Monday, January 4, 2010

Leaving for Shepherd Center

After my accident my body had changed in so many ways, and it was imperative that I go to a rehabilitation hospital that specialized in spinal cord injury so that I could learn to live as a paralyzed person, and so my mom could learn how to care for me. At that time there were two model facilities that specialized in the kind of care I needed: Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, and Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia. I've already written about the battle my mom faced with our health insurance company, since the insurance we had at the time didn't want to have to pay to send me to a specialized facility. They basically told my mom that I could get the care I needed at any rehab facility or nursing home...not true! Although it was after open season for switching insurances, my mom was able to switch health insurance to a company that was willing to pay to send me where I needed to go for rehab. That was such a blessing and made all the difference.

I really didn't want to go far away to rehab, but I knew it was a necessary step that I had to take to achieve my ultimate goal, which was living at home. Since each case is different, I wasn't sure how long I'd have to stay at the rehab hospital, either, but my mom was coming with me, so I knew I'd be okay with her by my side.

I dreaded leaving my friends because I didn't know how long it would be before I would see them again. Leaving my friend Adam was especially difficult. He and I were both managers at the movie theater and had worked together for a couple of years. We'd started dating in 2002, and dated for several months, but ultimately broke up in February of 2003. We were different religions, and neither of us were willing to compromise what we wanted when it came to religion, so we broke up. It was initially very painful, but after the awkward romantic feelings lessened, we were able to maintain a friendship. We'd known each other for several years, and had became each other's best friend. We usually worked the same shifts at the theater and would hang out with each other when we weren't working. We saw each other nearly every day and we talked on the phone every night.

Adam was devastated when I had my accident, as I would have been if our situations had been reversed. I was in the ICU at Barnes for seven weeks, and Adam came to see me every day, with the exception of two days. He was an amazing source of support, and his visits did so much for my spirits. Having my two best friends (Mom and Adam) there with me every step of the way was one of the things that kept me emotionally strong. As much as I dreaded leaving my friends and family, Adam was definitely the person I was going to miss the most. Knowing that it would be weeks or even months before we would see each other again was excruciating. I still couldn't talk, so telephone conversations weren't even an option, either.

I was flooded with visitors the day before my mom and I left for rehab at Shepherd Center. Everyone wanted to come see me off and wish me good luck. My mom left early that afternoon so that she could go home, pack, and finish the other preparations and arrangements she was making so that she could come with me. My friend Lacee (from nursing school and the movie theater) went over to my house that evening to help my mom pack the things I would need for rehab. I gave my mom a list of some of the things I wanted to take, and she and Lacee did the rest.

Most of my friends that came to visit me that last day in the ICU left around nine in the evening, but my friend Adam and our friends Rick and Kelly (who we had worked with and often hung out with) stayed later. Rick and Kelly left around 11 and although I would miss them a lot, I was glad they left so that I could have a little alone time with Adam to tell him goodbye. As soon as Adam and I were alone we both started crying. The thought of leaving my best friend made me so, so sad. Adam stayed with me for a couple more hours, but then he left around 1 AM, since he had school the next day. Watching Adam walk out of my hospital room was terrible, and our friendship would never be the same from that point on.

My mom arrived at the hospital early the next morningWednesday, January 7, 2004. At nine o'clock the flight team that was taking my mom and me to Shepherd Center arrived. I was moved from my hospital bed to a stretcher, and then I was bundled up because it was very cold outside. The hallway was lined with different hospital employees who'd cared for me the past seven weeks, and came to see me off and wish me luck.

It was cold outside, but since it had been seven weeks since I'd been outside, I welcomed the fresh air on my face. It was very refreshing! My mom and I took a 20 minute ambulance ride to the airport hangar where the small commuter plane that would take us to Shepherd Center was located. Before no time at all my mom and I were packed into the plane and we took off. I'd only flown on an airplane one other time in my life, and that was when I went to Washington D.C. for a one day class trip my junior year of high school. The flight to Shepherd Center took about 2½ to 3 hours, and then there was a 45 minute drive by ambulance to get to Shepherd Center.

Since I was a ventilator dependent patient I had to spend my first two days in Shepherd Center's ICU, just to make sure I was stable. Two days later on Saturday afternoon I was moved to the regular patient floor. I was in a two person room, but luckily I was the only patient in the room. Shepherd Center owned a few small apartments where the family members of the patients could stay for free, and that's where my mom stayed during my time in rehab. When my mom left that Saturday evening to go to the apartment, I was overwhelmed with loneliness. It was a Saturday night and I should have been working at the movie theater or hanging out with friends, but instead I was lying in a hospital bed in Atlanta, Georgia, unable to move and so far away from being and feeling normal. I started to cry for one of the first times since my accident. My nurse came into my room and demanded to know why I was crying. I tried to tell her that I just wanted to be left alone, but I still couldn't talk, and she couldn't read my lips. The frustration of not being able to communicate just made things worse. That was probably one of the worst nights of my life.

I couldn't wait for Mom to arrive at the hospital the next morning. She usually arrived every morning between 8 and 8:30, and would stay with me all day until about 6 or 7 in the evening. If I would've had it my way, I would've wanted my mom to stay with me 24/7, but I knew how important it was that Mom have some time to herself so that she could keep her strength up so that she could continue spending each day with me. A few days after that lonely Saturday night I was moved to a different rooma single patient room. Most of the rooms in the hospital held between two and four people, but I was one of the lucky few who got my own room.

I didn't like having to be away from all of my friends and everything I knew and was used to, but I was grateful to be in a good rehab facility. I knew that I was going to have to stay for anywhere from four weeks to three months, so I decided that I would continue to have a positive attitude so that I could get the most out of rehab that I possibly could so that I could go home as quickly as possible.


Post a Comment

I love getting feedback on my posts, so please leave me a comment!

If you have a question, feel free to email me at so that I can respond to you directly.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...