On June 25, 2003, I arrived early to check into University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics for a scheduled surgery. I spent the next thirty days hospitalized in Iowa City and St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids, IA. The following eighteen months were filled with intensive rehabilitation therapy at different clinics. The most kindly remembered was Iowa Physical Therapy in Monticello, IA. Between the combination of these establishments and the events that preceded my lengthy visits, my life has been forever changed. At these medical facilities, I was exposed to three things that were highly contagious and will stay with me for the rest of my life: Hope, Love and Laughter.
Hope: I was at a low point in my life. I lost many basic skills and was starting again near the same level where my children were. At the time, my daughters were only one and two year olds. I had a lot to relearn. Together we began practicing identical tasks. The one year-old grasped the concept of walking faster than me. My older daughter became a fast pro of steering her mommy in a wheel chair. I had many people who never gave up on me. I had people that saw the light within my spirit and encouraged me through kind words, wonderful deeds and unending support. One volunteer sat by my bed in Iowa City when I had lost the ability to see. She explained what was within the frame hanging on the wall. I could no longer see the picture she described. In her small gesture of giving me time, she gave me something beautiful to look at even if it was only visible within my mind. Phone calls and notes came in from so many friends. With all of these prayers and happy, hopeful thoughts being sent my way, there was no way I could not step-up to meet the hopes that all these people had directed towards me.
Love: My family supported me and held me up when I could not stand alone. I also had medical providers who offered more than textbook recitations, but also caring that went far beyond their job requirements. This included, Abby, a nurse’s aide that brought a carton of Ben and Jerry’s, two spoons and a Styrofoam cup into my room long after her time clock had been punched out. I had people who shared tears of concern with me, but also provided words of encouragement that filled me with the courage I needed to battle the effects of the stroke.
Laughter: I learned that even though my smile drooped to one side because of the stroke taking away my strength, I could still find the sound of laughter deep within my soul. It helped that so many people gave me reason to share this laughter with the nearby world. I learned early on that even though the world may not always feel comfortable laughing with me, it was a healing, enjoyable feeling allowing myself to laugh at the little things that used to seem so big.
For years, I had suffered the repercussions of epilepsy. People had meanly and naively at times treated me like this was a contagious disease. There were some that were fearful if they became too close to me they would catch it and suffer just as I had. Some people even painfully believed the devil was inside my body. I knew seizures were not contagious. I knew I was not possessed. I knew they could not catch it. I was amazed, however, at what I uncovered as being very contagious: the power of Hope, Love and Laughter! Repeatedly being exposed to these three conditions during my medical drama, I now have a power and greatness that will forever alter who I am.
The names of those that I should thank for sharing these lessons with me are too great to begin to list. I can though, in an attempt to repay them for sharing this wisdom, pass along my newly acquired knowledge. If you see someone who needs a boost, if you know of someone who suffers with pain either physically or mentally, share with them these highly contagious conditions I learned during my lengthy hospital and treatment exposures. Hope, Love and Laughter changed my outlook on the world for the better. These three gifts sped my recovery and eased the struggles I had to endure. I hope, through the lessons I was lucky enough encounter, the contagiousness will carry over to you and help your outlook be forever altered as well!