Illustration Kerry Randolph
Topic: Circle of Life
Imagine you’re working on your roof, fixing a leak so that annoying little drop of water that lands in your living room every time it rains will just stop.
Then boom — you wake up in the hospital, unable to move your arms or legs. Wait a minute, who am I talking to? Forgive me, I momentarily forgot.
Whatever we were doing before the “incident,” we’re all well aware of the type of life we all end up leading afterward. Or are we?
I admit I haven’t met all the paralyzed veterans across the United States, and there are many who have gone on to accomplish great achievements. We have Paralympians, marathoners, singers, dancers and even some hall of fame inductees.
This is the story of one particular quadriplegic who also has managed to defy all the odds.
College, Marriage & Kids
This is a story about a veteran named Alex. He’s a quad, and by all accounts should be destined to live a life I’ve seen adopted by many.
But not Alex. First, he decides to enroll himself in college, and I have to say I was honored and inspired
to attend his graduation party. The party venue was packed with friends, mostly from the school, which was probably why to this day he doesn’t remember me being there.
Now, I’ve heard how hard it is to find a good relationship once we’re in wheelchairs. Yet Alex somehow found a way to marry an attractive woman, and their happiness is evident to all who have ever observed them.
So, not only is Alex a leader in our Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) chapter, he also doubles as the chapter’s sports director, organizing ski trips, bowling nights, shooting trips and fishing outings.
So, you can imagine my surprise when photos of Alex, his wife and a newborn baby boy showed up in the office. A college degree, marriage, sports director and now a child? I had to ask, “What’s next?” He says, “Master’s degree.” I believe he’ll get one.
How does a quad and his wife manage to conceive a child?
Well, they had help. There are a number of programs offering conception services to both men and women who were catastrophically disabled, so Alex set up an appointment.
I haven’t personally heard of any other PVA members conceiving children thanks to assistance. I would understand if they want to keep it close and private, but if there is something that’s worthy of nationwide celebration, it’s when a member of PVA is able to conceive.
No Fear, Just Love
It’s the year 2016, and I can’t help thinking that prior to World War II, spinal-cord injured personnel were left on the field or brought into the hospital, made to feel comfortable and left to die. Now, we’re graduating from college, getting married and having children. Wow!
So, if there’s a moral to this story, it’s that not only is a spinal-cord injury not an end of life by any means, it need not stop you from bringing in a new one either.
I did ask all the other questions, like what about playing in the park and helping his son with his football or baseball skills? Alex simply said, “We’ll figure it out.” No fear, just love. Unconditional, unfiltered and all- understanding love.
I guess when you approach all obstacles with nothing but love in your heart, solutions, rather than excuses, occupy your mind.
There Is Hope
To those of you who have read my book, you’ll know that Rule No. 4 is “Depression? OK, but don’t let it rule over you forever.”
At first, my point was that depression will prevent you from getting out there into the world and seeing what opportunities are available to you. But even at the time of my book, I couldn’t think of saying you might miss out on marriage, a career and children.
Even now, I dare not say something like this is attainable for everyone, but I do feel more comfortable in saying my Rule No. 9: ”Never, ever stop dreaming.” Especially to those of you who gave up on ever having a family.
Marriage is possible, for you can find love. Education is possible, just check with your vocational rehab counselor. And now, having a child is possible if you ask your primary care physician for the information. Maybe, it’s all too proper that this article show up in the June issue, the first month of summer after a long, hard winter. Maybe this issue will be the one that spawns the surge in birthrate among the PVA membership.
After all, I can still hope, can’t I?
Scoba Rhodes is a U.S. Navy veteran and author of Rules of Engagement: A Self-Help Guide for Those Overcoming Major Personal Trauma. n
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