Life Can Turn on a Dime – Part 8

Hi friends. This is part of a series about experiences related to a life change at age 18 when I lost control of my car many years ago and became paralyzed from a spinal cord injury. See part 1 for more background.

Almost ready to go home from the hospital in my brand new wheelchair. My half butchered hair is hidden as we pulled it back to cover the bald spots from traction and surgery.

Home Sweet Home?
Eleven weeks after the accident I was discharged from rehab. Coincidentally,  my accident occurred the day I left for my sophomore year of college and I arrived at home the day I would have come home for the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. Yes, that was an interesting semester and definite learning experience.  The true training was just beginning.

The transition to ‘every-day’ living was what I remember as the most difficult adjustment. I no longer had a host of new friends and therapists who understood my ‘different body’. It was ‘game on by myself’. Most of my friends were away at school, and yes, my family was there, but whoa…it was an awakening. A hospital bed was set up in the living room for the first six months while we worked on an addition to the house on the ground floor.

We set up a temporary shower in the hallway between the kitchen and laundry room right in front of the door going out to the garage.   I remember threatening to charge admission when someone needed to slip in or out during my shower.  When showering seems to involve the whole family you get a new perspective on life!

Finding Help
We had no idea how to hire helpers and we learned life lessons as we saw the good, the bad and the ugly up close and personal in our house. We tried both ‘live in’ and ‘visiting’ helpers. One night I was awakened to flashing blue lights at 2:00 AM as the police entered the house. One of our hired helpers took my mother’s wedding rings!  Redemption came when her father bought the treasured diamond from the pawn shop where she sold it.

It’s heart-breaking to see such desperate people. Gratefully, we honed our approach to hiring and I have developed many wonderful and lasting friendships through my dependence on others for personal care.  As you might imagine there are times of joy and challenge with this dependence and these relationships. I highly recommend a couple of my go to scriptures for courage and relief during the tough times….No kidding, I use these now to remember and to move ahead.  Yes, I still have my struggles just as I know you do. This very year has been replete with pneumonia and other health challenges. I repeat my short verses over and over:

March on my soul, be strong. Judges 5:21 NIV
Rely on the Lord! Be strong and confident! Rely on the Lord! Psalms 27:14”  The NET Bible

Friends Stick Close
Many friends helped lighten the family’s load and ministered to physical and emotional needs.  It is overwhelming to look back at the ‘mini’ miracles and the glorious evidence of God’s amazing grace.  A good friend, Julia,  cared for me during my first summer before she went to college.  I know it was difficult for her to stay with our family caring for a needy, exposed paralyzed friend, but her young soul offered safety and continuity as she served selflessly.

One of my former full-time helpers and friend, Michel, has a special gift of care giving and was with me for a good part of ten years as she lived with us and became part of our family. She helped when I first moved away from home and was a great support when both my father and mother died.  She was in our wedding and even went to Aruba to help us with care-giving on our honeymoon.  She now lives in Arizona and I rarely see her, but we had many memorable times together.  One of my most tender memories of her were the nights she spent at my mom’s bedside during her final days of fighting breast cancer.  Mom seemed to eat and move best with Michel…it was beautiful…and a great comfort to mom and our family.

Precious Gifts
A couple nights before mom died, unable to sleep, I drove to her house at eleven or so and Michel put me in the small hospital bed with mom in her semi-conscious state to cuddle.  A precious and priceless time.

You see, through the struggles and difficulties of my ‘different’  life I have seen the caring, loving touch so many extended to me and to those I hold dear. As if that was not enough of an example of God’s great love and faithfulness, he surprised me with the gift of a loving, caring husband!  Great is His faithfulness!

If you are currently struggling I’d be honored to hear your heart and pray for you.  Drop me a note or post a comment.  Love to you and more to come next time my friends.   – Madge

Life Can Turn on a Dime – Pt. 7

This is part 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.

A few weeks after my accident and shortly after surgery. The weather was nice enough for some relaxation on the porch in the late afternoons when mom stopped by after work.

So grateful I have learned how to take care of my skin without laying down every thirty minutes when the timer alerts! That was my first experience of ‘weight shifts’ for healthy skin!

New Appreciation and Caution
When I started sharing my story last year I had no personal experience with skin breakdown. Because of the intensive training I received during rehab, I was proud of the fact that I had good skin and avoided the commonly experienced complication of skin breakdown which can lead to surgery and many weeks of down time and further skin vulnerability. As I write this entry, I am healing from my first and only true pressure sore smack dab on my bottom!  Somehow I believed that my “perfect trouble-free skin” would never need such pampering.

This new-found caution concerns me, but more than that it gives me a chuckle as I look at these pictures and think, wow, a few months ago my outlook and appreciation for the ritual of regular weight shifts was entirely different.

A Class Disruption
A month after my discharge from rehab, the process of weight shifts in college calculus class was something that could have embarrassed me right out of the room. But somehow, by the grace of God, I was faithful to interrupt integrals and derivatives every thirty to forty-five minutes.

My big tan wheelchair sounded like a loud drill whirling into metal as a light touch of a button took me from an upright position to flat on my back…silenced for only a minute, the whirling sound brought me back up and erect. Classmates politely pretended like they didn’t notice.  I was a sight to see…half bald, in a big noisy wheelchair! I wore a metal brace to hold a felt tip pen that I used to scribble giant numbers in my notebook as I learned how to write without finger movement – pencils were out because they take too much pressure!

Grace Disguised
Yikes! Looking back, I’m amazed at God’s grace. I didn’t realize what a mess I was – a real disaster on the outside! But it was one day at a time then and it is one day at a time now just like everyone else.

One day at a time.  Yes each day of calculus class was precious and so is this very day.

Let’s use this day wisely no matter what circumstances we face.  This is our only today.

Love deeply.  Extend much grace to yourself and others.

Read on to part 8


Life Can Turn on a Dime – Part 6

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 as 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 how 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 much more grateful
…for the husband next to me at night
…for the provision that I continually see
…for the 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…

Read on to part 7.