First of all, a ramp had to be built in my garage so that I could get in and out of the house. I also lived in a two-story house, and prior to my accident my bedroom had been on the second story. This bedroom would no longer work for me since there was no possible way I could go up and down stairs. Fortunately, the living room in my house was big enough to be converted into a new bedroom for me. However, this was a huge undertaking. All of the furniture had to be moved out of the living room and dining room, and all of the carpeting in those two rooms had to be torn up so that new flooring could be laid. (A member of my church worked for a flooring company, and he was able to get all of the laminate flooring donated. This was a huge blessing.) A lady from my church also came in and painted the living room and dining room, as well, just to make it look really nice.
It was such a relief to my mom that the members of our church worked so hard to get the house ready for me, since she was hundreds of miles away and couldn't easily coordinate the renovations herself. We received updates on the progress of the renovations every few days, and it was exciting because the possibility of going home was finally becoming real.
There were also many other things that needed to be arranged, as well. We needed to find a medical supply company that would be able to supply all of the things I needed, like a bed, wheelchair and other important things like that. We also needed to find a medical company who provided services in the area where I lived since I was dependent on a ventilator to breathe for me. It wasn't just a ventilator that I needed, either. There are a lot of other supplies that go along with the ventilator, and I also needed a respiratory therapist that could make home visits and help regulate my respiratory needs. My caseworker at Shepherd Center was good at helping my mom get everything in order, which was another big relief to my mom since she had absolutely no idea where to start when it came to coordinating all of the services and supplies I would need when I got home.
I had been at Shepherd for seven weeks and I was ready to go home. My mom and I had learned all of the essential things that we needed to know about taking care of a person with a spinal cord injury. I was only 19 and the prospect of living the rest of my life as a severely disabled person seemed kind of scary and daunting, but there wasn't anything I could do to change my situation, so I knew that I just had to look to the future with a positive attitude and hope for the best. I knew the Lord was aware of my situation and He would be with me and would help me.
I received a devastating blow about a week before I was scheduled to go home. My case manager found a medical company in St. Louis that was going to manage my respiratory needs, but I was required to spend another five to seven days in the hospital in St. Louis after coming back from rehab. This was so my family and caregivers could get training about my respiratory needs, the ventilator, suctioning and things like that. I know another week in the hospital after I'd already been in the hospital/rehab for 14 weeks probably doesn't sound like much of a setback, but it was to me. Going home had been my goal for so long, and I was so close to reaching that goal, but now a roadblock had been put in my path. I was so disappointed at the thought of having to spend another five to seven days in the hospital! There was no getting around this, though, so I had to make a new goal, and this was to be home by Sunday, February 29, so that I could watch the Academy Awards with my friends and eat Chinese food for dinner. (Through my experiences I've learned the importance of having goals, no matter how small or simple the goals seem, like watching the Academy Awards and eating Chinese food.)
My mom and I left Shepherd Center about 4 PM on Monday, February 23, 2004. Our flight was on a small commuter plane and it took about 2½ hours. Instead of going straight home to my house like we'd originally planned, I went back to Barnes Jewish Hospital for the week of ventilator training for my family. Something else that disappointed me was when I found out that I wouldn't be going back to the ICU. I'd had such a good experience in the ICU and I was really hoping that that's where I would be. Instead, I went to the PICRU (post intensive care rehabilitation unit). I didn't look forward to starting over with a new group of nurses—nurses who didn't know me, my family, my situation, how to read my lips and things like that. As disappointed as I was, I was just glad to be back in St. Louis. It was nice to be in a place where my family and friends could visit me again.