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


The Mountains Declare

We went to the mountains in the beginning of October and I thought it couldn’t get any more beautiful.

Then we went to the mountains in the mid-October and I thought it couldn’t be any more beautiful – the water running and blowing leaves of many colors…breath-taking!

Well past the peak colors in chilly mid-November, a gaze out my window today displays brilliant yellow, gold, red, green and deep brown and makes me appreciate…it can’t get more beautiful!

Autumn adoration does not come easily to me as its presence ushers in dread of a frigid ‘quadriplegic’ winter when I long for elusive warmth and bundle in my woolen wardrobe. Today, and hopefully for this cool season, it’ll be different. I pray each chilly breeze is accepted and embraced. May my heart be open to the total beauty of creation.

As our families gather together to give thanks to the Almighty for the blessings he’s provided, I pray that gratitude will be the spirit of the whole year…of our whole lives as we share our blessings with those in need and alone – and as we welcome the season of celebration and anticipation. O Come O Come Emanuel!

Sending warmth your way today….Madge

Now for my scripture memory friends, lets snuggle by a fire, drink cocoa and memorize a verse or two! Pick your own or use mine!

Search me O God and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Ps. 139:23-24

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