(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
I was not a stranger to disability before my youngest daughter’s injury. I had managed group homes and worked at a state institution.
I thought I understood challenges. I was wrong.
Through my jobs, the clients I had worked with seemed to have quantifiable disabilities, ones with a range of realistic goals. At the rehab hospital, I could not see an array of potentials for quadriplegics. Love and support could not alter brutal physical realities.
My guilt over causing the accident grew into a horribly unspeakable thing. Beth never forgave me because she never blamed me, though there were times when I wish she had. I didn’t deserve a free pass for such a devastating injury. Years would slip by before I could forgive myself.
In physical therapy, she learned the steps to sit up by lying on her back, throwing one arm over the other to roll on one side, then pushing down on the mat with both hands to lift her body up. However, knowing the process and having the strength to do it were two different things. The first weeks in rehab, continuous exertion with no progress exposed the extent of her hope. Eventually, from a position on her stomach, she could lift her trunk a few inches off the mat with her arms. Even Beth seemed surprised by, and glad for, every little thing.
“I had to relearn how to do everything,” she said.
About six weeks after the accident, a small group of us watched Beth attempt to sit up by herself for the first time. Starting on her back, she concentrated on rolling over to one side, making it after several tries. Next, she slowly—slowly—rose to a shaky sitting position. After picking up a shoe, she swayed through several clumsy minutes of strenuous effort to put on each shoe with uncooperative hands. I applauded with John, Maria, Beth’s grandparents, and the therapists. John’s dad had to walk away so she wouldn’t see her strong grandpa cry, the long struggle eclipsing the small success.
Since Beth felt comfortable with the night nurses and aides, I left the hospital at bedtime to drive home, happy to see Maria and Ben. I slept the best I could and returned to rehab early each morning. I depended on regular visits from John and my parents during the days.
Together we stayed on the sidelines and cheered for Beth, roles we would repeat often in other environments.
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