No one likes adversity. I certainly don’t. And yet nothing makes you appreciate when life is good more than fate tossing a monkey wrench into your well-ordered routine. One such monkey wrench hit me in a way that to this day has given me profound respect for anyone suffering a disability. Early in 2010 I noticed a nagging pain in my neck and right shoulder—not an uncommon thing for someone with a desk job. I sought the usual remedies: massage, therapeutic massage, chiropractic—even acupuncture. The pain only worsened. Over-the-counter remedies offered no relief. I began losing motion in my right arm and the pain from laying on it or positioning it wrong kept me awake. Any relief gained from any treatment I tried vanished by the time I got home. After a few months I had raw, burning pain that never stopped and I could no longer reach around behind me or lift my arm above my head. I went to a surgeon.
Severe degeneration in my neck had pinched a nerve. In December 2010 I underwent a cervical fusion, during which my C3 through C7 vertebrae were fused. The surgery went well, but the following morning I could not move my right arm. I had been told that this condition, called C5 palsy, sometimes occurs and usually passes with time. But when days and then weeks passed with no improvement I became depressed. I told myself this nerve had been under tremendous pressure for months and simply needed time to heal. You really find out what you are made of during something like this and, sadly, I was a wimp. After all, what if that arm never came back? What I should have considered, however, was that my mind was still sharp; my dominant arm might have decided to take a nap but I still had one good one left; I could still walk; and, to a lot of people’s dismay, I could still talk. I was not disabled by any means! More important, I am blessed with a wonderfully supportive family who rallied around me. I especially appreciated my mother’s care, encouragement, and prayers. I had the care of an excellent doctor. Each day I did the exercises he gave me and tried to move my arm. Finally, one evening in late February I lifted my hand and forearm! I could bend the elbow! I couldn’t lift the elbow but that didn’t matter. My stricken limb was waking up. Five days later I raised the entire arm and after three months of physical therapy regained the full use of it.
I wish I could offer my experience as an inspiration, but I can’t. I was inconvenienced for a time but by God’s grace recovered. Had my arm remained nonfunctional I would have adjusted. But would I have glorified God the way I did when He restored me? Would I have glorified Him at all? The truly inspiring people are those who, although permanently debilitated, not only adjusted but surmounted their obstacles and then reached out to others. I did some research and discovered the following: a survivor of a land mine who now helps craft artificial limbs; a man left a quadriplegic by muscular dystrophy who helps people with disabilities give back by organizing events where disabled volunteers put together care packages for needy children; a climber who, rendered a paraplegic after a fall, designed a machine that enabled, not only himself, but other paraplegics to continue their passion. I personally knew a man who, also wracked by muscular dystrophy, spent his last years in a nursing home. George could turn his head and had almost imperceptible movement in the little finger of his left hand; otherwise, he was totally paralyzed. Yet who did the staff go to when they needed cheering up? George! George entertained everyone with jokes and stories but, even more important, he testified of God’s love and goodness. These people faced inconceivable adversity but looked beyond themselves and extended hope, compassion, and purpose to others. They have bettered the world.
Have I the fortitude—and do I care enough—to do the same?
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