My mother is a geriatric social worker at our Jewish cultural center (JCC) and mentors a graduate student named Rebecca. My mom is considered the “Jewish Rock Star” of our community, is loved by all of her clients, and considered one of the best in her field in Chattanooga. Rebecca graduated from Southern University’s school of social work. Rebecca was informed about a recent social work graduate who was in a terrible accident and that he suffered a spinal cord injury. He was sent to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga immediately after the accident and has just been transferred to Shepherd Center. While I know little to no information about spinal cord injuries, I do know what it is like to have a family member go through this life-changing experience as well as the services provided by Shepherd. As I got word about Alex and his situation I knew that I had to introduce myself and let him and his family know that they had a friend who has gone through a similar circumstance.
Alex was in a bike accident that left him classified as a quadriplegic. Quadriplegia is a paralysis of all four limbs from the neck down. While this injury is significantly different from my sister’s head injury, the initial recovery is very similar. My mom emailed me his room information so I could visit him and his family one day after work. When I came into his room at Shepherd’s ICU floor it brought back memories of Hannah’s difficult time. His mother, Rose, was sitting in a chair looking exhausted and Alex was placed in a chair watching TV Land. I introduced myself and told them about my sister’s injury and how Shepherd center was crucial in her recovery and ultimately what has helped her be where she is today. They seemed relieved to know that someone had gone through a similar experience and that Shepherd was the place that helped. I didn’t want to ask too many questions about Alex’s injury, because I of all people know that right after the injury you are still in a state of shock and it is difficult to talk about it to others. However, Alex’s mother told me that he has been making great progress and wants to go to the pool for some of his therapy sessions. Although, until he is weened off of trach tube he won’t be able to go. His lungs are getting stronger and even though his injury usually would mean he should not able to move his legs and arms, I saw that he was moving his legs a little bit. I was very impressed with this because I didn’t think it was possible. My mom told me that it really depends on where the spinal cord injury is located and how severe it was. Alex was also very cognitively aware and paying attention to the conversation his mom and I were having even though he wasn’t actively participating. I told Alex and his mom about some of the opportunities Shepherd offers, like their book club that meets every month and their secret garden. Alex and his family are from Oregon and don’t know that many people so I left them with my name and number in case they wanted to get lunch or talk.
Looking back on this experience, it reminded me of how far Hannah has come and how much even now we take for granted. It seems so long ago since we were living day to day always questioning what the day would bring. However, in a month it will have been a year since her fall. Although since she had a seizure in January her full recovery is a little delayed. I have seen her rises and falls, but no one could have predicted that she would have been where she is today and my family and I owe it to Shepherd Center for all of the effort they contributed to Hannah’s recovery. While it is nice to give others hope by sharing her story, I think what I really took away from meeting Alex and his mom is not to take anything for granted.