Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It Was Like...Magic

"Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together... and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home... only to no home I'd ever known... I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like... magic." - Sam Baldwin in Sleepless in Seattle

Someone recently suggested that I write about how I met & married my husband. Since I do happen to be married to the most wonderful man on the planet, I thought it was an excellent idea! So here goes:

I don't remember ever officially "meeting" my husband, Jerry. We grew up 4 blocks from each other & went to the same high school. He was a few years ahead of me, but we hung out with some of the same people. Besides, it was a pretty small school by today's standards - only 500 students in 8th - 12th grades by the time I graduated - so everyone just sort of knew (or at least knew of) everyone else.

As I said, Jerry & I had some of the same friends, so we would cross paths from time to time. I thought he was sweet & really cute, but I was too young to date, so even if he had noticed me, which he now says he had, it couldn't amount to anything. Awhile after he had graduated, however, he finally asked me out. Well, actually, since he was the shy, quiet type, he had a mutual friend ask for him. Since I was now old enough, & since the mutual friend, when I asked him if I should go or not, said I should, I said yes. (Undying gratitude to you, Charlie, for your fabulous advice!) We dated on & off for the next several months. It never became serious, but in hindsight we both realize that we had a deep connection even then. One particular event pretty much sums it up. We were sitting on my front porch one day & out of the blue - & totally out of character - he looked at me & said, "I could be married to you." That surprised me, but we followed it with some playful moments of me calling him "Husband" & him calling me "Wife", but that was the end of it. Or so we thought.

Many years & a lot of life went by for both of us. Jerry's led to marriage, a child, a major career change to the job of his dreams, a few moves & a divorce. Mine, of course, led to college, the car wreck, spinal cord injury, quadriplegia, & adjusting to my new life. Then one day we saw each other. We talked, we caught up, we laughed and, well, to quote Sam Baldwin (& Annie Reed), "It was like...magic." He told me later that when he looked at me he didn't see a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. He saw that 15-year-old on my front porch He saw ME. That's just one example of how amazing he is.

We started dating & quickly fell in love. We began talking about marriage, & the one thing I asked was that he not propose on a holiday because I wanted a separate "special" day to remember. So what did he do? He proposed to me on Christmas Day! I was so shocked that I thought he was kidding. After all, I TOLD him I wanted a separate day. He ended up having to ask me 4 TIMES before I could get my "Yes" out. The 1st two times I thought he was joking, the 3rd time I was crying & the 4th time I was finally able to answer. His excuse for asking on Christmas was that it was the last thing I would expect. Well, he was certainly right & his surprise worked!

Up until a few weeks before Jerry proposed, I had a combination of professional caregivers & my mom taking care of me. As a quadriplegic, I need someone else to do almost everything for me. If they don't do it for me, they at least have to set things up for me to do it myself - like give me a special splint, for example. In early December, 1992, I lost my live-in caregiver. My mom, who was 68 at the time, had developed rheumatoid arthritis & no longer had the strength to bathe me, dress me, etc. We hired a daytime caregiver & Jerry decided to move into the live-in caregiver's room & take over my nighttime & weekend care. Over the previous few months, my mom had already been teaching him all that was involved in caring for a quadriplegic. It is a HUGE responsibility including VERY personal contact. It requires an enormously special heart - truly a gift from God - on the part of the caregiver, as well as complete trust from me in that caregiver. After all, my life is LITERALLY in their hands. Jerry rose to the challenge & showed me all the love I could hope for. He learned the proper & safe way to bathe me, to dress me, to transfer me to & from my wheelchair & many more things that are simply too personal for me to write about. (If you're really curious, just Google "SCI quadriplegic care" & you'll get a ton of info.) Suffice it to say, he went FAR above & beyond. Heck, he even learned how to use curling irons, barrettes & mousse to style my waist-length hair! That in itself should earn him a medal!!

Because we felt it imperative that Jerry have a truly thorough understanding of the commitment he was undertaking, & because I dreamed of a Spring garden wedding, we had a fairly long engagement of 16 months. Jerry was involved in all the planning, & like a good groom should, he liked everything I chose. :-) When the day finally arrived, it was truly beautiful. It was a very touching day (& I'm not being biased. People still tell me so.). The whole day was a dream come true to me, but one very special thing to me was that Jerry got on one knee to say his vows so we would be eye level. It about killed him since we were on brick pavers, but he just laughed off the pain. To this day, remembering that act of kindness always reminds me of how special he is. You see, when you spend your life in a chair, you're always looking up. In groups, at parties, chatting before church, shopping...everyone is above you, & you always have to crane your neck to join in. Understandably, most ABs (that's "crip speak" for able-bodied people) don't really think about how difficult that is for the wheelchair user. It can make us feel unnoticed, unheard & a bit claustrophobic. It can even quickly become quite painful for a quad who's had neck spinal fusion surgery. Sometimes someone will pull a chair up to sit by you to talk, if one's available. Occasionally, someone will squat down to you, but that's VERY rare indeed. When it does happen, it makes me feel very cared for...very special...very loved. So to have Jerry kneeling eye level during our vows is a treasured memory to me.

After our marriage, we continued living with my mom in the house I had grown up in. My caregiving situation stayed the same until November, 1995. My paid caregiver had a child die, so she had to quit working suddenly. We tried a different woman, but she was a nightmare! No matter how many times Mom or Jerry showed her how to do something, she just couldn't get it. To this day, Jerry & I jokingly use the expression, "Oh! OK!" to mean we have no clue what's going on, because that's what that woman said every...time...we...showed...her...something. My mom was so worried for my safety that she stayed home from work to watch over me. Well, after a few days, Jerry decided to make a change. Since none of us trusted this woman, & since we wanted to build our own house & knew we couldn't afford a caregiver & a mortgage, Jerry decided to become my full-time caregiver. In order to do that, he had to request a change of shift from his employer from day shift to midnights. It was granted & our new life began.

At first, when Jerry got home from work at about 7:15 am, he would start his second job by getting me out of bed & fed. He'd then take a nap until lunchtime when he would get up & feed me. Then he'd go back to bed until dinner time. If I needed anything in between times like the door opened, or my urine leg bag emptied, or a book, or whatever, I had to wake him. I hated doing that, so I tried to wait until I HAD to wake him to empty my leg bag. Mom usually made dinner after she got home from work. At night, Jerry put me to bed & then left for work at about 10:30 pm. On the weekends, he'd flip his sleep schedule so he'd be up during the day. It was grueling for him. After a few months, Mama retired from work. That made it a bit easier for Jerry. He was at least able to sleep all day after getting me up because Mama saw to my other needs.

Eventually, we found some land, sold our house & built our current one. The three of us moved here in September, 1997. Life continued pretty much the same way for a couple of years - except Jerry had a 45 minute commute instead of a 10 minute one. Then Jerry noticed that my mom had stopped asking him to pick up her prescriptions. He found the bottles in her in-law suite & noticed she'd stopped taking them. We put that together with some other oddities & decided she needed a trip to the doctor. She was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer's, which we later discovered was actually Vascular Dementia...she'd had at least 6 "mini" strokes...but the results were the same. My mom was losing her memory & abilities.

Over time our roles changed. Instead of Mama "being my hands", I became "her brain". After Jerry got me up & in my chair, I would talk her through the steps of getting herself dressed, fed, etc. At first I just reminded her to do things. Later, I took her step-by-step through each item ("Pick up the pants. Sit down. Put your leg in." etc.) As a quadriplegic, I have had to become an expert at communicating my needs & instructing others in how to carry out tasks...& an expert in patience. These skills helped tremendously with Mom. Blessedly, she was able to understand my instructions for several years, & was even still able to help me some in return.

Sadly, as is the case with dementia, my mom progressed to the point where my instructions weren't enough. By December, 2002, we had to use a combination of adult day care & hired caregivers for her. One woman, Janelle, (who we still think of as our angel & are blessed to call our friend) came on weekday mornings to get Mom up & drive her to the adult day care center for dementia patients. On most days, Jerry was so tired that he would have to take a nap after work before getting me up. Many times he even fell asleep in his car in the driveway. When that happened, Janelle would wake him when she got here & send him inside so he could get me up. With Mom gone all day, Jerry & I were back to our original routine of my having to wake him when I needed him. It was really rough on him.

In the evenings, another caregiver would pick Mom up, bring her home & look after her needs. On the weekends, she had caregivers at home all day. These ladies were a blessing to us as well because they occasionally helped Jerry with tasks around the house like cooking, laundry & one girl even once in awhile helped him in taking care of the acre of land we have. But if one of the caregivers didn't show up...which happened from time to time...Jerry had to, not only work, take care of me, take care of the yard & the house & the grocery shopping & the cooking & the laundry & everything else, but he also had to take care of my mom. How many guys do you know who would do that?

Eventually, in Fall, 2005, my mom's dementia advanced to the point that we had to make the difficult decision to place her in a nursing home, & a few months later, she went Home to the Lord. After 10 1/2 years of marriage, that was the first time that Jerry & I were alone in our one home. To be honest, it was a little weird & took some adjustment on both our parts. But while it was harder for Jerry physically because he no longer had ANY help, it was, in a way, mentally better because he could set everything up in the kitchen, laundry, etc., just the way HE liked it...a plus for anyone.

With Mom gone, it was time for us to make changes again. Jerry's working night shift was dangerous for me. After he put me in bed at night & left, I was literally TRAPPED there, alone, until he came home. If anything had happened, like my getting choked on my saliva (which happens), a power outage, tornado, fire, etc., there would have been nothing I could do. So after more than 10 years, Jerry put in another shift change request & was back on day shift. And, after nearly 20 years of knowing someone was always in the house if I needed them, I had to learn a lot of independence...something impossible in my bed, but MUCH easier in my wheelchair.

At first, it was a bit scary, but God has blessed us with GREAT neighbors who have always been a phone call away. I've now grown to love my "independence"...such that it is. Jerry's day now starts at 4 am. He gets up & gets himself ready for work before waking me at 4:30. He gets me dressed, in my chair, etc., & gives me a pillow & blanket so I can recline my wheelchair & go back to sleep for a couple of hours. (It's not comfortable, good sleep, but I'll gladly take it!) Then he leaves for work. He leaves my protein shake & lunch & special fork in a lunch bag on the table. (Feeding myself regularly is one of the things I've had to gain the strength to do.) He makes certain the blinds in my hobby room (Mom's former in-law suite) are open, my computer is on, & my iPad & glasses are clean & accessible. He installed a new thermostat with a remote control so I can adjust the HVAC. As for my catheter/leg bag, he found an automatic emptier & attached it to my wheelchair. I can open & close the doors now, so I can come & go as I please. And occasionally I have friends come by or take me out to "play". And as I said, my neighbors are always close by & willing to help.

When Jerry gets home from work, he still has to begin his "second job" around here. He's still responsible for all of the grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning, car care, AND my care, & doesn't usually get to sleep until 10:30 or 11:00 pm. We were blessed to find yard help about a year ago, which has been a HUGE blessing to him. On top of all of this, Jerry is ALWAYS willing to help those in need. When a neighbor, friend or family member calls, he answers, "Yes" whenever possible. For example, he just spent 2 days doing "extreme yard work" for his elderly parents, is waiting on parts to fix his dad's car's brakes, has a friend's dirt bike in the garage to repair, & married two high school friends this weekend!! (He became ordained last Spring so he could marry my niece & her husband.)

Jerry & I have been together now for over 18 years. We've been married of over 16 years. And he's been my only caregiver - without a break - for nearly 15 years. And he never ceases to amaze me. "They" say a spouse should never be your caregiver, & I can understand why. But "they" don't live in the real world where you either have to be very poor or very financially "comfortable" in order to have hired caregivers. I KNOW how blessed I am to have Jerry. I PRAY we could have other caregivers until I am healed. And when I day dream, it's not of all the travels I'll take or paintings I'll paint or dances I'll dance. I DREAM of caring for my husband...of scrubbing toilets, ironing his shirts, cooking his meals & being the wife he deserves. As I said at the beginning of this, Jerry IS the most wonderful man on the planet. He isn't amazing because he takes care of me. He takes care of me BECAUSE he's amazing!

And God knew & planned way back there on that Spring afternoon on that front porch...and it was like...magic.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Questions, Questions, Questions


That's what today is all about. Questions. YOUR questions. I've been writing this blog for a little over a year now & I've written the things that I THINK you want to know. But now it's your turn to find out what you REALLY want to know. The floor is yours. Ask away.

I know there are things you're curious about, so let her rip. Maybe you want to know something specific about my care. Maybe you're interested in my daily routine. Perhaps you want to know what happened next in rehab or what it was like going home again or how aging has affected me. Maybe you have a spiritual question...how I have such hope...do I ever blame God...do I think this is for His purpose? Or you could just want to know how my husband & I fell in love...or what I like to eat...or my favorite color...or even what I do when my nose or head itches! Whatever it is, this is your chance to ask. I'm a firm believer in the fact that the only stupid question is the one left unasked, so ASK.

I'll give you about a week or so to ask away & then I'll start answering. You can include your name or ask anonymously, whichever makes you more comfortable. Just use the comments section at the bottom of this post to pose your questions. (For those of you who reach my blog through Facebook or Networked Blogs, be certain to post your questions in the "Comments" section ON THIS POST & not on the Facebook or Networked Blogs comments section, please.)

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Moment

It's Monday morning. A new week. A new month. So I thought it'd be a great time to start a new feature..."Monday Moment". Maybe this will be a regular post where, each Monday, I jot down a few of the random things on my mind. So, here goes...
  • I hope I'm more consistent with this Monday post than I've ever been with keeping a journal. Just 2 weeks ago I found an old journal from 1983. The first page talked about how I planned to FINALLY keep a journal consistently! It had 5 written pages, all from that first day. So much for KEEPING the journal...well, unless you consider the fact that I still had it after 26 1/2 years "keeping" it.
  • Eight years ago today my daddy died. I still miss him. I am to that stage where I truly rejoice for him that he is with The Father, worshiping Jesus at the throne & would NOT want him to give that up to be here. But every now & then I still catch myself wanting to send him an email or give him a call to ask his thoughts on something. I miss him, but at least I can type that without crying now.
  • I found a program that lets you turn your blog into a book. A lot of folks have said I should write a book, but I've never known how to begin. Maybe that's an answer. We'll see.
  • It's really cold still. If you read my last post, you know how happy THAT makes me.
  • The sky is an absolutely gorgeous shade of blue...you know the one...deep, rich, cloudless, lapis blue. I call this color of sky "the color of God's eyes" because nothing could be more beautiful. I could just MELT into it!
  • I have tried working out the last 2 Mondays & it ruined me for days. I only did 5 minutes of aerobics from a DVD made for quadriplegics. I was exhausted afterwords & didn't recover until Thursday! I new I was out of shape, but this is worse than I thought. I need to do something, but I don't know what. I know I'm NOT doing the workout today though! Any ideas?
  • My oldest niece is on her way over for a visit. She's bringing my first great-nephew to see me. He's 2 months old now. I haven't seen him since Christmas. I'm excited! My nieces have always been like my own children. That makes The Little Man sort of my grandchild. I bet he's changed a ton!
  • Looks like we need a new furnace. I'm not happy about that. It doesn't exactly fit into our Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball. I have no idea how much it'll cost yet. At least, thanks to Dave, we have an emergency fund in place, so it won't destroy our finances...just put a severe dent in them. I highly recommend Dave to EVERYONE.
  • I want an iPad. I can't afford an iPad, but I WANT an iPad. I have an iMac on my desk...my first Apple product...& I LOVE it. I've had computers for 22 1/2 years, my first being a pre-Windows laptop that used DOS. I am hooked on Apples now. I know the iPad is just an over-sized iTouch, but that's what makes it perfect for a quadriplegic. The iTouch is just too small for me to use...I just don't have the dexterity. The iPad would be perfect. If anyone reading this works for Apple or knows anyone who does, I would love to be a product tester for you! Or if you'd just like to donate to my cause, I am not too proud to accept your gift!
That's just a few of the crazy, random thoughts going through my head right now. (Believe me, there are more, but my family just got here, so let the spoiling begin!) When you can't physically DO a lot, you tend to THINK a lot. Can be a good thing, but can also be a very bad thing. Today, not so bad.

Hope I didn't bore you too much. I'd love to hear what's on your mind right now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

I hate winter! SERIOUSLY!! I mean, this "global warming" thing has got to STOP if it means I keep waking up to 16° F mornings with highs in the 30s...which is exactly what's been happening for the last several weeks. Ordinarily, my koi pond may freeze once in a freak cold snap each year, but it's been frozen over for days! I know that to those of you reading this from places where it gets "really cold", you're probably thinking I'm a wimp, but this just isn't natural for Georgia, & I can't handle this cold! No, I mean I REALLY can't handle it.

As a quadriplegic, my body doesn't regulate it's temperature properly. The technical term is poikilothermic, which means that my body temperature varies with that of the environment. Merriam-Webster defines it as "the state of being cold-blooded" (& no, I'm not referring to my personality, so no wise cracks). This term usually describes all animals except birds & mammals, so I am using it a bit loosely, but it's the best description of what I deal with.

You see, in most people, the nerves that run throughout their bodies send signals through the spinal cord to the brain that let it know if the body is hot or cold (above or below 98.6°F on average). If it's hot, the brain sends signals through the spinal cord telling the body to sweat. The moisture on the skin in turn cools the body. When it's cold, the brain sends those signals telling the body to shiver & for the blood vessels to constrict, raising blood pressure & warming the body.

Because of my spinal cord injury, my cord is blocked, preventing messages from passing back & forth (think: outage on a phone line...the body is making the call & the brain is making the call, but neither one can get through.) This causes several problems:
  1. I don't sweat.
  2. I don't shiver.
  3. I don't move around much.
  4. I can't tell when I'm getting too hot or too cold until it's too late.
  5. Additionally, I happen to have very low blood pressure normally - 80/50 on average - & a lower normal body temperature - 97°.
So here's the scenario: In the summer, if I don't pay careful attention to the outside temperature & humidity, I can get over heated. My body won't sweat, so my temperature just keeps rising. I've measured it as high as 104°F, but I can usually tell I'm in trouble by the time it hits 101° or 102°. I get stuffy headed, miserable, splotches on my skin...the usual signs of fever. At that point, all I can do is get in air conditioning, put cold cloths or ice on my neck & thighs & drink lots of cold water. This little problem has sent me to the emergency room a couple of times, but after 23 years, I'm pretty in-tune with my body & manage to avoid danger. How? If I'm outside, I dress in thin, sleeveless clothes, I stay in the shade, use a misty sprayer on my skin (think: artificial sweat), drink ice water, use a "cool wrap" on my neck, etc. And at the first sign of over-heating, I go inside. I have had to use some "at home" treatment a few times, but I haven't been the the ER for this since I left my high school reunion in an ambulance in June, 2000 (Yeah. What an exit.)

The winter is different (read: worse). When it's cold, my true "lizard & snake" connection really shows. When I get hot, I feel uncomfortable, but when I get cold, I'm downright MISERABLE!! Because I can't move around much & I have low blood pressure, I get cold VERY easily. I can feel when I'm cold, too...mostly in my shoulders, ears & face since I have normal sensation there. Because of this, I tend to hunch-up my shoulders a lot in lieu of shivering, which causes neck & shoulder pain leading to headaches. If I'm not careful, I can go from "just cold" to "borderline hypothermia" fairly quickly.

I've only had one recorded "medical emergency" from my being cold. It occurred in February, 1987, when I was still at Shepherd Center. It was about 2 am & I was awakened from a "sound sleep" (read: semi-consciousness) by several nurses working feverishly (pardon the pun) to raise my temperature. They had been doing their rounds checking vitals & couldn't get my temperature to register...& couldn't wake me. I came to as they were piling warmed blankets on me, putting a hat on my head & trying to get me to drink hot chocolate. I did, of course, eventually warm up, but they were pretty concerned for awhile. Since then, when I have gotten really cold, I've just repeated their treatment at home - piled on blankets & hats, drunk warm liquids & (my trick) turned a hot hairdryer on my head, neck & shoulders. Mostly, though, I try to avoid getting that cold in the first place.

Unfortunately, it is far more difficult getting me warm when I'm cold than cooling me down when I'm hot. I live most of the winter in sweatshirts & blankets. I don't go out anywhere very often - I'm pretty much a shut-in in the winter. We have a forced-air gas furnace in our home that I keep set between 78° - 82° during the day & around 71° at night. (My husband, Jerry, lives in shorts when home, & my friends & family all know to wear layers that they can peel off when visiting.) I drink a lot of hot tea & hot water. I sleep with a towel on my head (like the nightcaps people used to wear). And none of these things really keep me warm.

The one thing that never fails to get & keep me warm is sunshine. "Hello, my name is Sandra & I am a sunshine-oholic!" If I am cold, put me in a south-facing window on a clear day & I am THRILLED!! Works EVERY time! The minute I feel that bright sunshine bathing me in it's warmth, I just feel better all over. My muscles relax, my mood improves & I get happy. I get comfortable. I get...well, warm. Like a flower, I am literally drawn to the sun. And, like a lizard or a snake, I bask in it's warmth as a means of survival. The sun is such a vital part of my health, welfare & survival that when we bought the lot to build our house, we specifically looked for one with no trees & with the back yard facing south. We even got a variance from the county based on a letter from my doctor so that we could position the house perfectly for me to get the most sun exposure in my conservatory-style (glass roof) sunroom. My desk, where I currently sit typing this blog, sits sideways beside a 6o" south-facing window under a heater vent. And when the sun shines in, no matter that it's 26° outside. I sit comfortably in 85° - 90° sunny warmth.

So, yes, I hate winter, but with good reason. But as always, I look at the bright spot. The first day of winter - the shortest day of the year - was nearly a month ago. That means the days are getting longer, spring is on it's way & warm days with it. Lord, please send it quickly!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Christmas Once Again

Twenty-three years ago I spent Christmas in the hospital...Shepherd Center, specifically. It was just over a month after my accident, & it was a very hard thing for me. I ADORED Christmas! I loved the decorating, the shopping, sending & receiving cards, the wrapping, the music, everything! And I was missing it. Worse yet was the fact that it was my very first Christmas spent away from home. Come to think of it, it's the ONLY Christmas I've EVER spent away from home. Oh, I've gone out visiting later in the day, but I've always awakened in my own bed...except for that one year.

At the time, I was very sad about being stuck in Shepherd for Christmas, but looking back I realize it really wasn't so bad. In fact, considering it was a hospital, everyone made it quite fun.

First, there was Richie Bear. At the time of my accident, I was working as a staffing assistant & customer service trainer at one of the Rich's department stores. Rich's was an Atlanta institution, especially at Christmas. Each year on Thanksgiving, the downtown store would have the lighting of the "Great Tree" on top of their 5-story building. They also had Santa & his reindeer & the Pink Pig - a pig-shaped train ride for kids. In 1986, Rich's introduced Richie Bear - a big, white, stuffed bear sold during the Christmas season as a charity fundraiser. As Customer Service Trainer, Richie became "my baby" for our branch, so to speak. It was my responsibility to train the sales staff on all things Richie. By the time of our Richie kick-off meeting, I was so tired of Richie that I, a (at the time) teddy bear collector, told the store manager that I never wanted to see another Richie again! So, naturally, I received FIVE of them as gifts while at Shepherd, the 1st being from the employees at my store, delivered by my aforementioned store manager. With a crooked grin on his face he said, "I know you never wanted to see him again, but we just HAD to." And those silly little bears DID cheer my room a bit.

Richie wasn't my room's only holiday touch. I received TONS of Christmas cards, which my nurses taped up all over my walls. I also got a few plants & balloons, & my stepmother's boss even sent me a decorated & lit table-top Christmas tree. They all helped make my room very Christmasy.

Throughout December we had a lot of visitors to Shepherd. They brought cookies, visited & went caroling down the halls.

On Christmas Eve, the nurses moved a cot into my room & my mom spent the night with me. That was wonderful. On Christmas morning, my sister's priest surprised us with a visit. He brought us Communion. That simple act touched my heart deeply & has always given Brother Joel a very special place in my heart.

Later, my entire (local) family came to spend Christmas together. Honestly, it was a bit surreal having my step-family & "real" family celebrating together. But there we all were - me, Mama, Daddy, my stepmother, her mother, my sister & her husband & 3 girls, my brother & his wife & stepdaughter, my 3 stepbrothers, 1 of their fiances, & my friend Mary & her boyfriend. We all gathered in the gym & they sat on the mat tables as we opened presents.

That year made such an impression on me that I even remember many of the gifts that I received. I remember thinking, "What can they possible give a quadriplegic besides sweats!?" Well, they did a pretty darn good job on creativity. My sister's family gave me a handmade teddy bear made by my sister out of an antique quilt that had been made by my mother's mother. My brother's family gave me a gold teddy bear charm for a necklace. My dad's mother - the families official "queen" of gift-giving - sent me a $50 savings bond (which I have never cashed). But the best things they all gave me were their love, their support & their presence. They will never know how much it meant to me to be surrounded by them on that difficult Christmas day.

Little did I know things were about to get even more difficult. As the day wore, on my mother started feeling bad, so my dad & stepmom followed or took her home, only to end up taking her to South Fulton Hospital. She spent a week there with heart problems, & ended up having triple-bypass surgery at Crawford Long Hospital in February . Then, on New Years Day, my dad came to visit & surprise me with a special lunch from Longhorn Steak House. He surprised me, all right, by having a heart attack as he walked through my door. Thankfully, it was mild AND, Mary & her boyfriend were with me AND we were in a hospital. (If you're gonna have a heart attack, have it in a hospital!) He spent that next week at Piedmont Hospital & St. Joseph's Hospital. Eventually, everyone turned out to be fine. We even started a family joke became that that my sister could now write a Fodor's Guide Book to Atlanta hospitals, having eaten & slept in so many!

Yes, that Christmas was a challenge, but it had what mattered most - family. Whether by blood or by love, family is what matters most at Christmas. So if you don't have a family, why not drop by your local hospital & "adopt" one. I assure you, they will be blessed, & so will you!

I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas filled with joy & love.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

23 Years Ago Today

Twenty-three years ago today, my life was forever changed. Twenty-three years ago today, I awoke from a deep sleep to the sound of crunching metal sliding across the ground. Twenty-three years ago today, I faced the hardest moment in my young life. I've written all about that before. Today, I'm writing about something different. Today, I'm writing about, well, today.

Over the years since my accident I have let most of the "anniversaries" pass by virtually unnoticed. I'd remember them a few days before or in the wee hours of the morning on the day, but then, most years, I'd forget about it. Not this year. This year it's been on my mind a lot. This year it's been different. This year everything has been...different. This year it's hit me

I don't know why everything has been so different. Oh, I know some things, but I'm not going to post those in a blog. They're personal. They matter to the "why", but they're more a part of the difference than a cause for the difference.

I think one of the biggest reasons for the difference is that I was 23 years old 23 years ago. This is the "magic" year. This is the year when I pass the halfway point...the point where I will have been a quadriplegic longer than I was able-bodied. I'm not quite to the exact point, yet. I'm still a few months away from that, factoring in my exact age in years, months & days like the good little numbers freak that I am. But this is the day the years add up. Twenty-three years ago today I was a 23-year-old who suddenly found her life forever altered.

And today, it's really hard. Today, I'm really over it. Today I'm really tired of being paralyzed.

As I said, I don't know why it's so different...so hard. Is it because of the number of years, or the fact that I've grown so much weaker (physically), or that I'm facing "mid-life" with all it's own issues, or those personal issues I won't explain, or that I missed out on having my own children, or that my parents didn't live to see me healed, or that I can't take care of my husband & home like a "good wife", or the fact that it's a cold, dreary, rainy day today? Is it the fact that I got a real understanding...a revelation...a "picture" of the cross this week like never before...that God showed me what it really meant for me?

Is it all of those? Is it non of them? I just don't know. I just know that, for the first time in a long time, I'm really over it. I hate it! I want it to stop! I want my healing, & I want it NOW! She, with the great attitude...with tons of faith...with an indefinable joy...IS DONE!

[PLEASE NOTE: It's important that you know that it has been about 20 minutes since I typed that last line above.]

Oh, Lord, you know my needs before they happen & You meet every single one!

Here I was having a perfectly good pity-party & what happens? God sends in...a kitty! That's right! While I'm trying to pour out my pain to the world, He puts up a road block in the form of a fluffy, sweet, needy furball! The kitty that almost never comes in my office or gets on my desk just jumped up, laid down & sprawled all over my keyboard! I had no choice but to stop writing! I tried pushing her away, but to no avail. She just flipped upside down, put on her most adorable look & demanded attention. Those of you who aren't "cat people" might not understand, but when a cat wants attention, a cat gets attention...or else. So I was forced to stop writing. And when I looked into the eyes of my adorable fluffball - eyes so filled with unconditional love - all of my self-pity just faded away. God knew, in that moment, I needed to be reminded that I am needed...I am important...I do serve a purpose...I can do some things. It may only be to be the "mommy" of a silly little kitty, but even as a quadriplegic, I do that job better than anyone on Earth.

No, my life isn't perfect & it's certainly not easy, but at least I'm alive! Twenty-three years ago today, my life was forever altered. Twenty-three years ago today, I learned what it meant to be truly thankful to be alive. Twenty-three years ago today I learned that I am truly loved. Twenty-three years ago today I began the journey that would prove to me that God had made me more than able through Christ Jesus...the journey that would teach me what is really important in life. It's not about what you do or don't have, or what you can or can't do. It's about what you do with what you do have. It's about what you make out of the cards you're dealt. It's about the hearts you touch & the lives you impact for good. It's about love.

Twenty-three years ago today I began the journey that would teach me the most important lesson in life...it's not about me. Yes, our individual needs are important, but it's only when we lay ourselves aside - when we sacrifice & surrender - that we every find true joy.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Each of us will face this crossroads once or more than once in our lives. Each of us will, at some point, have to decide if we will let our trials drive us into selfishness away from God, or do their work & draw us to god...to The One "who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Eph. 20:3) It is my hope & prayer that when you find yourself at that crossroads you will remember me & all that I struggle with everyday. That you will remember that, while my life is far from easy, I still find joy...I still give thanks. It is my hope & prayer that, in those moments, you will say, "If she can do it, I can, too. I surrender, Lord & I trust you." If that happens, then I know my life...the lessons I've learned from these twenty-three years...has had meaning. That stupid accident & all my suffering will not have been in vain.

Twenty-three years ago today...hum...it was raining then, too.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where’s The Love?

A high school friend who is now a pastor in Seattle posed this question on Facebook yesterday:

“As we pray for God to intervene, why do some seem to be healed and others not? Is God indifferent or selective? What is up with that?”

Being someone who has been praying & believing for my own healing for nearly 23 years, the question interested me greatly.  In fact, I have asked some form of it myself through the years.  Since Jesus healed all who came to him (Matt. 12:15 & Acts 10:38) & said that if we have faith in Him, we would do the same & greater (John 14:11-14), why isn’t everyone healed?

First, I must say that I don’t think it’s really a question of why so many people aren’t healed as it is an amazement that so many people are healed.  I mean, we deserve nothing.  Every good thing we have has nothing to do with us – our works – but is purely because of God’s love. And since most Christians are, if we’re being honest, such a mess at being Christians, it is only by God’s great compassion that, when we pray for people, we see the miracles we do see.  Yes, it’s always by Him, but He likes using His earthly body – The Church – to accomplish His will.  And because of this, He has shown us in His word how we might be used.  And I think that’s the question my friend was asking…why aren’t we used more?

I was sitting in the warm, beautiful sunshine this morning & my friend’s question came back to me, so I started reflecting on it & talking it over with God.  I asked Him, “Lord, since Your word is true & always works, why aren’t more people healed?  Why isn’t everybody who is prayed for healed?  You’re word says it, so it can’t be You.  Yes, Lord, You are sovereign, but You said that if we have faith, we would do what You did & greater…that You would do it through us.”  As I sat there listening, I felt these words in my spirit:

Where’s the love?”

The bible says that faith works by love (Gal. 5:6).  So where is the love?  Jesus taught that all of the commandments were summed up by love (Matt. 22:36-40) & that love is the most important thing (John 15).  God is love (1 John 4:8).  Jesus came because of this love – that we might be saved.  He came so that we might see God in the flesh (John 14:9)…so that we could see love.  Yet what do we do?  What do we, the body of Christ, do?  Do we truly love?  Not often.  Too many times the body of Christ, instead of loving one another, is ripping itself apart.  “Arms” cut off “legs”.  “Legs” gouge out “eyes”.  “Eyes” cut out “tongues”.  And all the parts stab the “hearts”.  If the Church can’t even walk in love with our own body, how can people be healed?  How can we ask in faith expecting when faith works by a love in which we aren’t walking?

Jesus said,

"5I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:5-8 NIV)

Do we reap strawberries from the branches of a grape vine?  Do we reap tomatoes from the branches of a squash vine?  Of course not!  If we’re reaping strawberries, it’s not a grape vine & if we’re reaping tomatoes, it’s not a squash vine.  So the question is, what are we reaping?  Are we reaping hatred, anger, depression, cruelty, meanness, doubt, harshness &/or selfish desires?  If so, then we are not a branch of the True Vine.  If we are not reaping the fruit of the True Vine, then we are not truly abiding in Him – allowing Him to prune us to make us productive (John 15:1-2).

“22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22-23)

God’s word is always true & always works, so if we aren’t seeing & doing the miracles Jesus did, perhaps it’s because we aren’t walking in the fruit of the Spirit…we aren’t walking in true love.  Perhaps we haven’t allowed Him to have His full work in us.  I know I haven’t.  I am not a horrible person, but I can be unkind & selfish & mean & judgmental.  I can blow up in anger & be cruel at times.  In fact, these things come far too easily!  But I don’t want to be that way any longer – ever!  I want to obey Jesus’ command & LOVE!  I want to let go of all of me…all of my selfish desires…& let Him transform me into His “Love Machine”.  That is what will bring Him the greatest joy, and after everything He’s done for me, I want to give Him great joy!  I am not saved by works, but I want my works to give Him glory!

And if we allow Him to transform us…if we truly start loving…,I believe, as an added bonus, we will see our prayers for healing answered!

Those are my thoughts.  As always, your comments are welcome & encouraged!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A New Look

      For those of you who have been following this blog for awhile, you will notice it now has a new look – a very different look.

      When I started this thing, I had no idea how long I would keep at it.  For many years, I had been a self-proclaimed “anti-blog”.  You see, I come from the “old school”.  I grew up in a time when diaries were, by definition, meant to be private, not put on display for all the world to see.  They were a place to write out the most private, most secret, most intimate details of your life.  Heck, they even came with a cute little lock & key!  (Of course, anybody with an ounce of sense could easily pick those cheesy locks with a hairpin, but to an adolescent girl growing up in the 1970s, that lock meant WOMANHOOD.)

     I still remember my first diary.  It was a brown “leather” one that my sister had never used & had left in her drawer when she went off to college.  Following the rule that all 7 or 8 year old girls knew to be law – finders keepers, losers weepers – I claimed the treasure as my own.  I scratched through the days of the week part of the dates, wrote in the correct days, & then proceeded to record those most private, most secret, most intimate details of my young life – over the course of the next 4 years!  In the end, I believe I wound up with entries on a total of about 8 of the 365 pages.  What can I say?  I was a very sheltered, pre-pubescent girl with only 1 really close friend.  How many big secrets could I have had?  I think the most exciting entry wound up being that on January 17, 1974, I got my ears pierced.  Woo-hoo!  I just had to keep that tidbit under lock & key, right?!

     When the whole blog craze began, I was aghast.  I could not fathom how people could not only share their most private, most secret, most intimate thoughts & experiences with others, but actually put them on display for the entire world to read on the internet!  Well, blogs evolved, & I noticed that people were writing about every subject under the sun.  I was still an “anti-blog”, but then it was because I didn’t figure anyone would really be interested in anything I had to say.

     One morning in January, I was sitting in front of my computer & all of a sudden I thought, “I’m going to start a blog.”  I just knew I was supposed to do it.  Believe me – no one was more shocked than I!  It was such a total turnaround for me that I knew it was the Lord directing me.  I had no clue what I’d write about.  I also had no clue how to create a blog.  Well, the Lord told me the what – my story – & I owe the how to what I believe to be one of the greatest inventions of all time – Google!  (You can find anything on Google.)

     Well, after doing some Googling, I started with a generic template.  It wasn’t really “me”, but it was nice enough.  Over time, however, I noticed that other blogs were unique.  In there very design, they expressed the feel of the blog & the personality of the blogger.  I wanted that.  Since my blog was my story – an extension of me, if you will - I wanted it to express me, not only in it’s content, but in every area.

     I’ve noticed that I’ve been feeling this way about my home lately as well.  I recently told my husband, Jerry, that I really don’t like my furnishings or d├ęcor.  I told him that it’s just not me.  It’s nice, but it isn’t me.  I’ve realized that, until recently, I have never had my own style.  I have always drawn from the styles of others – my sister, my friends, etc.  I have never really discovered who I was.  I thought I had, but I now realize that I have spent my life as a follower rather than an individual.  Now, however, I am discovering the styles & tastes & even beliefs that God intended for His uniquely created “Sandra”.  It’s wonderful!

A few things that I’ve discovered I like are:

  • clean lines
  • lots of light – tall walls of windows
  • soft, ocean colors
  • glass tiles, sea glass, crystal, stained glass (get the picture)
  • abstract art – swashes of color blocks
  • post-modern, mid-century furniture
  • stainless steel
  • dark woods & blonde maples
  • black & white photography of nature, architecture, & really old people
  • simple black frames with white mats
  • jazz sounds, sultry sounds
  • water – the look, the sound, the smell

     Most of these things are very far removed from the old me – or rather the me I thought I was.  I do still have some of my old likes:

  • old barns
  • country junk (as opposed to upper-crust antiques)
  • high ceilings & wide moldings
  • wildflowers

& a few others, I’m sure.  The point is, that at 45 1/2 years old, I am finally coming into my own!  I have reached a point where I enjoy hearing the opinions of others, but I will no longer be defined by them.  I will respect their right to differ from me, & I will hope for the same respect in return.  I will continue to seek wise counsel, but I will trust God to be my final guide.  (I’m fairly certain, based on the other insights He has been “downloading” into me lately, that all of this is His preparation for the next major season of life to which He is guiding me.  It’ll be fun discovering if I’m right.)

     So all of this leads to my new blog layout.  It’s still not perfect, but I much prefer it.  I like the simple, clean lines.  I love the photo on the header.  I like the “label cloud”.  And, since I know absolutely nothing about code & HTML editing, I like the fact that I was, with the help of good ole’ Google, able to do this much.

     I realize this post has nothing to do with “my journey as a quadriplegic”, so let’s just chalk it up to the “and beyond” part.

     I’d really love to hear your thoughts – on the post or the new layout.  Since you are the one viewing this page, I value your opinion…& any computer knowledge you may possess that I can exploit to get this thing where I really want it!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Part 8 - The Wal-Mart Miracle

On the Monday morning 3 days after my surgery, my nurse popped into my cubical in the Special Care Unit all bubbly & smiling & said, "Good morning. After we get you your breakfast we'll get you in a wheelchair & send you down to therapy!"

"Um...what?"

"You're starting therapy today."

"What? Just like that? No warning or anything? But, how? I mean, I don't have any clothes." (I'd been in some form of ICU for over 2 weeks. Who needs clothes for that? Mine were in my closet at the home I shared with my mom, who, by the way, was already at work & so couldn't bring me any of said clothing.)

My nurse replied, "Oh, that's OK. We'll just send you down in your gown until your family can bring you some clothes."

-- enter sound of screeching tires here --

"In my gown?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!"

"No. What's the big deal?"

What's the big deal?! OK, for those of you who have never been in the hospital, visited anyone in the hospital, or seen any number of TV sitcoms on the subject, allow me to describe the "big deal" of my going to therapy in this gown to which my nurse was referring. First, it was thin & white...a combination that always translates into "see-through". Second, it was short...not 60's mini-skirt short, but knee-length, which was certainly too short for rolling around on a therapy mat table in a gym full of 40-some-odd strangers. Third, & most importantly, IT WAS OPEN IN THE BACK! Oh, it had a couple of ties at the neck & shoulders, but the all-important bottom was WIDE OPEN! Oh, & did I mention that I had NO clothing with me...i.e. no undergarments either?

Yeah.

My crazy nurse was standing there, all smiles & sunshine, seriously expecting me to go to my very first therapy day in that gown! She thought nothing at all of the fact that my therapist would be stretching me by raising my legs & rolling me on my side in that see-through, short, open-back gown! I would be exposing myself to all of Shepherd Center & she didn't find anything wrong with that!

At this point, my mathematical mind began a mad dash for some sort of solution to my dilemma. I only had about 2 hours to get some clothes. My clothes were at my home 13 miles away. My mom was at work 6 miles away, so she couldn't bring me anything...& nobody could get in our house to get them, either. The only chance I had was to beg this crazy nurse to call my dad, who was 30 miles away & pray he had a solution.

My nurse agreed to call. She came back a few minutes later & said that my dad wasn't home, but she had talked to my stepmom & she said she'd do what she could. At this point I was down to only about 1 1/2 hours & time was ticking, so I didn't have much hope. I kept praying anyway all through my breakfast & my bath. Then, just when my nurse was about ready to get me in a wheelchair for the first time, the miracle happened. My stepmom raced into my cubical carrying a Wal-Mart bag full of sweats!

I call it a miracle for good reason. What else could it have been? She had managed, in under 2 hours, to get dressed, get in & out of Wal-Mart, & drive 30 miles into the city through rush hour traffic! The drive alone was usually a good hour + in those days, but the real miracle was getting in & out of Wal-Mart so fast.

For those of you reading this from outside the States who don't know about Wal-Mart, let me describe it for you. Wal-Mart - or as my husband & I not-so-affectionately refer to it, The Black Hole - is a one-stop discount department store where you can purchase everything from auto parts to Ziploc bags relatively cheaply. I say "relatively cheaply" because of that "Black Hole" effect. You see, although science has yet to prove it, it is my belief that all Wal-Mart stores contain a black hole that causes it's shoppers, upon entering the store, to become suddenly unconscious & then sucks their money right out of them, leaving them with a bunch of useless crap in it's place. Here's the scenario:

You pop into Wal-Mart to quickly pick up a jumbo bottle of laundry detergent for the great price of only $2.87. The next thing you know, it's 3 hours later & you're standing at the register writing a check for $267.16. That's when you discover you are now the owner of a bouquet of spring flowers, a bottle of shampoo, a blue purse, 6 greeting cards, the latest edition of Women's Day, a carton of eggs, a 6-pack of Coke, 3 fishing lures, a 10-pack of white wash clothes for only $1, imitation gold hoop earrings, a 5 pack of Hanes briefs, a cat toy with jingly bells, a tube of Crazy Glue, a bag of potting soil, flip flops, a 64-pack of AA batteries, a quart of oil, printer ink, a "Best of the 70s" CD, toothpaste, a Shamwow that they said could only be purchased on TV, a 50 lb. bag of dog food, 2 pairs of Faded Glory jeans, a box of Leggos for the kid next door & a Twix bar. Oh, & absolutely no laundry detergent.

I don't know how, but it always happens this way. It is humanly impossible to get in & out of Wal-Mart quickly. I personally think it's caused by some form of hypnosis preformed by the 96-year-old greeter when he says, "Welcome to Wal-Mart."

Anyway, that's why I say a miracle took place that long ago December day. My stepmom, who, by the way, loved Wal-Mart, succeeded at the impossible task of going in, choosing several outfits (including a rather pretty red velour warm-up suit that was perfect for Christmas stuck in a rehab center), getting out with only those clothes & making it to Shepherd in time to save me from unthinkable embarrassment.

Miracles happen everyday. You just have to know where to look.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Part 7 - Surgery & Spa Day

After my accident, I spent 2 weeks in the "ice tong" traction laying in the Special Care Unit waiting for my body to stabilize enough for surgery. My 5th vertebra was crushed on the right side & my 6th was broken, so surgery was required to repair the bones. There was nothing they could do for my spinal cord. Once a spinal cord is damaged, it's up to God to heal it (which, by the way, I totally believe in). At the time of my accident in 1986, research was underway for a medical cure for spinal cord injury & they felt they were having positive results. The doctors were saying that they believed a cure was just 5 years away. Funny. Every time I've ever heard of medical advancements for a cure, they have always said, "Just 5 years away." Never 3 or 7 or 10...always 5. It's been 22 years & still no cure.

My surgery was scheduled for Friday, December 5th. I had always been a very healthy child, so the time following my accident was my first experience with hospitals. Because of that, I was a bit nervous about surgery. They didn't give me any explanations of what to expect either. I just sort of found everything out as I went along.

The first thing they did was take me to a curtained area to allow the anesthesiologist to perform a procedure. He cut a tiny slit in my wrist in order to insert something he would use during my surgery. I have no idea what. Then they wheeled me into the operating room, which was FREEZING. I asked them why it was so cold & they said it was to keep down the risk of germs causing an infection.

The next thing they did was transfer me to the operating table, which was no small task. They had to insure that my head didn't move AT ALL because, if it did, it would cause further spinal cord damage. And they had to do this while holding the ice tongs & sliding my body over. Not only were the nurses there, my orthopedic surgeon (Dr. Apple), another orthopod (Dr. McDonald), the anesthesiologist & who-knows-who-else were there lending a hand in my transfer.

After I was placed on the table, Dr. Apple explained that they were going to give me something to make me sleep & then flip me over on my stomach to do the surgery. That explained the army of people in the room. How many people DOES it take to flip a quad? Today, as I understand it, SCI neck surgery can be performed through a front incision made through the throat, but in my day, a neck incision was the only option - which meant flipping me. Before I could say anything or ask any questions, they put a mask on my face & told me to count backward from 100. I think I made it to 97...then nothing.

While I was under, they intubated me (put a breathing tube down my throat), removed the ice tongs, did, indeed, flip me over, removed a piece of bone from my right hip to use in my neck, shaved the underneath layers of my hair from about my ears down (lovely), opened my neck, replaced the broken bones with the piece of hip bone, wired everything together, stapled my neck & hip closed, placed a hard collar around my neck & flipped me back over. Oh, & extubated me (removed the breathing tube.)

I have no clue how long I was out. When I say I remember nothing, I mean NOTHING...no dreams...no out-of-body experiences...no memories...nothing. One minute I was counting backwards & the next minute some nurse was calling my name. I was so blank in fact, that when I heard my name I started yelling, "Wait! Stop! Don't flip me over! I'm not asleep yet!" The nurse, giggling, said, "It's OK. You're in post-op. The surgery's over."

After I was taken back to the SCU, my family was allowed to visit. I don't remember much. I do remember my throat hurting terribly, which is when I first found out about the intubation. I also remember my mood being very volatile. Up until the surgery, I had loved it when people touched me where I could feel it...my shoulders, neck & face. I craved it in fact. I was always asking my family to rub my face. However, after the surgery, when my stepmom put her hand on my forehead, I yelled at her to get it off. Apparently, anesthesia does strange things to me.

Saturday was a blur to me, but by Sunday, I was back to reality. I remember that Sunday as being an unusual & very special day to me...what I call my "man day". My family had spent 2 weeks practically living at the hospital, but on that Sunday, they finally felt able to relax some. My dad's family & my sister's family were able to go back to church & my mom was ordered to stay home & get some much-needed rest. My big brother, Mike, decided to come & surprise me with a visit. We hadn't spent much time together since the wreck & never alone. I was very much looking forward to the opportunity.

Mike arrived just as I was being served breakfast & was put to work feeding me. He had never done that before & didn't even have experience feeding children. It was quite obvious that he felt a bit awkward. He did remarkably well though, especially considering the fact that he had to feed me cereal...with milk...in bed...with me laying on my side! I was thoroughly proud of him. He didn't spill a drop.

That day was also the only time I had a male nurse. At first, that was a bit strange for me. Maybe it shouldn't have been since I knew he was a medical professional, but I was a 23-year-old girl. The idea of having a strange man take care of me was weird. Yes, my doctor was male, but that was different. Doctors don't do the physical hands-on care that nurses do. I was really uncomfortable with the whole thing at first, but his kindness & quirky attitude changed my opinion, & he turned out to be one of my all-time favorite caregivers.

After he had conscripted my brother into feeding me, he made me a VERY happy girl when he announced that the two of them were going to wash my hair! Of course, my brother was even more nonplussed by THAT news than he had been about feeding me, but I was thrilled!! Because of the ice tong traction, my hair had not been washed in 16 days! It felt AWFUL! This was a dream come true, made that much more special because my "Bubba" was going to help.

My nurse placed a special board under my head that would allow the water to flow off the bed. Then he & my brother poured water over my hair, added shampoo & washed. IT FELT WONDERFUL!! Those two men did such a loving & caring job that it felt like a "spa day". I don't know if my brother realizes it, but his presence in such an out-of-character situation made me feel like a queen, & I am grateful to God for blessing me with such a wonderful bonding experience.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Part 6 - The Heart of a Father

One day as I lay in my bed in the Special Care Unit at Shepherd Center, my dad came to visit me. Although he spent many hours with me during my stay, I remember this particular moment clearly, like a snapshot in time. He was standing on my right side looking down at me. I suppose we chatted about this & that, all nondescript things I have long since forgotten. Then, out of the blue, he said something that I will never forget - something that, to me, would forever define true love.

My father looked down upon me & said, "If only I could change places with you & climb into that bed & be paralyzed so you could be healed, I would."

Well, of course I argued with him saying, "Daddy, no! I wouldn't want that!" He replied, "Yes, but I'm old & I've lived my life. You deserve a chance to live yours, too." I said, "Well, thank you, but I wouldn't want you to be paralyzed."

That was the whole conversation. At the time, it was what it was - my Daddy showing, in a moment of vulnerability, how helpless he felt that he couldn't help his hurting baby. Since then, however, the Lord has shown me the true depth & importance of my father's words.

"If only I could change places with you...I would."

That is the definition of true love - thinking not of oneself, but only longing to do whatever necessary to give the very best to the other.

That is the heart of a good father.

That is the heart of God.

My daddy looked down & saw my life -my hopes, my dreams, my future - shattered by that awful paralysis, &, out of his love, wanted desperately to fix things...to give me back my life. I knew he meant it when he said he'd trade places with me. If he could have, he would have done it in a heartbeat, but he couldn't.

But that is true love.

That is the Father's love.

That love that my Daddy felt & expressed for me is the same love that God has for all of His children. God created each of us & gave us the greatest gift anyone can ever give - free will. Just as I chose to use my free will to make the stupid choices that caused me to be paralyzed, all mankind has made the stupid choices that have brought sin & death into God's perfect world. What God created good, man used his gift of free will to mess up. Yet God still loves us.

When my daddy looked down & saw my broken body, he didn't think about my poor choices. All he thought was, "If only I could change places with you...I would." It's the same way with God. He looked down & saw his children laying in our beds of paralyzing sin - sin that held us back from being everything He created us to be - & he said, "If only I could change places with you...I would." But where my daddy couldn't do it, God could & DID do it in the form of Jesus Christ. God sent His own Son to come into this world & pay the price of our sin so that we could choose to walk whole...so that we could have hope, dreams & a future. Jesus took our judgment upon Himself. Out of His true love, He sacrificed Himself on the cross, said, "It is finished," & surrendered His life for us. He climbed into our beds of paralyzing sin so that, if we accept His gift, we can get up & walk in the fullness of life with God.

That is the heart of the Good Father.

That is True Love.

If you have never made a personal choice to accept God's gift of love, why not take a moment to do so right now. Maybe you've never heard of God's gift before. Maybe nobody ever told you that each of us has to individually - personally - accept God's love through Jesus for us. Maybe you accepted it once, but you've crawled back into that sin-bed. Maybe you've just been holding God at arms length lately & need to reconnect. Maybe you're not sure about any of this, but you just don't like where life's got you now. Wherever you are, God's love is waiting. He's a daddy who sees you just the way you are & loves you anyway. He's a daddy who is holding out His hand, ready to help you up & teach you & guide you through a life with Him.

It's simple, really. Just say something like, "Jesus, thank you for your gift. I need it. I accept it. Please help me."

If you accepted God's gift, please let me know. I'd love to rejoice with you!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Part 5 - A Time for Giving Thanks

A few weeks before my accident, I spent a Saturday night at my dad’s house. When I awoke Sunday morning, I found Daddy & his wife dressed up as though they were going to work – suit & tie for him, dress for her. At first, I thought I’d had a Rip Van Winkle moment & slept straight through ‘till Monday. I asked them what was going on & they said they had decided to go check out the church right outside their subdivision. I was surprised because, except for weddings & funerals, my father hadn’t been in church in years. He wasn’t an unbeliever, he just didn’t attend church. I was thrilled that they were going! I loved the Lord &, as I mentioned earlier, He had been drawing me back to church, too. (I didn’t actually recognize the similarities in Daddy’s & my situations until months later, but I was still thrilled they were going.) Well, they must have liked the church because they joined it on the Sunday before my accident. That would prove to be very much a “God thing”.

The folks from that church – Harp’s Crossing Baptist Church in Fayetteville, GA - became such an integral part of my family’s life & of my story. As I’ve mentioned, God tried to warn me to stay away from the accident, but He knew I wouldn’t, & because of that fact, He knew we would all need the people of that church very much. They continually exemplified the LOVE WALK of a Christian in so many ways.

My first contact with the Harp’s congregation (that I remember) came at Thanksgiving. My accident occurred just 5 days before Thanksgiving Day, & I was transferred to Shepherd Center the day before Thanksgiving. Now for those of you reading this from outside the USA who don’t know about Thanksgiving, it is a national holiday celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November. It was originally set aside as a day of prayer, remembrance &, well, giving thanks. In my experience, it has, however, transitioned into a day for family & friends to gather & eat WAY, WAY too much food – usually a turkey dinner – & watch a lot of football on TV.

Needless to say, holiday meal plans were no longer at the top of my family’s priorities. Well, God took care of that for my dad & his wife & stepchildren. When they arrived home from Shepherd on Wednesday evening, they found a complete Thanksgiving dinner waiting for them at their front door, anonymously given by one of the family’s in their new church – the church they had only joined 10 days earlier. The meal even included a big teddy bear for me & an unsigned card filled with love & prayers.

Thanksgiving was just the beginning of all the blessings given to us through the people of Harp’s. They faithfully mailed me so many cards that my hospital room wall was literally covered in them. The Single Adult group came to visit me & I gained a few close girlfriends out of that group. They prayed, prepared meals, visited, sent gifts & so much more. They didn’t even know us, but they loved on us with the heart of Christ – a servant’s heart.

There were two couples in particular that practically “adopted” me, if you will. The first was Kay & David. They had recently lost they’re only child – a daughter. She had been born with Spina Bifida, but died as a teenager, so they really understood what it was like to live with a disability . Kay & David visited me often, even ringing in the New Year with me. They gave me a special breath-operated phone so that I could make calls unassisted & a talking clock so I would know how soon my next body rotation or the morning would arrive, as I often lay awake in the dark. Those gifts were indescribably valuable to me. Kay & David were wonderful friends!

The other couple was Vance & Judy. They became my “spiritual parents”. Their story is such an integral part of my life that I will write about it in it’s very own post.

Harp’s Crossing’s pastor, Dennis Watson, became one of my regular visitors & dearest friends. He came almost daily at first &, later, at least weekly. He prayed with me, listened to me, talked to me, encouraged me, laughed with me & even cried with me. My dad told me Dennis mentioned me in nearly every service for all the months I was at Shepherd, reminding everyone to continue praying. He was the first person to have a dream about my healing. There have been several by now, but his was the first. He dreamed that I walked into the church pushing my wheelchair in front of me. If he didn’t truly have faith for my healing, he did a great job of faking it! Dennis was even the first Elder to “officially” pray for my healing from a biblical perspective:
James 5:14 – 16 (NIV) “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
Several years ago, the Lord gave me the verse Psalm 27:13 as what I call my “rock scripture” – the scripture that He wants me to always stand on & put faith in no matter what. It says:
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (NIV)
I believe in God’s provision for healing & I KNOW that I will be whole someday. I can’t wait to walk up to Dennis, thank him & show him the fruit of his “prayer of faith”!

Harp’s Crossing was by no means the only church to offer my family care, prayer & love. I know there were MANY. My sister’s priest, Joel, brought me Communion on Christmas Day. My grandmother’s church in California prayed, sent cards, etc. I received visits from the church in which I’d grown up. The list goes on. I’m certain that there are many other stories of the wonderful acts of kindness given to my family by various churches that I will not know until I’m Home with the Lord. I am grateful to them all & to the countless others who were not affiliated with any particular church, but allowed God to use them as well.

God knew & provided for our need before it even existed. That is the heart of a good father. More on the “good father” later.