Life Can Turn on a Dime – Part 5

This is part 5 of this series about my life change at age 18 when I lost control of my car and became paralyzed from a spinal cord injury.  See part 1 for background.

Puppy Contraband
My mom, dad, and youngest brother, Brian, were my steadfast visitors in the evenings and on weekends at the rehab center, along with many others. One night Mike, a pastor friend, smuggled a puppy into my room. He had read the book Joni which told of her diving accident and spinal cord injury as well as her rehab. She described a time when a friend brought puppies to visit her.

As Mike  prepared to leave work he prayed that he would be able to get a puppy to bring to me and planned to go by the local mall’s pet store to borrow one – when the unimaginable happened…

A lady at the church where he worked was looking for someone who could keep her ‘new‘ puppy for a few hours while she went to a class. He gave thanks to the Almighty and brought the puppy for a visit. What a fluff ball of cuteness and blessing to uplift all! That’s what I call an answered prayer! Today, I still love puppy comfort through my canine helper Twix and other pups.


I love June, my neighbors golden retriever puppy!

More Friends
Charlotte, one of my nurses at Shepherd, strummed the guitar for me and sang when she was off work, and she and her fiance took me to a bible study one Monday night. I don’t remember what was taught, but I remember the love, encouragement, and acceptance I felt from this wonderful, gentle couple as they managed the hassle of moving me in and out of their little car using a borrowed ‘hospital’ fold-able wheelchair.

Most of my friends were busy with their ‘normal’ lives off at a university. Some close friends couldn’t handle a visit, and others needed comfort themselves to deal with their changed friend. Holding tears back during one visit was often all they could take.

Contact was completely lost with some, and I better understand their difficulties now.  Others took the plunge and stood by and supported with energy and grace.  Gratefully, I was pretty much clueless about how disabled I appeared on the outside,  after all, I was still the same person on the inside.

Mary Hall, a friend comes to visit. I wish I had more photos of my precious visitors.

It was awkward for everyone at first!  ‘I used to be normal’,  was one of the first things I’d tell new people I’d encounter after my accident.  For a year or two after my injury, I was on a mission to ensure everyone was as comfortable as possible and knew I grew up walking around just like they did.

Then, at some point I remember having to remind myself that I might want to explain to a new acquaintance about my injury because usually if someone is over 13 or 14 they are too uncomfortable to ask.  Honestly, I would have been the same way had the tables been turned.

There are always the looming questions everyone has: ‘What happened?’ or ‘Were you born this way?’ or ‘What is wrong with you?’

Now, I try to remember to let people know at an appropriate time, but it is common for me to forget to explain because this IS my every day normal.  Really folks, if you have a question, it it ok to ask me!  Believe me, your children will ask!

I have a question for YOU today,  ‘How does it make you feel when you encounter someone with special needs?  What is your ‘go to’ reaction?’

I am not always prepared for others’ in tough situations or with special needs but have never been disappointed when I risked pushing though my discomfort and fear. Now I want my desire for connection to be greater than my desire for protection.  After all, anyone’s life can turn on a dime.

Read on to part 6.

 Blessings to you dear friends. -Madge

6 thoughts on “Life Can Turn on a Dime – Part 5

  1. Thanks to you, I’m able to see past their difficulties to the person they are and understand that they can have a bright side like anyone else, despite their challenges. They are not the chair they’re in or the cane they carry or the slow speech everyone hears. They are themselves inside. That’s a gift you freely give and it helps everyone around you.

    • Linda, it is such a blessing to have family/friends like you. Thank you for your support and acceptance. I suspect it was challenging for the family to see Brent marry someone with such obvious needs. Hopefully you see that we make a great team. Sure do love him… and you too!

  2. Madge, I can honestly tell you that my initial response. “go to” reaction is to want to do everything for a special needs person. To hover, imagine that, a hoverer! Where have we heard that before? lol, but it doesn’t take long working with someone such as yourself to realize that yes, even though the outside world might see needs, there are also many strengths and more insight present than many fully functioning people have. We too often pour into our busy days not fully putting on the thinking caps connecting all the dots of our tasks (especially when foggy with antihistamines for sinus congestion-thus your poor footsy-I do hope you’ll forgive me for that-yikes!! Anyway, I see you and what a thinker you are and the way you use your time with an attitude of gratitude, it’s heartwarming. It would be easy and perfectly acceptable to have feelings of bitterness but instead, you do wonderful positive things that bless us all such as this blog. Thank you!

    The other day I was so touched coming around the corner at your back screen door just catching you & Brent peacefully sitting, enjoying each others company, listening, taking in the beauty of a Ga. morning and Tahoes’ playful exhuberance. Quickly I realized this is something you probably do often. I certainly didn’t want to break the solitude you guys were having. I think I even teared up a little just realizing how fully capable I am yet how rarely I take that kind of sweet time to really enjoy & appreciate myself, my surroundings and my spouse. I hope you & Brent know that the way you have managed to make “the chair” not all bad is truly inspiring.

    But…to wrap it up on how one responds to special needs it takes me to school where I often work with various situations, such as wheelchair bound, hearing/visually impaired, autism, etc. What I notice the most is the underlying desire for more independence even if they don’t or can’t verbalize. It’s just human nature to want to do things for yourself. I’ve realized thru the years how habitually doing too much for them robs nuggets of their gold; one doorknob, drawer, cabinet, etc. at a time. So, I think you hit the nail on the head about just asking. In asking, persons with special needs can correct us when help is needed or is not and its airs the fact that it’s not that the help isn’t appreciated, it’s just not needed.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to work & share with you. Getting to know you I’m pretty sure is more of a blessing than any help I could ever be for you. You’ve already got it so together Madge
    Love you, Kathy

    • Awww, Kathy,
      Thank you for your kind response.

      I know the young people you help appreciate you and your giving spirit, my friend, as do I. Keeping you and your family in my prayers!

  3. You were so young. Thank you for posting this blog. It is inspiring to all of us. You are such a wonderful person and I am lucky to know you. It is so interesting to hear what went on from your point of view. I remember it all so clearly. I remember coming over to your house and staying with you during the day over a break from college. Your parents were at work. It was a tough time. Please continue to write. There is so much of the story left to tell!

    • Diana – Thanks for supporting me when I needed help with initial adjustment…I’d love to hear more of your perspective, plus we need to catch up. We need a lunch date, lady.

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