On May 8, 1993, when my husband said “I do”, I don’t imagine he thought the “in sickness and in health” would come so quickly. However, just 10 years later, after a long battle with odd pains, syndromes and many ER visits, we discovered I had suffered significant damage to my spinal cord from a lengthy time of spinal cord compression from a ruptured disc that nobody caught. Don’t freak out 😳 – most people don’t incur spinal cord damage from a ruptured disc. I happen to have an exceptionally narrow cervical spinal canal so there was no room for the disc to go – except into my spine. The longer the compression, the more damage done so by the time the doctors figured it out, I had lost the ability to walk independently and now use a power chair permanently. The damage to the spinal cord affected my bladder, bowel, skin sensation and left me with severe spasticity the first several years until we found the right combination of medication to reduce it. Throughout the subsequent years, I had multiple surgeries including a second spine surgery in 2015 which further increased the weakness in my arms. My shoulders have severe degeneration and partial rotator cuff tears from using manual wheelchairs, walking aids and from using my arms for transfers. Through it all…I have kept a joyful heart because I knew I had the Lord on my side. He was the one who picked the perfect husband for me and placed people in my lives along the way, knowing what I would face in the future.
Almost overnight, my husband not only had to step in to manage the household and our children during my rehab, he also stepped in to be my caregiver when I returned home. At the time of my injury, our children were 6, 8, 12 & 14 plus his additional 2 older ones (13 and 16) who came on weekends and other occasions. I homeschooled the four living in our home, which thanks to God’s help, I was able to continue to do. We were suddenly faced with a barrage of new things in our life – my continued rehab, modifications needed for our home, countless doctor’s appointments, spasticity and pain for me, and extra workload for everyone in the family. It’s been said that a catastrophic event in a family will break your family and marriage apart or it can bring everybody closer. We were the latter case. Once the initial shock was worn off, everyone pitched in to be my hands and feet. After getting off the medications that affected my mind, I was able to be the “manager” once again but had no way to drive for a year. This put all the burden of transporting our children to activities and appointments on my husband. He didn’t view it as a burden. He simply stepped up and did what needed to be done. He took over the shopping, the cooking and cleaning (with the help of the children) until we were able to get some additional help in the home a couple of times a week.
Many people who have never required this type of need in their lives don’t realize the incredible dedication it takes on the part of the caregiver. My husband works 40 hours a week, picked up a lot of my homemaking jobs and in addition to that, helped me with personal cares that I could no longer do alone. When we did finally get a van that I could drive, that helped a lot but trips were definitely a challenge for him. We had a ramp van so the place where a second bench seat would be was empty. So on a trip, the kids, along with a lot of our suitcases and equipment packed in the mid section of the van all needed to be removed when I needed a bathroom break. We learned that everything takes at least an extra 30-60 minutes compared to what it used to take. Again, my husband never complained and was always willing to adapt.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank my loving husband, wonderful children and friends, and all those caregivers out there who so willingly give of themselves to care for others with a wide variety of disabilities. You are all heroes!