This story made me realize that always could be worst or better, this example is better than mine.
The unsung story of heroes
Writen by P.A. MacDonld, Reprinted/Translated with permission from the Canadian Paraplegic Association(Manitoba) Inc.
(Link: http://www.cpamanitoba.ca/pdf/paratracks/2015/2015_fall_paratracks_en.pdf p-13 to p-15.
I hope you have all had an excellent summer this year. I learned a few things I never knew before.
If the Humidex value in a closed room exceeds 40° C, cheap bar soap melts and wallpaper peels!
I look forward to spending the colder months painting as well as sculpting the humongous soap blob into a polar bear statue!
I have never shared my story with you. I have never felt that my life is that remarkable or deserving of paper space
in this wonderful publication.
Yet, to get to the point of this article, it is necessary. I take great pride in my independence.
I am very lucky to be able to do all that I do despite my spinal cord injury. The truth is, I did not do it alone.
I have benefited from the help of a great many people, and you all know who you are! After a life altering SCI,
the road back to fulfillment and usefulness is a long and bumpy one. Without friends, medical and support workers
as well as organizations such as CPA, my life could have become stagnant. This article is a tribute to some of my
personal unsung heroes who were there for me when the unthinkable happened and my life changed forever.
I will only use their first names, but in my opinion they all deserve to be put on a pedestal and admired as some of the best the human race has to offer. If I was to tell you all the stories of all the help I have benefited from, ParaTracks would probably send me a bill for all the extra paper and printing costs involved with this issue. Quite frankly, I have enough bills to pay, so I will go back only 10 years.
Let’s get into a “Back to the Future” style time machine and zip backwards 10 years to 2005. Early that year I finally had a very complex surgery by a now retired, gifted surgeon that essentially fixed a problem I had been dealing with for 16 years. I was overjoyed and had a new outlook on life. Almost immediately after my discharge, I noticed I was having difficulty walking. I started using a cane (much to my embarrassment) as I was waiting for MRI’s and an appointment with a specialist it got gradually worse to the point of having to use two canes just to walk 50 feet.
While Hurricane Katrina was ravaging New Orleans, I had to move out of my residence of 15 years. For my roommate, the house was no longer accessible and I could not afford the rent alone. In 15 years, one accumulates a mountain of stuff, so it was hardly a light load that needed to be tossed or transferred. August 31st was one of the hottest days of the year and another family was due to move in the following day. My moving company failed to show up. It was impossible to arrange an alternate company because it is one of the busiest moving days of the year. I was stuck, big time. In a panic I called one of my best friends who I will refer to as “Sis” because we are so close that I regard her as the older sister, I never had. She and her husband owned a business and they both worked 16 hours a day. August 31st was their one day off and the family had plans for a BBQ with guests pre-invited. They promptly cancelled the BBQ, called all the guests and within a few hours, Sis, husband and 15 year old son showed up at my door with two vehicles. It took a number of hours and multiple trips, especially with large pieces of furniture held to the vehicle roof by bungee cords and prayers. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
Shortly after Christmas that year, my walking trouble reached its full potential and I found myself on the floor and unable to get up. I was alone at home in St. James. I could not reach the wall phone but fortunately my cell was available. Earlier in the day I called Rob & Joane who are my former landlords, employers, mentors and earthly parental allegories. I told them that I was tired of struggling and I made up my mind to go to the E.R. We set a time in the afternoon for Rob to come down and drive me to St. Boniface Hospital. My unexpected fall occurred after he had already left his house to come meet me at my home. He had a cell phone with him, but it was not on. I was able to reach Joane at home, but she had no way of contacting Rob to tell him that he would have to come into the house to get me. The back lane driveway came right up to the kitchen window of the house. When he arrived, he backed the truck in, turned it off and sat there waiting for me to come out. Meanwhile, I am on the floor, on the other side of the window, cursing fate and trying to think of some way to get his attention.
If this was TV, it would have been a hilarious SNL skit. Finally, I grabbed my cane and slipped off my boxer shorts and tied them to the handle of the cane. I started waving my flag of distress in front of the kitchen window hoping to catch his attention. I then heard his engine start and I heard the transmission click as he put it in gear to drive away. I was horrified I would be left there, so I started banging on the wall and frantically waving my “flag”. As he was pulling out, he glanced into his rear view mirror and glimpsed the flapping boxer shorts in the window. Not only did he get me to the hospital, he managed to embarrass the triage nurse to the point of getting me to see a doctor without too long of a wait.
Let’s just say he has a commanding air about him and he is a very convincing person … if you know what I mean.
It was not long before they diagnosed and transferred me to HSC for surgery. What was clear was that my hospital stay would be lengthy. I had a cat named Spunky.He was 15 years old and the closest thing to a son I have ever had. He was a house cat who did not do well in other people’s homes. He needed me to take care of him, and for that reason, I was refusing the surgery. The medical staff pointed out that the longer I delayed the surgery, the less optimistic the prognosis becomes. The hospital contacted Sis and explained the situation in hopes that she could convince me to have the surgery. She practically ordered me to have it and to not worry about Spunky.
She would drive out from Transcona every day to see that Spunky’s needs were met. What she didn’t know was that this was going to be a 6 month sentence. I have nothing but good things to say about my care while in hospital. I had a top notch surgeon who did both surgeries, and I came out of it with much more mobility than anyone expected. My physiotherapist had the patience of Gods with me, and I worked as hard as I could. I also had 3 roommates for 4 months in the rehab who had quadriplegia because of accidents. By observing the daily struggle of their lives, I came to the realization that I was in fact the luckiest person in that room. How could I feel sorry for myself? For that reason I am including them as unsung heroes. I have often wondered how they have fared over the years. CPA ran a weekly support group mostly for in patients and I was required to attend. I did not want to go sit in a daisy circle, holding hands and singing Kumbaya or whining about how I felt about my life change. I figured I was just fine with it and needed no help from them. Yet, being in hospital is BORING. After physio, there is little left to do, so I attended the meetings anyway. I heard many things, most of which I was sure went straight out the other ear.Many months later, I would discover I was very wrong about that. So for those CPA members who conducted those meetings, despite my belligerence, you supplied the advice I did not yet know I needed.
Leaving the hospital was the next challenge. I could not return to my current residence because the house was no longer accessible to me. The hospital could not release me until I had a residence to go to. into the stage enters “The Mighty Elizabeth” Liz was employed with CPA and it was her job to help coordinate and find supports for persons with new SCIs about to be discharged from the hospital. She submitted an application to Ten Ten Sinclair for temporary transitory housing. There was a lot of red tape involved, much more for me than for the average person. She also helped me register for Handi-Transit with much less grief than most people usually face with that process. With every setback, she was in there fighting for me, often going above and beyond. I started calling her my shovel. When she asked me why, I said because she was the one shoveling through all the B.S. on my behalf. Liz was also my first visual example that someone in a wheelchair could be useful, relevant, responsible and not only hold a job, but do it in an exemplary fashion. July 1st, 2006 was the day I left the hospital in a wheelchair and moved into Ten Ten Sinclair Housing Inc. The move had been approved so late that I did not get a chance to arrange a moving company. So, just like one year previous, Sis and the family got me moved. I`m sure she was delighted, that her tenure as Spunky`s guardian angel was now over, but she never once complained or even charged me for the gas she burned up driving back and forth for 6 months. At the end of that very long day, she took me out for groceries.
I had a 4 month wait for a power chair, so in that time, she would come out once a week and take me grocery shopping. Since then, if I was in need, a text message was all it took to have her at my door, no matter how busy she was. On July 1, 2007 Sis and family moved me one last time, to the place where I still reside today. While I was waiting for a power chair, CPA, who had just taken me on as a new member, made me the offer that they would pay for an ultra-light wheelchair in order for me to be more mobile and stay in shape. I was floored when I found out the chair they were looking at was over $3000.00. They brought it down and let me try it out for a few days. Unfortunately, it was a little too small for me and not very comfortable, so I gracefully declined. I mention this because not only had I not even paid any dues yet, CPA was willing to go to this expense for my benefit. It made me very proud and appreciative to be a member.
The last person I will tell you about today was a volunteer coordinator working for SMD. I have been a volunteer for many years and always wanted to keep a low profile. I am shy, I was always trying to weasel out of going to volunteer appreciation dinners and other events intended to thank us for our contributions. Every time I received a pin or certificate of some sort, it went into a drawer at home with little possibility of seeing the light of day again. SMD changes its volunteer co-ordinators every few years. In the 3 years Laurie worked there, she became my cheerleader and eventually a friend. She talked me into doing things I did not want to do. I trusted her enough to take on some of the new roles. Not only has the experiences changed my attitude to a certain degree and given me a much brighter outlook, but they’ve also added contentment that I am living my life to the fullest.
Writing these ParaTracks articles are one of the things she encouraged me to try doing. I have since taken all those awards out of my drawer and they are now proudly displayed on what I call my `Wall of Shame`! Thank You Laurie! There are many more people who have had a big effect on my life in the last 10 years and each deserves an entire article just about them.
I will have to stop now, but not before mentioning who `Sis` is. Her name is Thelma Krull. She is to everyone who knows her, what she is to me. That is why so many people refuse to give up looking for her. She vanished without a trace on July 11, 2015. If anyone reading this has any information to offer please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. I have posted an older picture of Thelma you may not have seen in the media. It was taken from a TV news interview a number of years ago when she and her husband owned and worked at a restaurant on Henderson Hwy. To all the unsung heroes out there who go out of their way to help persons in need, my hat goes off to you. It is my hope all you wonderful readers will have a very pleasant autumn and don`t forget the big week-long Grey Cup party coming up in November. It would be nice to see some blue in the game, but I fear the only way would be if everyone attending the game holds their breath until they all turn blue!