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  • Writer's picture Kathy Cassel

Not the Journey We Wanted

My husband Rick and I have known each other since we were twelve. We recently celebrated our 34th anniversary.

Like any couple, our married life has had different seasons. When we first married he was in the USAF and stationed in England. From there we moved to North Dakota, Okinawa Japan, South Dakota, back to England, and then to Georgia. Rick then retired from the USAF and moved to the Florida panhandle. We were apart for a while.

Through out our years together we added two children by birth and five by adoption, three from Haiti many years apart, one through a private adoption center, and one through foster care. We had ten other foster children who returned to parents or went to relative placements. And I also have a step daughter. And we now have six grandchildren.

Our youngest adopted children are twins from Haiti who just started their senior year of high school.

That is the journey we were ready for--getting our last two children graduated, watching our adult children become parents and make their way through life, and spending time with both our children and grandchildren. We planned on going on a trip next year for our 35th anniversary.

Those plans do not at all resemble our new reality.

Back in January I noticed that Rick was really struggling to walk. It had been going on for a bit, but I didn't realize how bad it had gotten until we were out one evening. I watched him coming toward me and thought that he looked like a recovering stroke victim. Except that he hadn't had a stroke that we knew of.

He called a neurologist, and they began running tests with the assumption that he'd had a minor stroke. But time passed and instead of getting stronger, he was getting worse. I became very suspicious that they were on the wrong track.

They began looking at other possibilities and finally found lesions on two vertebrae in his neck. It was already June by then. He went to a neuro surgeon who said it was critical to operate asap. So it was scheduled for July 13.

The day of surgery, I drove him to the hospital, and he walked in on his own with the use of a walker. I helped him with the paperwork, then left to take care of some things that had to be done.

The surgeon called later and said everything had gone well. He was in recovery, but I went up to see him once he was in a room. He said he was already regaining feeling in his arms and could straighten all his fingers, something he couldn't do before surgery. He got up and walked with his walker.

He continued to do well the next couple of days, so he was sent to a rehab facility to work on strengthening his walking, climbing stairs and so on. We were thrilled at how well things were going.

THEN IT ALL STOPPED. He woke up and couldn't move his arms or legs at all. He was taken back to the hospital. The surgeon went back in to check things on July 23, ten days after surgery. Everything looked good. But he still had severe weakness in his arms and legs.

No explanations. No nothings. In fact, the records at the rehab center have a very different version of things than what the surgeon told me. I even went to her office and talked to her in person.

But here we are on August 23 and he has only progressed to the point where he can use his left arm some and his right arm only a little. It is very swollen and apparently has a blood clot.

He was let go from his job, so we are now trying to live on my part time pay, but that is not going to work. We lost our house to a contractor after Hurricane Michael and have a huge mortgage as well as the normal utilities, car insurance, house insurance (horrible in our area due to being in a hurricane zone) and so on.

We are now trying to get him moved to a facility where he can get more intense therapy, but the VA is not going to cover much more. They have been very good about it so far, but it ends in 30 days.

We need a miracle.

We need someone to figure out what happened.

We need him to regain his strength.

We need Shepherds in Atlanta to accept him into their program before his benefits run out. UPDATE: We were just told that he has used up his benefits at this level, and he has to drop down a level in his care. They are sending him to a nursing home for 30 days. They say it may have to be permanent because our house is not handicap friendly (It's 9.5 feet off the ground) and our schedules are too unpredictable to provide total care for him. The things that had to say about his abilities and lack of improvement were very DISCOURAGING!

We need him to be able to attend his Security Plus boot camp and get his certification renewed so he can get his job back.

This is not the summer we planned. This is not the journey we planned. I know God had our back, but we need help from people too.

I just want life to go back to normal. We've gone from hurricane to covid to this. I just want a new, good normal.

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