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


Hawaii – Blast on the Big Island

As colder weather invades the northern hemisphere, I’m drawn to thoughts of balmy beaches and caramel colored sunsets like the ones we relished on the Big Island of Hawaii a few years ago. Year-round the temperatures range from the 60’s at night to the 80’s during the day. Climate perfection! My disability and wheelchair are obstacles in travel situations, but thankfully with focused effort, they can usually be overcome. We’ve trekked across the Pacific several times for both business and pleasure. We were blessed with great situations that made the Hawaiian paradise an affordable excursion each time.

Transportation is an extra challenge with a heavy non-collapsible power wheelchair. When our plane arrives at most destinations, we wait for the chair to be brought to the gate, or I get off the plane and use an over-sized airline wheelchair while we wait for airport staffers to bring my chair. The airline’s ‘manual’ wheelchairs make my small frame feel like a floppy Raggedy Ann doll. Thankfully, I didn’t need to use the airline’s chair when we arrived in Kona. Other passengers disembarked via the stairs while I anxiously waited for a makeshift jet-way/lift-truck that raised my chair to the plane and lowered me to the tarmac. It was the first time I’d felt like merchandise in Home Depot. See the Orange and White on the lift-truck? Home Depot colors, too!

Our next challenge was a short wheelchair accessible ride to our condo on the Kohalo Coast. We splurged for the ramped van rental during our stay to make sight-seeing more convenient.

Pre-planning and research is definitely a must. There are merely a few rent-able wheelchair vans on the island!

We settled into the fully equipped timeshare unit that Brent’s sister and brother-in-law let us use…did I say blessed? Beaches are fabulous for relaxing, but we needed adventure.

We booked a wheelchair accessible snorkeling tour out of Kona. The boat had a ramp for my chair and extra men to help lift me in and out of the water for snorkeling.

I made a superb cart for snorkels, masks and fins, too.  And in case you are wondering, no…I don’t use fins, and Brent shouldn’t need any with his size 15 feet!

The snorkeling excursion was a little choppy, but I managed not to suck water in through my snorkel and afterwards we enjoyed the cruise back to Kona together.

When we took a gander above us, we only saw the feet of fellow snorkelers on the upper deck. Darn. It was not accessible!

We employed a not so accessible mode of transportation in a helicopter.

Only the brute force of several men could get me in the ‘Madge-sized’ seat!  ‘Blue Hawaiian Helicopter’ staff were exceptionally helpful and accommodating.

On our two hour tour we got a bird’s eye view of the lava fields. They were accessible by helicopter, but too dangerous for walking or four wheeling!

Hot lava flowing into the sea.

We headed up the coast toward the fertile Waipio Valley. Note the other helicopter in the distance for perspective of the valley’s enormity.

We marveled at the stunning waterfalls.

Hawaii is truly a paradise. Winter is a lovely time of year to visit not only for the perfect climate, but also for the peak whale watching. Whether you are walking or wheeling, Hawaii is a destination for a bucket list.

Waiting for warm weather,