the best gifts
(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
“My friends have been very positive, full of encouragement, and have accepted my disability, and treated me just like everyone else,” Beth said.
At the high school, her friend Jackie bumped her manual wheelchair down two wide steps in the music room. One day, a small wheel turned sideways. After the girls tumbled to the floor, they burst out laughing. Beth, 14 years old, described the scene soon after it happened.
“My choir teacher pretty much freaked out at first and he got me back into my chair really fast. It was funny!”
The concerned choir director offered to change where Beth sat to avoid the steps, but she declined. Like Ben and Maria, she had inherited perfect pitch, probably from their grandmothers who had sung for weddings in times gone by. During my recent trips to volleyball tournaments, long drives, I loved how my girls had belted out their favorite songs with the radio. After the accident, Beth’s lung capacity limited the strength of her voice, but not her love of music and singing.
I drove Beth to Green Springs three times a week after school. The physical therapists reminded my tired and pale daughter to take care of herself. She wasn’t getting enough sleep. By the time we arrived home on therapy days and ate a late dinner, the evenings barely allowed for the extra time needed for routine tasks like showering and too much homework. Marathon days for a newly injured teenager with quadriplegia. I struggled to keep up, too: bone-tired, hurting, and deeply sad.
Laraine asked us to help with a teaching seminar for therapists, the first of many, on a Saturday.
“I call on Beth to talk to newly-injured spinal cord patients,” Laraine said. “Her skills inspire them and her attitude is positive and motivating.”
One of the therapists asked me what they could do to support parents. I responded that taking good care of our children was the best gift. I didn’t try to explain my tunnel vision, with no light at the end. At that point, I wanted to have hope, but I couldn’t see past my guilt. The therapists also had questions for Beth.
“Most people dread hospitals and hate them. I don’t,” she said.
“I have met many great people in hospitals. The St. Francis Rehab Hospital is my second home and my physical therapists are like family. Some may look back on my initial days at St. Vincents with depression and grief, but my experience was positive, except maybe the first day. To me, hospitals are not places of sadness.“
For the main part of the teaching seminar, Beth followed the initial steps of every workout and struggled to get on the mat table. Her favorite therapist assisted and described the muscle mechanics of the exercises.
“Beth still faces many new challenges,” Laraine said. “I know she is up to the task.”
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