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Beth decided to cut her stay short at the rehab hospital to start her first year of high school on time. The inpatient stay for those with new spinal cord injuries in the neck often exceeded three months. She would leave her hospital room after two months, giving her two weeks at home to adjust before school started. She refused to weigh the merits of the easier option: tutoring. No matter that she was pale, tired, weak, and susceptible to infection. No matter that she could wheel herself a short distance before her arms trembled and exhaustion set in.
"Life is about making choices," Beth said. “At this point, some people may have taken a year off of school to rest and build their strength at home. I wanted to start at Tiffin Columbian High School with the rest of my freshman class.”
I was faced with a choice as well. I officially quit my job at the institution for what I thought would be a long-term role as my daughter's personal care assistant. One afternoon in early July, John stayed with Beth while I turned in my keys and set up the literacy program for whoever would replace me.
At the center, I ducked into a little-used hallway and closed myself in my office, avoiding the dozens of residents I had worked with. Most had looked forward to our sessions, usually a pleasant reprieve from monotonous days. I justified walking away, since my other option, talking individually with many residents in different locations, would be disruptive and frustrating all around. And with staff quitting regularly for easier jobs, residents lived with a revolving door of workers who cared about them. However, there was no comfort in the fact that I would not be the last to leave. As I left behind a good job where I could make a small difference, I wiped away more tears.
Beth's shortened hospital stay added a sense of urgency to the rest of the summer. Extensive preparations had to be finished quickly at home–and at school.
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