Sunday, July 21, 2019

First Encounter

In September 1985, I came home from the hospital to start life as a quadriplegic. Living in small town Iowa, I didn't have any other kids like me around.

Five years later, my parents heard about another family in northwest Iowa whose son had received a spinal cord injury. Chad had been injured while playing on a dirt pile and was now a vent dependent quadriplegic, one year younger than me.

The summer between third and fourth grade, my parents, dad's parents, and I made the five-hour drive to Sioux Center to meet Chad and his family. His dad was a pastor at a local church and they were building a wheelchair accessible house for them. In the mean time, Chad was staying at his nurse's house when we met.

It was great seeing another boy who used a wheelchair like me along with a vent. Racing each other in the gym at the local college was fun as well as watching Chad play Nintendo with the same hands-free controller I used. We both had to have medical cares done, so the day ended before either of us wanted.

That was the only time we ever met in person. Since then, I've had the opportunity to meet and work with other quads, both kids and adults. I still remember first meeting Chad 29 years ago and not feeling so alone. Since then, we corresponded a few times via email and other means, but very little.

I learned through Facebook that Chad died last week on July 13. I watched his funeral on Thursday via live stream, but wish I could have gone in person. Even with little communication, I still felt as friends. It is part of living the quad life that has been common this year.

During the service, the pastor talked about Chad's strong faith in God and the witness he had for so many. I pray to continue to do the same as long as I am able. I have seen the passing of more fellow quads this year than the last few combined. It serves as a reminder to always be thankful for the time we have been given and looking forward to the life to come.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

New Hands

A common problem for those in the quad life are contractures. Joints in fingers, toes, wrists, ankles, and everywhere else can become stiff with decreased flexibility and even get locked in place. I've been blessed with excellent care and have few problems with this, but still have some.

I believe it's partly due to always being barefoot, but my feet have no trouble at all. My knees don't straighten out as far as they should, but come pretty close. Everything else is pretty close to normal, except my hands.

Both wrists have limited movement and my left hand, if left alone, points sharply out to the left and is hard to straighten. Each one varies, but all ten fingers have stiff, partially frozen, joints like to curl under if not positioned correctly. Looking at pictures when I was newly injured, my fingers and hands adopted this position very early.

In order to help stop further problems, I wear braces or hand splints. Unfortunately, like everything, they wear down and need replaced. At night, I've worn a very substantial brace on my left arm for several years. However, it stopped keeping my wrists and fingers straight long ago and has been causing red areas. I wear my right splint day and night to keep my hand from grabbing the wire for my diaphragm pacemaker. They weren't designed for that much use though and the Velcro quickly degrades.

Back in April, I visited with my splint person to order new ones and finally went this week to pick them up. You have likely been in the medical field too long when new splints make you excited, but I was looking forward to getting them. Putting them on in the office, it was great to see both hands laying straight again.

I kept them on through lunch and the trip home from Des Moines and didn't see any signs of trouble. My night nurses have reported they like the change and it is keeping everything straighter. The only question now is how long the new hardware will last. I'm thankful we have been given such devices to help with fallen bodies and hope to see improvement ahead.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Slowly Learning

Tomorrow will be two weeks since I had my tooth removed. This past week has been one of slowly learning my new boundaries.

I have helped adults and children with spinal cord injuries learn how to adapt to their new body. Using adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, mouth sticks, and electronic aides can be a steep learning curve. This experience has taught me again what it's like to start from scratch.

For most surgeries, the doctor has prescribed pain medicine. However, since I can't feel whatever was worked on, I've never taken any. This is the first time I remember taking anything more than once to help cope with major discomfort.

On Tuesday, my day assistant wasn't able to come and dad took most of the day off work to stay with me. We had a few errands to run, so the two of us left the house a little before lunch. Dad and I stopped at Culver's and then parked in one of the nearby campgrounds overlooking Iowa's largest lake. I thought chicken strips would be easy to bite for our picnic, but I was wrong.

Applying force to the left side of my mouth resulted in pain with subsequent chewing compounding the problem. I was only able to push through about half the meal. After lunch, the next stop was Walmart to satisfy our lists.

Driving through the store, pushing on my wheelchair's controls with my chin resulted in pain and every movement. I tried using my upper lip or other parts of my face, but they didn't work well enough to safely drive and not run into anything.

Thankfully, one of the stitches fell out Friday and has made a vast improvement. I'm still completely relying on others to help with computer control when I'm flat, but it's becoming easier when I have sit time.

While watching an abundance of YouTube these past two weeks, I have been thinking of the time I took for granted and didn't use my mouth for beneficial tasks. Instead of writing or working, I took time for entertainment instead. It's a problem in the quad life and everyone that needs to be cautioned against. I look forward to further progress this week and using the time God gives me for good use.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Rapid Change

In life, you can be traveling along the path you're given and everything can be going well. A sudden unexpected bump can change your course and take you down unexpected paths.

Last week, I wrote about my challenges at camp this year, but I wasn't the only one. Bradford Woods is heavily wooded with trees completely covering most trails. With all the rain, we saw where one large tree had been uprooted, dirt and all, and had damaged part of the trail. In a different area, another cabin was returning from the zip line.

Along the path, one boy was being pushed in his wheelchair by one counselor and another walking beside him. Without notice, a large branch fell and hit him in the head, cracking his skull. The two counselors directly with him were uninjured. The camper was taken to the hospital for surgery and a few hours later was acting as normal and sad that he wouldn't be released in time to return from camp. Through no fault of his own, or others, plans quickly changed.

Two days after returning from camp, I was starting to recover from the week and glad to have my regular routine. My main night nurse was partway through my routine when she told she had resigned and will be leaving in late August. She plans to return to school full-time to pursue a different career. This nurse has done the nine-hour shift four nights a week nearly every week for over five years and I have been very thankful for her care.

The head of the nursing department called to confirm what I already knew. Finding nurses is very hard, even harder for nights. They will be advertising in my area, but can't guarantee when or if anyone will be found. He suggested to also try social media as some clients have had success with finding help.

With this news, I went to the dentist Monday to have my tooth removed and get the implant. After an hour of pain and discomfort, my lower, front right tooth was pounded out. However, the implant could not be put in and I have to wait until December to get the tooth. In the mean time, I have a large gap in my mouth.

I'm right-handed, which in the quad life means I mainly use the right side of my mouth. Using my mouth stick is a challenge and I can't use it at all when I'm flat. In addition to waiting until December, Iowa is changing dental plans for Medicaid users on July 1. That means the approval I currently have for the implant will need to be redone. That process took over a year the first time.

If a nurse can't be found, it's very likely I'll need to go to a care facility. A new group home has begun construction in my hometown, but after several emails the facilitators of the home said they will not have people with my care needs. That would mean I have to look at the four nursing homes in Iowa that take vents, none of which are close to home. Moving may also readjust my December tooth appointment. In retrospect, having my tooth removed at this time is probably one of the worst decisions I've made. However, it's not one I can undo.

God has given me 34 years of care as a quadriplegic and I know He doesn't stop. Similar nursing situations have come up in the past, but they worked out. I pray someone is found, but am ready to serve from a nursing home if needed as well. It has taken me three times longer to write this blog than usual with some pain, but I can still get it done. I pray this week goes better, but have learned to roll with changes and follow God's lead.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Cold Difficult Week

For my 15th year, I spent the last week volunteering as a counselor at CHAMP Camp. It was nearly the most difficult time I've had and not one I want to repeat again.

As has been usual, dad, my day assistant, and I left for Indiana on Friday morning, June 14. I've had trouble with the ten-hour drive before, but have learned to take extra breaks and drink plenty. The trip went well and our group of three got to camp late in the evening.

Rare sun near the pool
Indiana's weather has been similar to Iowa lately with cool temps and plenty of rain. The forecast for the week called for daily rain and thunderstorms and high more reminiscent of early spring. Saturday's counselor training sessions were moved indoors to avoid weather, but we still had to seek shelter in the cabin bathrooms when the tornado sirens went off.

Usually by Tuesday to Wednesday night of camp, I feel completely wiped out, ill, and not sure how I'll finish. With only a day or less remaining, it isn't too hard to struggle through to the end. This year, that feeling of pure exhaustion was deeply rooted in by Saturday night and only left me for a few hours at a time for the remainder of the week.

With lack of movement and other factors, those living the quad life often struggle with temperature regulation, especially cold. I fare better with cold than many others, but prolonged exposure affects me and I have a hard time recovering. With outside temperatures mainly in the upper 60's to low 70's and cabin air conditioning varying from 68° to low 60's, I started most nights cocooned in two blankets and pillows. Several evenings, and afternoons, I was afraid I would need to leave early. I didn't feel like I helped very much with the three boys in my cabin, but was able to some.

Two of our three campers
I didn't bring much warm clothing, but had a few times with a sweatshirt and shorts. Thankfully, with much prayer, I was able to stay the entire week and returned home late Thursday, June 20. It has now been a few days since returning and I'm still tiring out quickly and not feeling quite back to normal. Another former camper turned counselor has volunteered for several years as well. He struggled this year also and plans to take a year off. I was unsure before going this year, but now feel confirmed that it's time for me to retire. I am not as young as when I started volunteering in 2000 and age is gaining an upper hand.

With all the trouble, I was thankful to hear my three pressure sores did well. One stayed the same, one improved, and the third only grew by a very small amount. Hopefully that will allow me to stay more active this summer and fall.

Tomorrow, I'm finally scheduled for my front tooth extraction. I'm hoping it goes well, but this week will require relearning how I use my mouth stick and may delay future updates. I will see what adventures await another week.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Transportation

For most people, getting from one location to another doesn't take much thought. In the house, walking around is an easy task and longer distances can be traversed by any car, bus, train, or some combination. Living the quad life, it isn't as simple.

Just getting out of bed takes a lot of work with me either getting picked up by hand or with a lift. Finding a wheelchair that works well for me takes years of planning followed by continued maintenance. Just to go from bed to the opposite end of the house takes 15-20 minutes. Then the challenge gets increased with leaving the house.

I can't simply hop in any vehicle, it has to have a lift for my wheelchair and be big enough for me to fit. Getting in and secured with straps to the van takes about 4-5 minutes. It's fine on nice days, but cold, wind, and rain can make it seem like an eternity.

To my standards, I have a new wheelchair with it being less than four-years-old. The van I use is about 25 years old, but works pretty well. I am very thankful that I have been blessed with these devices that allow me the freedom to get out and be active. I know this is not the case for everyone.

After giving thanks to God for these gifts, I also thank my dad for all he does. Over the years, he has become an expert at working on my wheelchairs. Some maintenance has required working with micro-switches in my chin control so I can keep moving. When I cracked the frame of my chair, he completely took everything apart so the frame could be brought to a weld shop. In less than two days, he had disassembled it, welded, and reassembled so I didn't miss a day of class.

God has also given dad skill in vehicle mechanics. Maintaining the van's motor, chair lift, and everything else to keep it working. He has also helped with my physical needs ever since birth and continues to work to earn an income for our family and provide medical insurance.

On this Father's Day, I give thanks to my Father in heaven and for the multitude of blessings He has given me through family. I pray that you can do the same this, and every, day.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Rainbow

This week, I have been seeing a lot of rainbow decorations in the news and on social media. They serve as a good reminder of the past and the future.

Genesis 9:13 says, "I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth." God had destroyed the entire earth, all land-dwelling, air-breathing animals, and mankind in a worldwide flood. He saved one family, Noah, and representative animal kinds aboard the ark. The rainbow promise was that God would never send such a flood again.

I've seen some people claim that Noah's flood was only a local event and didn't encompass the entire planet. However, if that's the case, then God's promise to never send such a flood again has been broken many times. Just in my lifetime in central Iowa I have seen devastating local floods, including this year. Catastrophic local floods have happened many times in history throughout the world. One in more recent times was caused by Mount St. Helens and carved out a canyon 25% the size of the grand canyon. God promised to never again send a global flood, not local.

In Noah's flood, everyone who was saved had to go through the door of the ark. Jesus compared Himself as a door that if we enter by Him, we will be saved (John 10:9). Peter also said that as the world was once destroyed by the flood, it will again be destroyed, but by fire. It will also be a global judgment, not just a local event.

The rainbows I have seen recently were meant to promote a particular lifestyle choice. However, that was not the rainbow's original sign, and that meaning still holds very true today. No matter what life choices someone has made, they are not beyond God's saving grace. Whether they are lies, theft, adultery, or even murder, they can all be forgiven. Just as their was a judgment during the flood, it will come again for everyone.

I pray that whenever the rainbow is seen, in any context, that it will serve as a reminder of what is to come.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Legacy or Lunacy

A couple weeks ago, my parents got away for a week of vacation. Since they usually cover the evenings, that means finding people to help watch me. Thankfully, I still have grandparents and relatives that are able to help.

For two evenings, dad's parents came to stay between my day nurse and night nurse nurse. Grandma usually comes first with grandpa arriving just in time for supper. Unfortunately, they are not able to move me around in bed. Therefore, wherever the nurse has me positioned when she leaves at 5:00 is where I stay. Thankfully, my grandparents are quite capable of putting the bed down and propping my head with pillows so I can do something.

The first evening they stayed, I wasn't laying very well and couldn't do much. Grandpa did enjoy watching me play Farming Simulator 19. He watched, and snored, while I worked in my virtual fields with virtual equipment.

On their second evening, I was left much better positioned. After I had been flat for over 3.5 hours, I had grandpa and grandma sit me up in bed again. They managed well and has become my usual routine, I started working on writing my book. Grandma inquired to my activity and I told her about this project I've been doing for nearly 18 months. She responded that she hopes to get to read it someday. A week later, when mom was at work, grandpa told her he hopes to get to read my book before he dies. It was a surprise revelation to her, and me.

In this past year-and-a-half, I have sometimes wondered why I am taking on this writing task. In some ways, I feel it to be my way of leaving a memory or legacy. I don't have kids and hardly anything to show for work that would leave an impression on anyone. I talk to a lot of students, both grade school and college, but I'm quite certain most forget about me within a week at the most. I know it's doubtful that anything will ever get published, let alone be something anyone other than relatives would buy. Knowing how life usually goes, it would most likely get looked at by outsiders as something to joke about.

I am now about to start 2007, so I am at least catching up to modern times. If anything ever comes from it or not, I'm thankful for the quad life God has given me.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Buns of Rubber Bands

I posted in early April about working on getting pressure mapping done with my chair's seat cushion. What started in March is now complete in late May, which is actually pretty quick for medical services. The final solution ended up being fairly easy as well.

Sitting on mapping grid
In order to test a seat cushion, an electronic mat is placed on it and then I sit on top of it. The mat is connected to a computer that displays a map showing how much pressure is being exerted at all points.The results look similar to a weather radar with blue okay and red cause for concern.

After rescheduling once, I had my initial testing done two weeks ago. Arriving at the hospital, my assistant and I circled the parking lot a few times, along with other cars, unable to find a parking spot of any type, let alone an accessible one. We ended up parking on the street, but could only come up with $1.00 for the meter, or 80 minutes. I hoped the appointment would go quickly and not return to find a parking ticket.

Original test
Using three people to lift me up and slide the mat under me, results were surprising. Most of my seat looked good, but their was a bright red area directly beneath one of my pressure sores. Tilting back helped, but it still showed up red. One of the therapists felt the pad under me and discovered I was sitting on the metal base of my chair.

For the past 20 years, I've used a seat cushion called ROHO. It has small rubber pockets filled with air so the user sits on an air mattress. Mine had deflated enough that I was partially sitting on bare metal. Air was pumped back in and the reading improved, but not by much. I was told I should be making adjustments to the air weekly, something I never knew before. However, since numbers were still bad, it was decided to get a different seat type. This past Thursday, I went back for the new cushion.
New cushion

This time, we found parking right up front and hoped inside would go as well. Once again, it took a small army to lift me up, take out my ROHO, insert the new pad, and the mapping system. This type was gel with a large hole in the middle to eliminate pressure completely. Sitting back up, the results were even worse. Not only was there pressure in the same area, but also now on the right side. It looked similar to recent radar in Iowa with recent storms coming through.

Final result
The new cushion obviously wouldn't work, so our attention returned to my ROHO. With rubber bands,  some cells could be tied off and mimic the hole of the other cushion. None were in the therapy room and the office could only find two, but the therapist got it to work. After another lift and seat transfer, I awaited the results. Now, everything was blue with a few light green spots. Tilting back had even more improvement with all blue.

After nearly two months of work, doctor's appointments, and approvals, all I needed were two rubber bands from the office secretary. Such are the experiences of the quad life. I'm thankful God has provided technology to help detect problems, but also for simple solutions. I will see what adventures await this week.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Busy Bachelor

On Sunday, my parents were able to get away for the week on vacation. That means I had the house to myself for a few days. Unfortunately, I was too busy to enjoy most of the free time.

Tuesday, I spoke with physical therapy students. It has been a few months since I talked with college students, but I reviewed a few times and felt ready. The instructor introduced me as the best speaker of the year, even better than the instructor. From that evaluation, I'm assuming I am the only guest speaker that comes. The class of 16 students went well and had good questions when I finished.

I had two days on my own, with assistants of course,but had household chores of getting groceries, mail, taking out the trash, and checking the back deck. After 45 minutes with my legs in the sun, I determined the deck was fine.

Friday had another school, but third graders this time. Going from college to grade school takes adjusting, but it went well. The weather was forecast to be warm again and I didn't think the small private school would be air conditioned. Therefore, I changed my normal speaking outfit of khaki pants for shorts.

One student asked, "What happened to your legs?" before I started. I did my normal routine of explaining about my injury, but he asked again later. I tried saying I don't use the muscles in my legs, which makes them small. However, I'm still not sure I understood, or answered, his question. Another student dozed off part way through my time and never responded. That was a first for me, and one I don't care to repeat.

Mom and dad returned again Saturday evening with stories about their travels. I'm thankful it worked out for them to go and the extra help I had in the evenings. With everything I had going, it didn't really feel like a vacation week. My calendar looks just as full for the rest of May, so I won't be getting a break any time soon. As I told students this week, just because someone can't move doesn't mean they can't be active.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Celebrating Moms

In the quad life, it's hard to describe what every day challenges are like and few people understand regular frustrations. Therefore, we often socialize with other quads, and families, that know what daily life is like.

For kids with spinal cord injuries, and often adults, their mothers tend to become their biggest advocate. These moms often perform all the medical care, handle funding battles, and notice personal victories, no matter how big or small. Every true mother cares for her children very much. However, the bond seems to grow stronger when the son or daughter has significant challenges. On this Mother's Day, I know two moms that are feeling the grief of losing their child.

In March, Aiden passed away after a sudden problem at school. He was ten-years-old and had lived with a high level spinal cord injury for about nine years. I am friends with his mother on Facebook and have been seeing the grief of going from daily caregiver, to nothing.

Last week Monday morning, Margaret passed away after a short battle with respiratory issues. She was 15 and also had been a quadriplegic for ten years. With her funeral yesterday, her mother, and family, is just beginning to experience a new life without her daughter.

Like these families, I rely on my mother for a lot and am very thankful to my mom for all that she has done. Shortly after returning home from our accident in 1985, she started monitoring paperwork, and my medical needs, while still learning her own injuries.

Now, mom spends 20 hours a week on just paperwork for my nursing care. Add to that meal preparation, planning, and taking care of the house. Mom does very well with the circumstances given to her. I'm thankful God decided to bless my life with her and am very greatful for all she does.

As you go throughout this week, remember your mom and all those living in difficult circumstances. Finally, remember mothers that have lost their children, at any age, and that today may be an added difficulty.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Dating Guys in Wheelchairs

Last week, a friend shared a blog post giving ten reasons to date a disabled lady. I don't necessarily agree with everything, but it was an interesting post, but I noticed it didn't say anything about guys. Therefore, I was challenged to come up with my own version. It isn't ten, but these are a few points I would include.
  1. Good Mouth Skills: Most people primarily use their mouth for regular tasks such as talking and eating. As a quadriplegic, I use my mouth for everything, such as writing this blog. I haven't delved into further mouth tasks, but could likely learn easily.
  2. Remote Control: Television use has changed over the years, but they still require a remote control. A regular complaint I hear from couples is the husband won't relinquish the remote. I can't grab it in the first place, so I would not have such an issue.
  3. Quiet Snore: Another regular qualm wives have with husbands is loud snoring at night. My breathing is completely controlled by my diaphragm pacemaker. I'm told I do snore, but it's very quiet, and every four seconds, with no change. While muscle spasms and kicking legs could be another issue, obnoxious breathing isn't.
  4. Easy to Locate: If I'm not in my wheelchair, I stay wherever I'm put. Even in my chair, I can only go to level areas and indoors if doors aren't opened. Even in a crowd, I'm usually pretty easy to spot. Therefore, little wondering where I am or when I'll get home for supper as I'm likely already there.
  5. Available Transport: I deplore shopping and am very content to have my stuff delivered. However, when the need arises for brick & mortar stores, I have handy areas to hang bags. My chair is often utilized when unloading the van as a shopping cart to move goods. I also always have a lap available for tired young children.
Above all, I put God first in my life and would treat a potential partner according to His word. The quad life has many challenges, and they would be hard for anyone to enter into. However, we can offer a full, loving relationship as other men. I don't see me getting to experience this part of life, but gladly live in the world God has given me.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Reverse Positions

In June 2003, I was working at a temp job in West Des Moines. I had just finished college three months earlier and had started looking for full-time employment with needed insurance benefits.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) had helped me through school and upon graduation, had me hire a job developer to assist in my job hunt. On June 6, I took the morning off from work to meet with VR and the developer to update on progress. Over the Memorial Day weekend a week earlier, my job assistant talked with a few friends that were business owners. They told him a company would never hire someone like me because of possible increase in medical insurance costs.

Based on this, VR decided to stop assisting me and stop my funding to live independently. I was told I shouldn't expect to ever find work and should go live in a nursing home. My VR counselor gave me a list of phone numbers to care facilities and that's all they would do.

This was a major turning point in my life, one of which I haven't forgotten. I remember the events, and location, very well. I haven't set a wheel in that building since that day in 2003, until this past week.

One of my web clients works to help people with disabilities be independent and productive. It is primarily operated by VR counselors and they wanted to meet with me on Thursday to discuss changes to their site. The meeting was in the same building that I was in nearly 13 years ago.

This time, I was seen as the professional offering advice and helping to improve the lives of others. Nobody in the room Thursday knew my history, until I told them at the end of our meeting. These counselors were surprised at the news, but glad to use my services.

God has brought me on an interesting journey in the quad life. At the time, I didn't know what my future would hold. Now, looking back, I can see His hand in directing the path I needed to take. It has been very trying at times, but I've learned to trust Him with each day and week ahead.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Sunday 2019

If you watched the news at all this week, you likely heard about the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The news showed video of flames leaping from the roof and the spire crumbling to the ground. For me, it was a reminder of the modern church.

Today is Easter Sunday. All across the world, Christians took this day to remember Christ's resurrection on the third day after His crucifixion on Friday. If anyone, including me, honestly examines their life against the ten commandments, they will see a life of sin. All sin requires payment, and that debt is paid in Hell. However, for anyone who truly repents of their sin and puts their trust in Christ alone, they will be saved. No works are required for this gift, Jesus paid it all. Today marks the memory of that conquering of death and is the basic Christian message.

Picture from reuters.com
However, many churches in today's world reduce the seriousness of sin. They say Jesus is love and leave out that He is also a judge that requires holy perfection. Churches of all sizes have become centers for entertainment, highlighting some particular music, and have messages that merely tickle the ears of listeners. Christianity in its present state has existed for nearly 2000 years, but is ignoring the God they claim to worship.

I saw this picture after the fire. Among the rubble of the fallen building, the cross remained. Even though some parts of Christianity are falling away, Christ remains faithful. There are still churches, and Christians, that truly believe the Bible and follow God's teaching through life. At some point, I believe the churches that have gone away from faithful worship will fall themselves. Many are deceived by them and I pray these people find their way back to the gospel as in the Bible.

Whether you're living the quad life or not, I encourage everyone to regularly attend a Bible confirming church regularly, not just a few times a year. Some may be hard to find, but resources are available to help search. I'm thankful for what God has given me and I look forward to serving Him again for another week.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Tale of Two Doctors

I've seen people say a sure sign of spring is road construction popping up everywhere. For me, it's an increase of doctor's appointments that I delayed over the winter. This week, I had two visits, both with first-time physicians.

Tuesday was the visit about my chair that I wrote about last week. My nurse and I took a slight detour trying to find the facility, but eventually found it the opposite direction from what Google told me. I was quite surprised to see a wheelchair scale ready for me and staff that was familiar with spinal cord injuries. When I was last weighed a few years ago, the total came to 501 lbs. Now, I'm at 509.2 lbs, with my chair. Of course my portable suction and other equipment are a little bigger than my previous measurement, so I'm sure that explains the change.

The doctor was also familiar with my diaphragm pacemaker, even though he hadn't seen one before. This is the first time in over eight years of having the system that I've encountered someone in Iowa that knew about it. Even though it may have felt like an unnecessary appointment, it was a pleasant surprise.

Well over a year ago, my dentist found that one of my front teeth is eating itself from the inside and needs to be removed. Since I use my mouth for everything, he recommended that I have an implant to replace it. However, it's an expensive procedure that my insurance doesn't normally cover as they say it's just cosmetic. The dentist and my primary doctor have been working to show the necessity for the replacement and to have it covered. Thankfully, my dentist was able to get his part approved. The next part of the process will need to happen in Iowa City.

I met with that dentist on Thursday, and I promptly became confused. He apparently does everything, extraction and implant, but knew nothing about the funding approval process. Since my regular dentist is closed on Friday, I plan to make calls Monday to see who knows what is going on. Hopefully it won't be several more months and my teeth keep intact until then.

On Tuesday, the doctor made a point I'm already well aware of, I should be thankful to still be around after this many years of the quad life. Their are a few other senior citizen quads like me, but not many. My teeth are part of the evidence of the time I've been given. This looks to be a calm week, but I look forward to more busy times as long as God gives me, and my mouth allows stick work.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Redundant Overcrowding

The season for doctors' appointments is upon me once again. Unfortunately, I'm not alone in my quest for assisting medical professional's funds.

I've had my chair since August 2015 and never tested how well, or bad, the pressure points are on my seat's cushion. Since camp didn't go well for my pressure wounds last year, I thought it was time to get a pressure mapping done. I contacted a few facilities to see who could do the test, and found one in Des Moines. Therefore, I contacted my primary doctor for an order for the test, and it was sent to the facility.

Nearly a week later, I received a call from a different location to schedule my appointment. However, it wasn't for the test, but to see their doctor who would then provide the order and then I can, hopefully, get scheduled for a pressure mapping. If it shows their are problems, I was hoping to have enough time to get a new cushion before June. This process has already over two weeks though and I don't even have the correct paperwork in place. I'm beginning to think I should have started searching a few weeks earlier.

If you name different systems in the body, I have a specialist doctor for several of them. Those living the quad life have trouble with kidney stones, and it has been a few years since I've been checked. I called for an appointment and said any time in the next few months is fine as I'm not showing issues. The receptionist started talking about July to August as maybe the earliest dates, but had to have the nurse return my call.

A few hours later, I received the return call and learn five doctors left the office where my physician is located and he is not available. Instead, I'm seeing a physician's assistant named Sara Lee. I wondered if she provides pastries for her patients, but apparently not.

As the population ages, I've noticed it's getting increasingly difficult to get in to see doctors I've had for 20 years or more. I'm very thankful to live in a country with excellent medical care, but also wonder about practices like needing to make more visits just for paperwork. I have two scheduled this week, so I'll see what progress is made.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Spring Talk

This week officially ended my winter hibernation. On Tuesday, I spoke with a class of Respiratory Therapy students in the Des Moines area.

After several months of not doing anything, I always feel a little rusty getting back into speaking again. However, with doing some videos these past couple months, it wasn't as bad as previous years. It was a very quiet class though, which is not common for colleges. I have learned how to work with quiet grade school students, but adults tend to have follow-up questions.

Tuesday's presentation started off three days' worth of some sort of activity somewhere. I was exhausted Wednesday night, but have been getting back close to normal energy levels again. I'm still suctioning more often than normal, but it has improved as well.

Friday and Saturday were the first times I've been able to bike in nearly three weeks. At the beginning of 2019, the bike's software did an automatic update that now shows exactly how long my legs peddled under their own power. In January and February, they were going anywhere from 20 seconds to nearly a minute without the bike's motor assisting.

My legs felt pretty calm the last two days, but I was surprised to see they still did five seconds of unassisted peddling each day. It isn't much time, but I thought it was good after missing so much and not feeling well. After 34 years of the quad life, I've learned to watch for even the smallest of changes.

With my assistants and I feeling well again, my parents were also able to go on a short one night trip. They have been trying to for several weeks, but something always came up that it had to be canceled. We are all enjoying the weather beginning to warm up again and being able to get out and active.

April doesn't look too busy for now, but I have a few appointments I need to start scheduling again. Hopefully this week will continue to be productive and I look forward to more warm days ahead!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Slow Recovery

It has been a tough week, but I'm glad to be through it and now looking back. On Monday, I visited another doctor due to still suctioning more than usual. He said the x-ray looked okay, but gave me a third antibiotic. This wasn't my usual pulmonologist and I was told I was likely a germ carrier anyway and they were just out of balance. I don't plan to go back to that physician.

When I got home, I learned that Aiden, the boy I posted about two weeks ago, had died. He was ten years old and had been a quadriplegic for nine years. His funeral was yesterday and the past few days have been spent seeing pictures and messages to his family. A mother of another quadriplegic said she recently learned of a woman who was a very active quad had died after getting this year's flu.

The past few months have been hard for a lot of people and I'm thankful to be recovering. I started breathing more easily on Tuesday and could actually sleep some at night. I'm still suctioning more than normal, but less than I was earlier in the week. In less than two weeks, I have used nearly 60 suction catheters. My normal is maybe 3-4 per week. I ordered more a few days ago only to learn my supplier is out and it will be a while until I can get more. That has made me especially thankful I'm getting closer to normal.

After almost two weeks out sick, my main day assistant returned Thursday. She still gets tired out easily, like me, but it was helpful to get back to my regular schedule again. I kept dozing off in church today, but made it home before really needing suctioned. On Tuesday, I'm scheduled to speak to a class of respiratory therapy students. I think I'll have more to cover this year with my last few weeks' experience.

I'm very thankful that I rarely have trouble with my health. For those with chronic problems, I understand how it can get frustrating and look forward to a time of ease. I pray this week will be back to the normal quad life, but I will try to take it easy as well. Spring weather the next few days should help and hopefully end the trend of illness.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sick Week

The flu has been going around southern Iowa with quite a few people ill. On March 4, my primary night nurse left early due to not feeling well and was gone for a week. March 8 had the same with my main day nurse leaving early and has been gone all week. Despite having the flu shot, I started having trouble Sunday.

It was finally decent weather, so I was able to go to church. However, it was too cold to go barefoot so as I sat in church, my arms and legs spasmed frequently. Halfway through the service, I could feel junk in my lungs that needed suctioned out. It's rather disruptive for me to leave during the message though, so I made it wait. The minister seemed to go on for quite a while, but I was thankful to get home. By then though, my lungs were already hurting.

Suctioning increased substantially the next few days along with temperature fluctuations, sore lungs, and congested nose. This week has made me both thankful and regretful to be using the diaphragm pacemaker as well. As stiff as my lungs have been, I know from experience that my regular ventilator would have had a difficult time giving me air. That quickly causes issues, but thankfully the pacemaker works differently and I still breathe. However, my clogged sinuses make pulling air in very hard.

Trying to breathe through what feels like glue in my nose has made me wonder about the vent again, but that would be more problems with my trach button. Thankfully, if I have a spasm, it sometimes helps partially clear my nose (I don't why, but it does). I've had my nurses and parents help move me more to cause spasms so I can hopefully breathe better.

My doctor assigned an antibiotic Wednesday along with Tylenol, Mucinex-D, and my regular meds. Friday prompted a change since my stomach started issues, but they have decreased. The pharmacy flowing through my body seems to be helping, but I'm still going from feeling okay one minute to lousy a short time later.

I'm thankful for the gifts God has given in the forms of medications and technology like the pacemaker. I look forward to returning to the regular quad life as well as sleep this week.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Urgent Time

I've heard some people say they get a feeling something is about to happen. However, I notice the thought is often expressed after an event occurs. For probably about a year I keep feeling a large change is coming, but can't really give a reason why.

In several places in Scripture, we're reminded that time is short and that this life is like a blink of an eye. I've been having more of an urgency to get things complete and the last few weeks have been doing work on my book not only while sitting, but also when laying flat. It could be why my eyes have been sore some nights, but I'll ignore that for now.

I like the progress I'm making and going through old memories. When I get to a point that I say it's complete, I'm not sure what to do from there. Thoughts of publishing it have gone through my mind, but I don't see why anyone would be very interested in it. I could see going through the effort and expense of the publishing process, then maybe selling ten copies. However, the one person that has read all of it so far says he thinks people would be interested. I think it's rather boring, but I lived it.

Aiden and I tour camp
Through social media, I've connected with a few families that have kids with high level spinal cord injuries like myself. One of them, Aiden, lives in Indiana and I got to meet him in person in 2015. On Wednesday, Aiden was at school and suddenly went into cardiac arrest. After two hours of CPR and being air lifted to the hospital, his parents have been waiting for answers and test results. As of this writing, he did open his eyes and interact with his mom, but is having multiple complications and uncertain days ahead.

I also read this week about another country in Europe expanding euthanasia laws to now include children as young as six. With the way America has been going recently, I wonder when, not if, it will become part of regular "healthcare" in this country. Thankfully, I got my regular hours restored in January through another policy exception in state funding. It keeps getting closer that it soon will be more expensive to keep me home than in a facility.

After 34 years, I know God has given me an exceptional long quad life that few have experienced. As most people, I would like to leave something for people to remember me and possibly be helped by the life I've been given. When my time on this earth is complete, I do not know, but want to use what I can.

This week, I'm scheduled to start getting back out in the world again. With my two main caregivers sick, I'll wait to see what actually happens. Until then, enjoy the present of today and hope to be back for the next installment.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Wrong Direction

Unless you don't live in the United States, it has been hard to watch what is happening in the political arena. Newly elected politicians started making changes early in January and it hasn't slowed down. When New York state passed a law allowing abortion up until birth, it was all over the news with applause and celebrated as a victory. Other states have looked at similar legislation, but I have yet to hear any that have passed.

Not only are babies allowed to be killed up to birth, but also afterword as well. If a child survives an abortion procedure and is born alive, the medical persons on staff don't have to provide life saving treatment. It is very hard to believe such situations exist in what is supposed to be an advanced, civilized nation.

This week, a bill was brought to vote that would protect these babies and require medical treatment given to them. To me, it seems obvious to have such a law, but 44 senators voted against it, therefore defeating the law. The culture of death has grown rapidly, and I have seen groups working to stop the trend.

Almost daily, I see emails or online posts asking for signatures to support something to decrease or end abortion. These efforts are good and I would love to see children protected from the moment of conception, but they miss the point. Changing laws are good, but they can easily be reversed again by the next generation, or earlier.

Where change is needed is in hearts and minds and individuals saying why all life is precious. Yes, 44 people voted that it's okay to let a baby born alive die, but those people were voted in by many more individuals. Christians need to be active in hearts as well as policies.

I'm praying to get out more this summer and to keep writing about this quad life I've been given. I don't know that I want to guess on what laws may be proposed by then, but I'll look to the lawgiver who is in control of everything.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Time to Spend

With my last post, I was preparing to preach for my first time this year despite not feeling the best. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they canceled the service about an hour after writing. So I now have a new sermon prepared and ready to go if another church contacts me.

Tuesday was also my last day for the antibiotic and so far at least, everything appears to be back to normal. I get nervous about stomach problems now any time I'm on extra medication, but thankfully I didn't have any issues. I don't really care for cranberry juice, but will start trying to drink it to help decrease further infections.

With no more sermon preparation, I started back on writing my autobiography again. It sounds boring to me, I lived it, but John has read it and says to continue on. I am now up to my senior year of high school. A lot was going on in that time of life with school every day, doing regular senior activities, and working on a plan for college. During that year I also worked for a local newspaper and this week I looked at some of my old articles that grandma kept.

Looking at the time two decades ago of how active I was and today barely getting two hours a day of being able to do anything. Normally in the first week of January, I look up local colleges and email professors of medical related classes to see if I can come speak. It's very rare I get a response, but I do attempt. This year, I haven't mailed any.

I did go ahead and apply for CHAMP Camp this year even though I hadn't planned on it. A family I have been working with for a few years said they were going to finally send their son this year. Therefore, I signed up so I could be there to help him through his first year. Now it looks like he won't be going though. The deadline for applications hasn't even come yet and I'm starting to regret having applied. I don't want all these months, well years, of laying flat so much to be completely undone in just one week.

Every morning, I get an email with quotes from early Christian reformers. Saturday's email was on spending time wisely and quoted several verses. One of them Ephesians 5:16, "Be very careful then how you live...making the best use of the time." It was a good reminder and one I've said on this blog before.

I don't know what time I have left in the quad life, but I do know it's getting shorter by the day, and minute. I praying this week to use it more for whatever God has planned and not wish for what has passed.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Infectious Week, Again

This winter has been a challenging one. The cold and snow have made it hard to get out and several people around me have been dealing with coughs and stuffy noses. Unless their income is from snow removal, I don't know of many people that aren't looking forward to spring.

A few weeks ago, I was treated for a bladder infection. Unfortunately, the antibiotic my doctor prescribed interacted with another one of my meds, so I was to only take half a pill a day. After I finished the dose, I wasn't real sure it had worked. I gave it another week and sent in another test. On Tuesday, I received the call I expected. I have Staph infection and need to do a week of antibiotics, but a full pill twice a day this round.

I have been working with pressure sores for over 11 years now. Thankfully during all this time, they have not had problems with getting infected. Just before Tuesday's phone call, my day nurse was doing my wound dressings and one of them had a lot of junk in it, likely infection. Thankfully, it appears to have cleared up. On Thursday, my nursing agency's case manager came for her regular 60-day visit.

She agreed everything looked okay and was happy to find that two of the three had again shrunk since her last visit. However, I was sitting in bed with my usual attire of t-shirt and shorts with a temp of 100.6. The same occurred again yesterday with 100.7 I guess I could say I was a hot guy, but that just doesn't sound right.

Before all the snow started, I agreed to preach at a church in town tonight. I've been preparing the last few weeks, but also watched the forecast for snow. I woke up to snow falling again and nearly every church in town canceling, except where I'm preaching. This is why I don't schedule talks in the winter, in order to avoid cold and snow, but thought I would give it a chance. My only conclusion is that I am meant to give tonight's message.

I'm thankful that God has provided ways to treat infections as we live in this fallen world. Three shifts were missed this past week due to weather and illness. These times in the quad life get challenging, but I look forward to better days to come and seeing what is in store.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Valentine's Day

Some weeks, I struggle what on what to write in this blog. Today was one of them, until I remembered Valentine's Day is coming later this week.

February 14 is the day set aside especially to show love to that special someone. That someone could be a spouse, parent, child, and often all of the above. Flower shops and candy companies become busy for the day and greeting cards fly off the shelves.

I've heard some people say that holidays are inventions by greeting card companies in order to increase sales and love should be observed daily. According to my Google search, the celebration started in the United States around 1847. Hallmark began over 60 years later in 1910. Therefore, the main greeting card company does benefit from February 14, I wouldn't say they started it.

It is correct though that someone's care and love for another should be expressed more than one day a year, and daily. I think several wives especially would be expressing another emotion if husbands didn't regularly say "I love you," at the very least.

While human love is a good feeling to have, I think even more of God's love for us. The familiar John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." The Bible speaks of love in multiple places, such as that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

God is love, but a loving God must also see that sin is punished. Continuing on from John 3:16, we read that those who do not believe are condemned. It is a two-way relationship, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15) Even though we as sinful mankind don't keep up our end as we should, God does not depart from us.

As you go through this week, let us remember our love for those around us, but also that which God shows us. I'm thankful for loving parents and caregivers He has given me, but even more for His free gift of salvation.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Sound Check

With only sitting two to three times a day for 45 minutes at a time, it can be challenging to get much accomplished. Some days, with web work, writing, and sermon preparation, I don't know where to begin. Therefore, I added another project. Some might say I'm crazy, but I would agree.

When I go to schools, be it college or elementary, I often use a video or two to help explain something. Most of my videos are getting older though and could use an update. I received a hand-me-down camera for Christmas that takes good pictures, but also does video. I've now used it to do a few episodes of the quad life and I have a few more in mind.

My computer has a program called iMovie that does good video production, but this venture has been my first need to use it. Adding pictures and short clips has been fun to learn and I can do some while I'm flat. The drawback is that I actually have to listen to myself to know where to include different items.

Since changing to the diaphragm pacemaker system in 2010, my primary regret with it has been speech quality. I wasn't used to having to wait for air and could talk clearly when on the vent, pausing when appropriate. With the DPS, I have to stop every four seconds to take a breath. To my thinking, I try to hide my breaks fairly well in regular speech. Watching these videos says otherwise.

Another thing I noticed is how much my shoulders move when I'm talking. I know it's my body trying to take deeper breaths to be able to speak louder. It was something I was aware needed work, but again more than I thought.

I know I'm likely being more particular about it than most people, but it has made me more aware of it. It's part of the quad life that can't be changed, but I can be more understanding when not understood.

Even with faltering voice, I'm thankful I can serve God and be an active member of society. This new venture has shown more areas I need to work on and hopefully become more clear for everyone.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Snow and Cold

There is saying that if you don't like the weather in Iowa, just wait a few minutes and it will change. I'm waiting, but I don't like the change that's predicted.

We were very fortunate the first weekend of 2019 with very warm temps. Since then, it has turned snowy and very cold. So far this month, six of my nursing shifts have been missed with all but one due to weather. This week doesn't look to have much snow, but extreme cold. I think I will be rescheduling a hair cut I'm supposed to have this week for a hopefully warmer day.

It's no secret I don't like cold weather and winter. I try to base my thinking according to the Bible and have concluded that winter, as we know it, is part of the curse of sin. I'll try to explain my reasoning for this thought.

When God finished creation week, He called everything very good. The crown of creation was mankind, made in God's image, man and woman. Part of their rules were to work and keep the garden of Eden. The first couple, and all animals, were to eat what the earth produced. Lastly, before the corruption of sin, Adam and Eve did not wear clothing.

This shows several things when we stop and think. In order to have food all year long for every creature on earth, plants would have needed to be growing and producing all year. That also allows for Adam and Eve to fulfill their job of working the soil. Finally, with going around naked, the first couple didn't need protection from the harsh elements of a cold winter.

On day four of creation week, God said the stars were set in place to mark seasons. Therefore, the four seasons would have been set in place from the beginning. However, based on the above thinking, it likely would have been much more mild, maybe something like southern Florida experiences.

Unfortunately, the first couple sinned against God and brought the curse on all creation. The flood during Noah's time would have drastically changed the earth's climate with an ice age to follow. As I look out my window at a snow covered landscape, it reminds of this history.

God still uses the world in it's current state to show His love. In Isaiah 7:18, and other passages, God promises our sin stained life will be made white as snow. I look forward to that time of after the quad life and the new creation,

Sunday, January 20, 2019

What is Normal?

I'm happy to report that my night hours are back to normal, mainly. Insurance denied increasing the daily limit for nursing services. However, state insurance is likely to approve an extension retro-actively to January 1. Therefore, my nursing agency is allowing regular hours to resume, as long as everything is approved.

It is great to be back to the normal routine, but it also makes me wonder. What is normal? For many people, breathing, walking, and moving independently is normal. Living the quad life, all of those activities would be very abnormal. Therefore, normal would be something an individual defines for her or himself for some circumstances.

For me, wearing shorts outside in January in Iowa isn't normal. When conditions are just right, the regular routine can be adjusted. For others I know, this type of dress code is common all year long, no matter weather conditions. General society may think it's strange, but that also depends on the population.

In the U.S., it is normal to have things such as fast-food restaurants easily available and a common part of some family's meal plans. In other countries, they would be an extreme luxury and only found in select locations. Just within the United States, different regions have various accents and daily routines that are normal for that area, but not for others.

In order to define what is normal, it appears that you first look at the country a person is in, then what region, and finally for the individual. Therefore, I don't believe one universal definition can be applied to everyone. We need to look to an ultimate source for a standard.

As a Christian, my standard that I use is God, through His word. Looking at the moral law, the ten commandments, gives a foundation on how to live and what is good, or not. This year has shown already that everything in life can and will change, but the Bible is the only constant. Hopefully this week ahead will go according to my regular routine, but I know where to look if it goes astray.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

More means Less, and Equal

When your life greatly depends on funding from medical insurance, it can get complicated. One phone call this week set off a chain of events that's still unfolding.

On Tuesday, the head of the nursing department I use for night coverage called. On July 1, 2018, my insurance provider increased the amount they paid per hour for nursing services. However, they also have a daily limit on what will be covered, and that was not increased. Therefore, the change meant that only 7.5 hours were covered instead of the nine I get every night.

I wasn't aware of this until the call. The agency had just been covering the extra 90 minutes during 2018, but were no longer willing to do so. Therefore, the company would be making the same amount on providing care, but by covering fewer hours. The fun doesn't end there though.

Medicaid allows one hour of nursing visits per day, five days a week. I don't use this benefit, so that would allow my night hours to return to 8.5 per night and the agency is willing to cover the final 30 minutes, making my usual nine hours covered five nights a week. That leaves two nights a week that would be short the regular time.

At the end of December, I received a letter from my insurance provider stating my nursing services would be covered January 1, 2019 through July 30, 2019 up to 10 hours a day for a certain amount. If changes were needed, then the agency should contact insurance for adjustments. After getting the letter scanned, I mailed it to the supervisor and pointed out the line about changes. His response was that he tried with another family and it didn't make any progress.

Wednesday, I called my insurance provider's case manager and let her know what was going on. I provided more details Thursday as I knew more and as of Friday, someone else is reviewing the changes needed and will hopefully get back to me early this week.

My parents and I chose Saturday and Sunday to be short on hours, so this has been the first weekend with decreased coverage. I'm thankful I have loving parents that are willing and able to do the extra work and go with changes. We are hopeful it's only temporary, but won't know for a while.

Living the quad life is rarely boring. I somewhat look forward to what may come this week, but I know God is in control whatever may come.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

In-House Maintenance

When you own something, it will need maintenance of some sort to keep functioning. That's especially true when it comes to medical equipment.

On Thursday, I had a hair cut scheduled late in the morning. About half an hour before the appointment, my caregiver starts working on getting me up in my chair and ready to go. Just as she went to pull it out of it's parking spot, I hear, "You're going to need to reschedule." She saw two wires that had their insulation rubbed off and one looked broken.

She tried testing my chin control to see if they worked and no response. I have had this chair for over three years now and haven't had any trouble with it, so I guess it was due to happen. Dad came home later in the afternoon and looked over the situation. He wasn't sure he could fix it at first, but kept working on it. Thankfully, some wire splicing, heat tape, and wire adjustments fixed the problem.

Dad said it looked like I hit something that almost completely severed the wires that go from my chin control to the computer that responds to my input. I don't remember hitting anything, let alone that badly, but evidence shows otherwise. Everything worked well on Friday, so I was able to decrease the mop on my head. However, the lift we use to get me in and out of bed sounded like the battery is going bad. That may be the next item to get worked on, but it hopefully won't leave me hanging.

The tools we use require upkeep, but it sometimes applies to our own life as well. For the past few months, I have neglected this myself. Regular readers of the quad life may have noticed a bit of depression and sadness in my writing. It is one thing to say you know God is in control of all things, but it is another to have full trust in it. I have been saying more than trusting.

This week, I have been especially reminding myself of this fact and am working toward getting back to my regular self. Becoming more isolated during winter doesn't help, but I'm looking forward more to what 2019 may bring, in any direction. As we go through this week, make sure to take care of yourself, such as diving deep into God's Word, as well as the little inconveniences that may come.