in perspective. That’s when my heart seeks to understand the potential grace and growth and moves toward wrestling for a firm grip on hope and gratitude.
Memories and Growth
As I document these memories and revisit past difficult times, I reflect on current difficulties as well. Challenging events are part of our journey and produce our legacy. I remind myself they build strength, depth and an ability to depend on Christ in new ways. They continue to help me understand the power of James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Revisiting the past makes me that much more grateful
…for the husband next to me at night
…for the provision that I continually see
…for the precious people I meet
…for opportunities to refresh others
…for the stabilizing Anchor of my soul
…for the encouragement that there is always more to learn.
Prayers for peace and purpose to you in your difficult hours…