(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
At the rehab hospital, Beth and I took turns reading aloud in the evenings from the new Harry Potter book, Goblet of Fire. She could hardly hold the book, even though it rested on a small table over the bed. At first, turning pages was impossible and we used clothespins to keep the pages open. We put a fat tube around a pencil so she could use the eraser end to turn a page. That worked until she eventually figured out how to accomplish the job with just her hands.
She somehow sustained an easygoing attitude about almost everything.
It suddenly became imperative that the bottom of her jeans covered her ankles when she sat in a wheelchair. Immediately after a transfer, I grabbed the extra fabric at her knees and pulled it down so the bottom hem touched her shoe. Then, at her request, I adjusted it again. Fourteen years old, she also added these steps to the ending routine in physical therapy.
“Beth worked long hours in rehab,” Laraine said, “learning to move about in her wheelchair and moving from place to place from her chair. To do these tasks, innervated muscles need to be very strong and much of her day was spent weightlifting and exercising.”
The physical therapists and aides became trusted friends. However, the hospital director was an expert on strokes, not spinal cord injury.
“The director told me that I should never get in a pool,” Beth said, “because my body would go into autonomic dysreflexia—my blood pressure would shoot up, my temperature would rise, and I could have a stroke. Luckily, my physical therapists disagreed with the doctor, but I had to wait until I was an outpatient to try their heated therapy pool.”
The hospital director also insisted that everyone with a spinal cord injury should need help for depression, so Beth agreed to meet with a psychiatrist. After two sessions, she asked if she had to keep talking to him. He told her she was in denial about her disability!
...which didn’t make any sense to me, since she talked openly about her injury and asked about details. It amazed me how easily she dismissed the psychiatrist’s judgment as a minor nuisance, with no need to argue or to change his mind. He seemed a little distressed because she didn’t experience set stages. Looking back, it's clear to me that everyone in my family struggled to accept her injury—all of us, that is, except for Beth.
A newspaper reporter wrote: Pressed if she has ever asked, “Why me?” Kolbe said, “No, I never did. I never did the whole grieving process thing. I was too busy during rehab. I had great physical therapists.”
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