Years ago, I worked with a remarkable woman who had spent more than 28 years in a wheelchair. Her story was heart-wrenching; she had been a pedestrian hit by a drunk driver, causing severe damage to the entire left side of her body, including her arm, leg, ribs, intestines, and skull. Enduring numerous surgeries, even having ligaments in her fingers and toes clipped to uncurl them from the trauma. After nine months in a coma, she faced a life confined to a wheelchair and bed. My role was to provide massages to alleviate her pain.
As I massaged her week after week, I could sense her frustration. One day, I asked her, “What do you want?” Her response shattered my heart; she said, “I want to walk.” At that moment, I was 30 years old, and realized that she had spent almost my entire life in a wheelchair. While I, too, desired that for her, I didn’t know if it was possible.
Unexpectedly, I found myself saying, “I’ll help you walk. What do you want to do when you can walk?” She told me about her desire to go to the casino on her birthday, which had just passed. Determined to make her dream a reality, I promised her we would go next year, not in a wheelchair but walking. It was a spontaneous utterance, but I had an unexplained certainty in my heart.
My approach was to take it one step at a time, similar to how a baby learns to move. We started with her on the floor on her stomach, practicing lifting her head. Then, we worked on rolling over and eventually sitting upright. Gradually, her strength improved, little by little.
A year later, on her birthday, we went to the casino as promised. I assisted her as she walked to the car, sat in an actual seat, and stumbled into the casino. She played the slot machines until exhaustion, and that day, I cried in amazement. She showed me the incredible possibilities of the human body and mind. She begged to do the things we often take for granted. Her determination proved that healing is possible when you truly desire it. She taught me to cherish the ability to move, to walk. I hadn’t known if she would walk again, but I witnessed a miracle firsthand.
Drema is one of those clients that threw me for a loop when I first met her. I was referred to give her massages due to her pain. That’s all I was told. I had no idea what I was walking into. She was in her 40’s. Her pain was due to an automobile accident, and not just a simple fender bender.
When she was 14 she was walking and was hit by a car on her left side. She was in a coma for over 9 months. She underwent several surgeries to repair the crushing of her bones, skull, and damage to her internal organs. I was freaked! I was walking in on a woman who had been bed ridden most of MY life. She couldn’t hold up her head, sit on her own, or do much of anything really but lay in a bed propped with pillows. She did have some use of her right arm, but it was very unstable and wild.
At first she scared me. She was angry, she yelled, cried, and she didn’t remember me every time I came. Sometimes her mind would go into a bad memory she experienced years ago and she’d shout and grab me with her right arm which was very strong and unstable as though she was back in that moment. I’d have to snap her out of it. I’d repeat who I was several times during a treatment and why I was there. At times I would feel so emotionally overwhelmed that I after her massage I would go and sit in my car and cry. I would ask myself “Can I do this?”, “Why am I here?”, “Can I even help her?”
She was filled with so much frustration. I didn’t know what to do. She kept moaning that she wanted to WALK. Clearly that didn’t seem that it was going to happen. After all, she had no use of her entire left side. She had been in a bed over 20 years. Her muscles were atrophied, or scarred. She couldn’t sit on her own, she had to be propped with pillows in a bed. She couldn’t even brush her own hair. Her right arm was all she had and it was very shaky, besides that think of a 3 month old baby and their physical abilities. That’s just about where she was, but she could communicate. She would yell out demands of what she wanted others to do for her and her mother and sister would run and do whatever they could for her.
One day after a tough session I just decided if she wanted to walk then I was going to do whatever I could do to make that happen. She had already gone through years of unsuccessful therapy by trained doctors and therapists with minimal results. I had no idea how I would do it, but I didn’t care. I’d find a way.
Months passed by of me stretching her, making her body go through the motions of getting up, rolling over, trying to make her to as many exercises as she could, even if it was just lifting her head and trying to do a crunch in bed. She’d be dripping with sweat and exhausted after an hour “workout”.
Little by little she responded. Muscles that had not moved in 20 years started to wiggle. Her left leg started to move. Her left arm would start to move back and forth. She even began gripping with her left hand which was crushed, filled with scars, and had undergone several surgeries. She began holding up her head and turning it in all directions.
I soon realized her memory was improving. She knew who I was, remembered our visits and what were doing. I began enjoying seeing Drema. I loved her determination and drive. I enjoyed the challenge. I enjoyed experimenting with her and challenging her to see what she was capable of.
Little by little I noticed her fine motor skills were improving, but I knew the mind MUSCLES needed a workout too! So, I wrote out affirmations for her to type on her computer keyboard with the right hand. Affirmations like, “I can brush my own hair”, “I can sit up on my own”, I can brush my own teeth” and of course, “I am walking”.
She has able to wiggle herself into her wheelchair.
And buckle her own seat belt using both hands! She was gaining use of her body parts again.
I helped her get out of bed……
to go and sit down in a chair other than her wheelchair….
She is exhausted from so much exertion!
What a satisfying feeling to see her in a chair for the first time in over 20 years!
Next, came sitting on things other than chairs. I wanted her to be able to use a bathroom again. When was the last time you felt thankful that you could use the bathroom?
So, I continued to help her walk. Her steps were improving. Just like a baby in a walker, I considered myself her life-sized walker! Tough stuff! I was sweating too!
I wanted her to put herself in bed from a standing. We would go back and forth from being in bed to getting up and standing for an hour sometimes.
Now I wanted her to stand on her own for the first time!
She’s “cheating” a bit here by leaning on my chest, but pretty darn close!
A little wobbly!
I wanted her to be able to support her own body weight…..and she did it! Drema is standing on her own!
This was probably more exciting and rewarding than watching my own children learning to stand and walk on their own. Never underestimate what a determined mind can do. She was told she’d never do these things and here she is. Believe, because nothing is impossible.
As Wayne Dyer likes to say, “Nobody knows enough to be a pessimist.” Anything the mind can perceive we can achieve. She had the determination, the drive! We went through sweat and tears….and after a year she did walk!