(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
Beth and her closest friends wore their new HOPE rings every day. I wondered about the different meanings of hope. For her friends, perhaps the hope of her walking again? For Beth? Probably the generalized hope for a happy future. And for me? Small, specific hopes like fewer infections and fewer antibiotics. Anything more could be wishful thinking.
The physical trauma of Beth's injury had weakened her immune system. Through the first several months, there was always a health issue that I worried about, either increased congestion or coughing or fever or infection or nausea or spasms or swelling.
"I began high school as a different person than I was in junior high."
A rare intense storm ushered in the first morning of school, complete with hard driving rain, lightning, thunder, and high winds. I parked near the new automatic doors, pulled the wheelchair from the trunk, unfolded the seat, plopped the cushion on, zoomed to Beth’s open door, scooped her legs over the doorway, grabbed the outside seam of her pants, and lifted her to the wheelchair. The umbrella Maria held over us broke, so when the girls entered the building, they left a trail of water down the hall. I had a meeting scheduled with my supervisor for my new job, but I rushed back home first to change out of soaked clothes, frazzled and sick to my stomach.
After my meeting, I had a list of immediate things to do for the employment office to start work the next day. Back at the high school at lunchtime, I could breathe easier when I found a smiling Beth waiting for me. I was relieved to hear that she had a good morning.
"Kids stared a lot at first. They wanted to get my attention, to talk to me, to see how I had changed," Beth said. "I was already used to being stared at. They thought they would offend me by confirming that I use a wheelchair, as if I didn't know."
She looked more pale than usual, completely drained. Beth’s low back ached, a result of the strand of sensation that remained connected to her spinal cord. I suggested leaving early with me for home—a futile request.
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