Sarah & Me: An Update (Part 2)

Reprinted from PN April 2008

More than a decade after giving birth, this quad mom enjoys life more than ever, thanks to her faith and her family.

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Sarah is a responsible young lady now and capable of making good decisions based on our managing the world together as she grew up. I had to rethink my way of doing things often and have come to realize there are many ways to complete a task. I had to let go of some of my perfectionist type A personality and be grateful the important things were taken care of and we all were happy, safe, and satisfied. (Read Part 1)

The Importance of Health

In order for all of us—Bill, Sarah, and me—to finish what we need to throughout the day, a lot of planning takes place. About five years ago, I found myself getting worn down and having some issues with my tailbone. While at the Abilities Expo that year, I was talking with some cushion and wheelchair company representatives to try to come up with a solution for this problem.

One salesman finally asked if anything had changed with me physically or if I had had a child. (I had candy wrappers on my desk and a 7-year-old blonde girl flitting around me, so it was a good observation on his part). He told me the pregnancy probably caused my hips to move just enough so my tailbone was more susceptible to rubbing and shearing.

After a cushion evaluation at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, and through the ROHO Group, Inc., I got a quad cushion and a newer style, no-shear, lay-back reclining wheelchair. Some of my problems have diminished since then. I use Tegasorb bandages now and wear soft clothing.

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It is important for me to be aware of my health needs. It is easy to get busy with kids and daily chores and get worn out. I recommend keeping up on your daily therapy plan so you can enjoy your family and friends.

I am very careful about my nutritional intake, weight shifts, rest, time off my tailbone completely, and trying to avoid as much stress as possible. As you can imagine, since I am a busy lady and wear many hats in life, this was tough to do.

Stay-at-home Moms

I finally decided three and a half years ago to quit my job after 13 years with the City of Whittier so my quality of life with my family would be better. It was a huge decision and very hard to make in some ways, because I have always identified some of my self-worth with my achievements and career.

After my injury in 1976, it was difficult to admit, 27 years later, that I was not invincible. Through self-examination, prayer, and faith, I decided things would work out. It was the wisest choice to make. My mind, heart, and personality are young, ambitious, and excited to experience all that life offers, but the reality is that many times choices have to be made for the benefit of the overall big picture.

It was also difficult to let go of my wages. Money from work paid for any extra expenses we had including gifts during holidays, paying for special outings, going to dinner, or even new clothes when necessary. We had to re-evaluate our expenses and cut back in every little way we could. That was another issue we had to think about as we increased the size of our family.

Since Sarah began school, Kelly has supported and when possible participated in her activities. In spring 2007, she was a proud mom at her 12-year-old daughter's orchestra competition.

I can’t say I regret leaving the workplace, although I do miss the people, projects, and the ever-changing activities and learning experiences I enjoyed. A lot of stress was taken off my shoulders. However, I have taken on new projects associated with school and church, and I really enjoy them.

There is a feeling of importance or success that we sometimes get from the outside world and paid employment that we do not always receive at home or from volunteering. But I know my choices are right, and I would never exchange the time and experiences I have had with Sarah and her activities for anything. Having extra money meant nothing to me compared to better health and good memories. We can make the monetary sacrifices now while she is young and living at home.

I was raised by a stay-at-home mom, and I have come to admire her so much more, and all of the other moms and dads who are at home with children, helping at school, at church, with sports and music, carpooling, taking care of the home and family, and just being available when needed.

I have also come to understand myself better and explore other interests. August 2006 marked my thirtieth year as a woman with a disability. Life has been interesting, to say the least. It has been challenging, wondrous, sad, happy, frustrating, and miraculous at the same times. It has been full of great people, wonderful memories, tears, and pain, but it has been my life so far.

Learning…and Caring

Bill and I have been so lucky to have wonderful people around us and involved in our lives. Our family and friends enjoy giving Sarah opportunities to go places with them and do activities we can’t do easily. Family members have taken her camping, skiing, and on vacations where she can ride personal watercraft, four wheelers, and horses. Others have taken her to cultural activities, movies, and even shopping when I cannot go. We are forever grateful to these people.

I believe it is important that everyone participate in all that life has to offer and discover individual interests and talents. Throughout Sarah’s childhood we have been involved in professional acting, local theater, orchestra, sports teams, Girl Scouts, and many community and church events. Sarah has learned so much from other people, coaches, teachers, and leaders. To deny her these opportunities would have been selfish of us. Now, just before her thirteenth birthday, she is very aware of how others have helped impact her life so she could become a well-rounded young lady.

We have raised Sarah in a modest home with lots of love and everything she needs, but probably not everything she wants. She appreciates what she has and has learned gratitude and delayed gratification. We believe it’s important to raise kids with a good work ethic and the desire to do community service, to be thoughtful, and to do other charitable acts. We want her to know the feeling of generosity by doing nice things without expecting monetary rewards.

Because of my disability I often feel bad that I can’t help others more. I compensate by visiting them in times of need, taking extra food or home-grown vegetables and flowers to neighbors. Even a thoughtful phone call to someone is nice and gives Sarah a good example.

Words of Advice

A couple of thoughts I have banked on over the years are

(1) Don’t ever take your life, health, family, or friends for granted, and

(2) Try to enjoy each day as it comes, and even throughout the hardships, find one thing to be grateful for.

Too quickly we grow older, loved ones die, friends move, and our children grow up and leave home. It would be a shame to look back on life and regret all the things you missed out on, or be focused on all the negatives in life when there is so much to be hopeful for.

Looking Ahead

Over the years our family needs have changed, so we adjusted our lives accordingly. Sarah has seen me as a working mother and now as a stay-at-home mom. She sees me in a position of authority and in times of fun. I believe this has allowed her great insight that her life can be fulfilling in many ways. She knows that with a good education and a solid foundation of faith, she has many choices and opportunities in life.

As she nears 8th grade, her goals are to continue her music and writing while preparing for college and hopefully a career as a veterinarian. She wants to travel, learn new languages, and eventually marry and have a family of her own.

She has guaranteed me that I can live with her someday and she would never make me go into a nursing home. I reassured her I intend to be around for a long time and I want her to have a full and happy life without her worrying about old Mom and Dad.

I have experienced life as an able-bodied person as well as in a wheelchair, helped with advocacy work for people with disabilities, and had a good education and several different careers. I have enjoyed the single life, moving around, traveling, and married life, all with disappointments as well as great times and fun adventures.

My greatest gift is my faith and the knowledge that someday we will be reunited with our loved ones in our eternal Heavenly Kingdom. For now, just one smile from a 13-year-old young lady with dark brown eyes and shiny blonde hair makes me complete. By the grace of God and a fighting spirit, my role as a mom to Sarah Elizabeth has been the most miraculous, challenging, and wonderful of all. It is the most meaningful job the Lord has entrusted upon me.

My job is not over yet, but I think we are off to a good start

Editor's Note

In 1994, Kelly Hanson’s pregnancy test showed “positive.” She and her husband Bill were shocked, scared, skeptical—and thrilled. When Kelly was 17, she had broken her neck in an automobile accident. As a C3–4 quad, she knew her life would take a different course, but she never dreamed having a child would be part of her journey.

In “And Baby Makes 3” (April 1995), she took PN readers along for the roller-coaster ride of her pregnancy and the delivery and postpartum care of little Sarah Elizabeth. “Sarah…the First Two Years” (November 1996) described bringing up baby—a bright, active toddler who presented new challenges every day. The following article contains some insights and advice about parenting from the perspective of this quad mom.


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