I have been a quadriplegic for 10 years today.
Writing those words 10 years ago would have seemed like a death sentence. Not so much so today…
If you want to hear more of our story you can go back on our website and read blogs or go to the "Our Story" section of our website.
Right now I want to give you the five stages of what being a quadriplegi has been like.
Jan 18 2007 - January 29, 2009
Just try to be happy
In this first phase of loss, I would've done anything to forget what I had lost. I was never truly happy, and I was never truly happy with my body. I remember seeing a video while in rehab at Mary Free Bed. It was a famous athlete or entertainer who had become paralyzed. After a few years, they said that they would not go back to being their "fully functioning self" if it meant losing all they had become.
I thought, "What a load of B.S. They are just trying to make themselves feel better."
Jan 29, 2009
I love my life.
While driving around the lobby at a VanAndel arena Chris Tomlin concert, I noticed how people were looking at me. It was very much how I would've looked at a quadriplegic two years earlier. Thoughts like...
Poor guy. I bet he hates his life. I wonder what happened to him. I wonder if he has any one who loves him. I bet he smells. What are all the wires to his wheelchair? Is he on life-support?
There is nothing wrong with having these questions. I would've thought the exact same way. But I love my family. And I love my (gasp) life! I loved my life. And I would have rather been me than anybody else in that arena. Or the world.
As I was growing more into the man God wanted me to be, I kept having this feeling…I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I was feeling more like the guy I was supposed to be all along. One of my main areas of struggle had been (still Is) humility. I really didn't know that until after the accident. I was a people person. I love people and I wanted other people to think that I loved them. I would never want someone to walk away from a conversation with me thinking that I thought I was better. The problem was, I thought my opinions, the ways I would do things, my preferences, etc. were probably better than most people. God had put a massive stop to this very quickly. And now I was realizing that I could be me and not have a pride stopgap from his Spirit. I was enjoying his presence like never before.
And then I realized where I knew this idea from before: that dumb Mary Free Bed video. If the price I had to pay to have a fully functioning body was to lose everything I had learned since my accident, I wouldn't do it. Yes! Thank you God!! But it gets even better.
Spring 2013 - Jan 18, 2017
Thank God for the wheelchair?
I had been living in the joy and realityof that last phase for around two years when a couple of words started bothering me about that phrase: "If the price I had to pay to have a fully functioning body…" Did I want a fully functioning body again? What is a "fully functioning" body?
It was then I realized that even if I could go back and keep everything I've learned since the accident and still be able to walk…I didn't know if I could do it. My fear is that I would go back to being the same old guy. I realized that if God needed me to be in a wheelchair then I could thank God for the wheelchair. It didn't need to look like a death sentence every day. Every day I could get into my wheelchair and thank God for it.
January 18, 2017 - ?
Here enters my problem. 2016 was not a good year for my family. Early in the year Shelly began to have seizures again afer being seizure free for about 13 years. She's back on medication and the seizures are now controlled. She's also had terrible terrible migraines for a lot of the year. And we don't know why. I have had sepsis (a life-threatening complication of an infection) four times Yes, four times. I didn't have sepsis once in my first eight years of quadriplegia. I don't know what has changed. The doctors don't know what has changed. It's as if I suddenly don't have an immune system. In the last 14 months I have been in the hospital for 8 weeks.
The incredible thing is that when I get home, I will probably feel great. But that doesn't mean there's not something going on still. I pray that this time, more than any time ever returning from the hospital, I can speak hope and life to everyone around me even though that's not going to be the way I'm feeling. Who knows what I will call this phase.