(This blog tells my family's story. To see more, click "blog" at the top of this webpage.)
At the end of her junior year of high school, Beth thought about where to apply to college. All teenagers should have that choice, with or without a disability. However, the thought of college with quadriplegia made me anxious and uncertain. I wondered what my role would be.
What if she didn’t make the best choice? What was the best choice?
On the open road again in a little blue car, Beth and I took turns driving from northwest Ohio to the East Coast. We turned up the volume on John Mayer or mix CD’s she made, and sang along.
First stop: Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
As I pushed Beth up and over a formidable hill on campus, I couldn’t stop myself from stating the obvious: she could not wheel it on her own. She responded that an alternative route, much longer, looked a little easier. We had agreed that I would help during her first year at college, but the logistics were hazy. Our tour guide rambled and I imagined her wheeling alone on the Johns Hopkins campus. She still refused to consider a power chair or power assist wheels.
The odds of Beth letting me push her chair through rain and snow? Zero.
After we saw the unusual billboard in Seattle (Quadriplegia at Harvard: A+), I looked online and found the young woman pictured on the billboard. Brooke Ellison wrote a book with her mom titled Miracles Happen: One Mother, One Daughter, One Journey. With an injury like Christopher Reeve, Brooke needed a trach to breathe and could not move her arms. She shared her college dorm room with her mom and they moved through all of life’s hours together.
Three years after Beth’s injury, I thought I would stay in her college dorm the first year, but I knew our days as a team were numbered. My youngest daughter kept trying to master the time-consuming details of self-care as a C6-7 quad. She worked every day on her biggest goal, complete independence, even though the odds were not in her favor.
Encouraged by small victories, Beth never gave up.
The third destination of a non-stop summer: Connecticut!
6/1/2017 09:21:03 am
Going through this college search journey with my daughter right now, so this post really speaks to me. Love the story of Beth!!
6/2/2017 09:16:06 pm
Thank you, Peg! I think the college journey is hard on moms. We want our daughters to be strong and independent, but it's so hard to let go. Thanks for following "the story of Beth!" :-)
6/2/2017 09:54:59 pm
Hi Emily! That's a great question. From the start, Beth focused on everything she could do to be stronger, so a manual chair became part of her identity. She learned to wheel long distances on her own, so her chair doesn't restrict her in that way. I think she would rather avoid steep inclines than ask for help or use a power chair. She values her hard-won independence. You also asked about a connotation of permanence? I think it might be more of a connotation of dependency.
6/2/2017 04:34:57 pm
6/2/2017 09:59:00 pm
Paula, I'll be sure to let you know when my memoir is in print! I'm aiming for 2018. I hope to connect in person with you one of these days. Thanks for your encouragement and support!
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