YOU REALLY WANT TO GO BACK TO WORK?…ARE YOU CRAZY?!
In 1992, I had a three year window with my school contract that if I could go back to work within that period of time they would have to take me back! Somehow I got it in my head that I could do that! So I went back to Casa Colina and they tried to fit me with any of the latest medical devices available. Because my arms were getting much weaker they kept trying to adjust the hand control knob so I would be able to operate a wheelchair. But it just wasn’t working. Some days I could operate it and other days I couldn’t. The physical therapist realized that I needed to change the type of chair that I was trying to operate. So I tried a head control chair, but my neck was not quite strong enough. Besides, if somebody was walking next to me and I turned my head to answer them, the chair would turn and I could have run over them before the conversation it was finished! No thank you, I told the therapist. Do you have something else I could try?
He told me about a chin controlled chair and also a sip and puff chair. In the chin controlled chair I needed to do a lot of facial movements to make the chair ago. Never being a very good face contortionist I opted for the sip and puff chair. The next visit was spent teaching me how to use this chair. Thank God I was a college graduate!
The room that I first learned in was very large and was built especially for learning to drive a chair. The second day trying to work my machine I was brave enough to try to maneuver around a big square, wooden, raised exercise pad. When I ran straight into it, Greg and the PT came running and asked, “Where do you think you’re going”?! I just wanted to see if I can do it, I instantly replied! Fortunately I didn’t hurt myself or the pad when I hit it. The PT thought it was good that I wanted to try on my own, so with the two of them, watching me carefully, I slowly managed to move around the pad without further incident. The PT said, “Next time we will take the chair outside.” I thought to myself, who’s we? I wouldn’t mind a few more days to travel around exercise pad!
My first trip outside was more than a little scary! OK. Lord, we can do this, right? The chair would go perfectly straight on a completely flat surface, like the therapy room floor, but, of course, nothing outside was completely flat. The chair would veer to the left or right depending on how much of an incline there was. Then I would have to compensate by moving the chair a little to the left or the right in order to keep moving ahead in a straight line. I remember the PT told me to go up to the top of this ramp and that he and Greg would meet me up there and buy me lunch. Then they left and, of course, took the stairs. Now this ramp had a rail on one side and a building on the other. I stopped at the bottom and looking up thought, you want me to go where? I could see the tables in the lunchroom above so I thought, OK, if I ever want to eat today I need to get up this ramp! I obviously wasn’t going to be able to take the stairs! It took me a while, but thank God, I did make it and was ready to try more obstacles, after I had my treat for getting up the ramp! Believe me, I will certainly ready for some lunch by then!
One of the problems with obtaining a sip and puff chair is the expense. My medical insurance was willing to pay for the sip and puff adaptation, but I wouldn’t be able to use that on the chair I currently had. My chair was too high and when you would add the adaptation, it would raise me too high to be able to use the lift in my van. Like, I would be able to use the chair at home just fine, but I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere outside the home. By now we were very active at Crossroads Christian Church and both girls were involved in the music program so, of course, I was thinking how am I going to get to their performances if I can’t get into the van?
Once home from Casa Colina it was back to being Mom again. Greg was working and I was busy keeping up with my very active four and ten year old girls. But in the back of our minds we kept thinking about the possibilities of owning the sip and puff chair. We finally figured out that we needed to come up with $6000 in order to co-purchase the chair I needed, and of course, I wanted.
I’M TIRED OF BEING A PITBULL IN LIPSTICK!
In December 1993 I decided to have a hysterectomy, which my family someone question. Why would I opt to have another operation? I can sum the reason up by telling one of my favorite jokes. What’s the difference between a pitbull and a woman having PMS? The answer is lipstick!!! That was the way I felt, and I was tired of feeling like a pitbull in lipstick!
The operation went extremely well, but there is a formula that you need to follow. Number one… Get on as many prayer list as possible, although, it seemed as if I had prayed so often for this operation, that I was completely at peace going into the operating room. Our visitation pastor had rushed over to the hospital while I was still in pre-op and after talking to me a while he said, “You seem to be just fine. I’m going out to pray with your husband!” This brings me to number two… God never gives you more than you are able to handle. God has seen me through so many difficult situations before, that I knew he would be with me through this one also. There’s nothing like having the Lord’s peace in your heart and body. When God is with you what can be against you?
Afterwards my surgeon told me that he had done everything but change the oil! It seemed that the hysterectomy also had turned out to be an appendectomy and since my arms weren’t working all that well anymore I needed a nurse close by when I started waking up. Unfortunately, the first night, the nurses station was not set up yet, so, thankfully, my sister stayed in the chair by my bed all night. She would give me a blanket or moisten my lips when needed. She was always a good nurse. I was unable to eat or drink anything for three days because of the appendectomy, but I kept thinking, that’s OK… As long as I have my new little yellow pills, I will no longer be a pitbull!
I needed to hurry up and get home because Christmas was coming and there were lots of plans to be finished for the children. There was a Christmas program at church that I wanted to attend, put on by the disabilities ministry and Joni was going to be there. So what if it was scheduled for only two weeks after I got out of the hospital? I had places to go and people to see. I wasn’t going to let a little operation get in my way. Sometimes I think, I’m not dumb…just very bull headed! (No pun intended)! That Christmas instead of singing “all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth,” I kept thinking, all I want for Christmas is my sip and puff wheelchair.
The chair, which I sometimes refer to as the monster, became a reality in July of 1993. It was a blessing, beyond belief, to me then and it still is today. We had no idea how we were going to obtain this chair, but believe me, we prayed and prayed about it. We only needed to come up with $5990! OK. Lord. We can do this! I knew He could I just wasn’t sure how Greg and I were going to manage it. A week before April 15th, (a date that every American remembers well), Greg went to our tax man to have our taxes figured out for the past year. I stayed in bed and prayed for him. The phone rang and several hours after he had left and it was Greg. He was so excited. He said, “You won’t believe this, but our prayers have been answered completely! We get a refund of $6010! You can order your chair.” I’m calling in the order first thing in the morning, I replied. Thank you Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Unfortunately, the one month that the company promised that the chair would be ready for delivery, turned into almost three months. I received the chair two weeks before we were scheduled to go to the second J.A.F. Family Retreat. My girls were currently both singing in the church choir and I remember Greg and I took them to practice. Since the parking lot was fairly empty I would set up an obstacle course for myself and practice maneuvering the chair in and out of the parking spaces. Thank God there weren’t any cars there because I didn’t always line up the chair on the exact line where I was aiming to be. I hope that no one was watching me looping around the parking lot. I’m sure they would have thought I was crazy. It took some practice but eventually I became fairly proficient at getting from one spot to another in the parking lot. My home was another matter!
When people would come over to visit, I would ask them not to look down at the walls. There were several creases down the hallway and through the doorways where I “slightly” misjudged. Now, every time I am put in the wheelchair my prayer is, Lord help me maneuver where you want me to go today. My mother always said that she could never operate a chair like mine. It’s too complicated. If you are at point A and you want to get to point C the only way to do it is to learn B, and you learn B very quickly! I tell my friends that I have a perfect record. I haven’t run over anyone yet! Sometimes I feel like the trolley car at Disneyland. They always say don’t step in front of the trolley car because it doesn’t stop quickly. When I am in my chair, and the mode is fast forward, I would prefer it if people wouldn’t walk in front of me either. Unfortunately they do anyway.
I would like to share with you, now, just how I got the nickname, Rolling Thunder. My oldest daughter, who is very involved in softball, unfortunately takes after me when it comes to running around the bases. She ended up with the nickname “Thunder Foot.” My youngest daughter, not wanting to be left out, became “Little Thunder.” Their Father, who coaches and is very involved with my daughter’s team, affectionately was named “Big Thunder” by the girls. I, also, did not want to be left out, so I said they could call me “Rolling Thunder,” just to keep up with the family. Sometimes I feel like I should have been called “Roaring Thunder” when I try to keep up with my two girls!