The Long Road to Recovery
My one year anniversary reflection of Todd’s accident:
This time last November, I was an adventure travel writer, author, wife, mother, and friend. But since my husband Todd fell off the roof last year on Black Friday, broke his neck which turned him into a quadriplegic in a matter of seconds, I have become so much more. A nurse, urologist, podiatrist, physiatrist, psychologist, chauffeur, secretary, farm hand, researcher, energy worker, work out coach and personal trainer, and on. My entire existence right now is helping my husband recover, get his mobility and his life back. He would be doing the same for me. The pace has been brutal for both of us. But we have another solid year of boot-camp rehab to put in before we dial it back.
The doctor in the hospital said Todd would never walk again. I completely dismissed that. His physiatrist said that he would only have 6-9 months for his upper body to recover and 9-12 months for his lower. I knew that was bullshit too. It’s been 12 months since he broke his neck and paralyzed him, but he is now walking 170 feet at a time with a walker, and walking on the treadmill for 23 minutes straight. We have learned that much of a spinal cord injured person’s recovery has to do with the amount of work they are willing to put in. The nerves in Todd’s spinal cord that were severely injured may not be able to perform their job any longer, but the ones next to it, if forced to do a movement over and over, can learn new jobs. That is why we are doing rehab on steroids.
In one week, Todd has about a dozen different people coming into the home to help him. Stretchers, work out/trainers, reflexologists, massage therapists, cranial sacral energy workers. Sometimes 4 in a day. There are also chiropractors and acupuncturists. I pay almost everyone. Some are friends who donate their time and learn how to be a help. This is besides the three full days of therapy at Allentown’s Good Shepherd rehab center- where he does occupational therapy, physical therapy, works out in the gym on weight machines, has a personal trainer, rides a stimulation bike and has aquatic therapy in the pool. That’s all he pretty much does except I take him to a concert here and there, a dance performance, the theater, to enrich his soul. When he is sitting in the audience in his power chair, he forgets he has limbs that do not move the way the rest of ours does. He is the same as he used to be.
This is where your generous contributions went and are going. A big chunk went towards the $75,000 adaptive 4-wheel van that we needed to get up and down our snowy 1/2 mile driveway in the winter so we can get Todd to the rehab center and to doctor’s appointments. But besides therapy, I invest in equipment and supplies to get him better.
Anyone that knows Todd and I knows that we are NOT consumers. We lead a simple life. But I don’t know what I’d do without Amazon helping my husband recover. I’m going to share the items I’ve needed in just the last two months. It amazes me how expensive spinal cord injury life is. Listen to this: finger exerciser/strengthener, case of unsweetened cranberry juice, case of iodine swabs, rehab robot glove, urinary tract infection test strips, hand bed rail, protein powder, transfer belt with handles, Lions Mane mushroom supplement, Upeasy lifting cushion, Miralax, collagen, vitamin D, sports foot stretcher, stretching strap with loops, shoulder exercise pully, men’s adaptive long pants, mattress topper for twin bed, wedge pillow, hand brace, bolster pillow, bed furniture risers, massage gun, one handed steak knife, Betadine, slippers, urinal, aqua socks, room radiator, absorbent guards for underwear, cotton briefs, Depends, mattress waterproof protector…and on and on. So your contributions are very needed.
The biggest gift through this whole ordeal, has been the outpouring of kindness and generosity of mankind, both friends and strangers, in this last year. In the form of time offered up to help, meals cooked and delivered, grass mowed, floors washed, monies donated to help with his expensive recovery, prayers and good thoughts. It has been incredibly empowering for Todd to know that so many people, a whole huge community of folks around the country and even the world, are following his progress and supporting him. It is amazing to him that they/you care, and of course, it makes him want to work harder to recover.
Todd has evolved from an introvert to developing his extrovert side. He loves all the people who come into our home to help him, and stretching can be intimate work. This PA Dutch boy now thoroughly enjoys people touching him and moving his body. And he talks to them, about his hopes and dreams and fears and accomplishments. All huge examples of his personal growth through this whole tragic ordeal.
We have had some incredibly low, sad, hard times in the past year, lots of tears have been shed, many sleepless nights of spasms and anxious scary thoughts. But we didn’t quit and we aren’t going to. We both want as much of our life back as we can get.
I have a new mission. Besides getting my husband better, I have been made aware of the incredibly challenging life disabled people have to deal with. I write every night in my journal, recording this amazing and difficult journey, as well as do daily posts on Facebook. (We have always taken long, challenging journeys our whole life, even with our children, but this one takes the cake!) I suppose everything we have done and accomplished in our lives has prepared us for this. I plan to write a book about this Road to Recovery, in hopes that other disabled people might benefit from what we have learned. That your recovery, in great part (if you are an incomplete SCI like Todd, not a complete) has to do with you, and what you want in your life, and what you want to reteach your nerves to do- just like every other goal and dream you pursue. And it has to do with your community of people and who will step up and help. Because it takes even more than a village to get a paralyzed patient to walk again- it takes a metropolis. I want us to cycle on rail-trails around the country and build awareness of how disabled people can be mobile again, write magazine stories, speak as we travel, get more disabled people out of their protective, safe, limiting confides of their home, and back into the world, in nature, moving, and hence fill their lives with more joy, because we all deserve to be happy.
It has been shocking to witness the people coming through the rehab center, all ages, all kinds of accidents, all kinds of injuries and its impact on their bodies. It could happen to anyone at any time, no matter how careful you live. It has taught us and many who know us, how to live with more awareness and gratitude and in the present, because right now is all we are sure of.
We have another year of this insane pace of round the clock therapy and exercise. Then they say, after the two-year mark, healing and progress goes much slower. We are racing a time clock and need as much help and encouragement as we can get from you all out there, so we can maintain it. If you can find a way to pitch in, let us know. We promise to pay it forward in life and help thousands more through this whole ordeal. You can depend on us. We know what we were put here to do- help and inspire others- and we plan on accomplishing it.
Thank you from the whole family- from the bottom of our hearts!
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Cindy I know you didn’t write this to gain accolades for yourself, but you have been truly a gift to Todd and I’m sure he knows it.
Whenever I’m at Harriet’s house and have to put Madison to bed, we go through her prayers. She has never missed a time she doesn’t pray for Todd and you.
It almost makes me cry every time.
Here’s this 10-year-old girl who met you guys once if at all, but she’s heard me talk about you and she loves the Bear that Todd carved me. She was abandoned by her mother that almost killed her in an automobile accident. The mother that hasn’t given her so much as a birthday card in over a year. She was held back in first grade because her parents never worked with her and she couldn’t read. You’d think she’d be angry and self-absorbed in her own needs. Nope! She clasps her little hands together and thanks God for what she has, and asked God to help her MOM and Dad, her auntie Harriet and uncle Tim her various grandparents and relatives teachers and classmates and always adds Cindy and Todd. I know the Big Guy can’t ignore that little girl’s prayers.
I hope every night around 9 PM Todd feels a small kick in the ass from Maddie’s prayer.
Once I get my taxes settled, I’ll see what more I can send your way. I haven’t a clue what I’ll owe. But you can expect something. Can I assist you in any other ways like dried cherries, or cherry juice concentrate (good for inflamed joints). Hell even some Boomchuncka Chocolate Chip Cherry cookies. https://cherryrepublic.com/coconut-boomchunka/
They may not do anything like sooth joints but they sure as hell will put a smile on your face and lord knows we all could use that. Need some cherry salsa? cherry jam? dried cherries?
I have to tell you a little story about Madison. We chose to enroll her in Catholic school because, it was 2020 and the Pube lick schools were going virtual and the Cat Lickers were face to face. She already missed the second half of her second attempt at first grade. We didn’t think a new school in a new town via I Pad was going to be a good choice. So we put her in Immaculate Conception (IC). Maddie is Lutheran. I told her she shouldn’t worry about that and she should be proud of her religion. Of course, I tell Harriet, she’s also Lutheran, that the Lutherans are really the JV’s. IC is about 5 blocks away from where Harriet and Maddison live and there’s a public school one block away.
About a month into her first year at IC she’s sitting on the porch waiting to leave for school and the parents taking their kids to the Public school are zipping by in a hurry. Maddie says, “boy….those parents from that free school sure drive fast” I cracked up she wasn’t being snobbish she was just voicing what she’s observing.
About half way through second grade she got moved into the advanced reading class called “Thomas Aquinas” Since we (to be fair mostly Harriet) spends a lot of time reading with her, she has become a voracious reader and loves it. So I asked her “Maddie, I heard you got moved into advance reading”? She rather nonchalant says “Yea! Thomas Aquarium” Cracked me up again. She said “why are you laughing” I said “because it’s Thomas Aquinas” She said “I can’t say that word”. She is a hoot to be around. You guys have been through this already but it’s new to me.
I do believe they’ll be more of these stories coming. I hope Todd feels a little boost every night. I love you guys. Let me know what I can do. It doesn’t have to always be practical. Let me know!
my dearest friend- i will write you a letter- we love you guys so much. thank you for everything and for being there for us.
Thank You Cindy – it’s been a busy, crazy year ! Your words are lovely and heartwarming and I will be in touch very soon! Love, Barbara
love you Barbara
WOW! Beautifully written, heartfelt summation of the year, Cindy. Bill and I know you’ll do everything you say you will—you’ve proven yourselves in every endeavor you’ve ever taken on, all the while looking out for others, sharing your talents, your compassion, your souls with everyone you’ve ever met. And now that you’re on the receiving end of all these things, you are reaping the rewards you so richly deserve–hooray, hooray, hooray! .
Here’s to your deep faith and determination to take back your lives. We continue to cheer you on, rejoicing in every accomplishment you tick off in this long journey.
Our love and admiration to you all. And a HUGE welcome home to Sierra and Eban. What a blessing to have them back with you. xoxoxo Bill and Carolyn
love you guys so much. thank you for being there for us,
To the kindest of humans, aka Cindy & Todd,
Phew, there’s so much I would want to say that I hardly know where to start! Your motivation is absolutely inspiring. You two are the bee’s knees, the epitome of positivity, and most notably my heroes.
Cindy, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to meet you in person, read your books, and feel like I’m floating in the sky with inspiration. I met you two at the women’s weekend in Table Rock State Park, South Carolina. At the time I was with Americorps helping with the event. I sat front row during your presentation and was fortunate enough to be on the side you were facing; it felt like it was just us having a conversation. Since then, I’ve moved here from CT and have become the Trail Field Coordinator of the Palmetto Trail. I will make it my mission to make the longest continuing trail in SC as accessible as possible; including braille signage, audio tours, and high -lighting paths on our web page that are accessible for all walks (and wheels) of life.
Todd, you are a brave man for battling the odds every. single. day. You deserve all the happiness in the world, and I believe that because of your good deeds from the past, you are blessed with the support system you have now. I cried when I first found out of your accident; the most amazing humans shouldn’t have to go through this, but you handle it graciously. I am rooting for you every day, for your health, success, and happiness. Metaphorically speaking, you are the adamant captain in these rough waters. Your relationships are admirable, and I hope one day I can make even a fraction of the impact on others like you have. Todd you are truly amazing and you are doing the damn thing!
I apologize for the length and poo grammar, but I thank you for your time in reading this. Your presence in this world is necessary & I know you don’t know me, but I love your souls and want to see you very happy. Remember that you, Cindy and Todd, aka kindred spirits, are already amazing. You already have the happiness to capitalize on. When life gets hard and you feel low, I hope a little voice in the back of your head reassures you that you CAN do it. My little voice is encouraging you as well. Beautiful people, I hope we cross paths again. Until then, I’m giving you the biggest hugs all the way from the south, I hope you can feel it. ❤ Ky
what a beautiful touching comment. thank you so much. you made our day. todd has been a bit down lately so your words helped. just typical SCI shitshow.
Cindy & Todd,
You are superhuman, outrageously inspiring and the loveliest people there could possibly be. I wish you luck and good health. I hope you laugh every day and smile often! Thank you for sharing your story, giving us inspiration and reminding us to be grateful.
thank you thank you- but we feel like very small, vulnerable humans most of the time with a humongous job to do!
Gods bless you both, Todd and Cindy.
We noticed that you use your hands and can paint reasonably well, Todd. Have you thought about getting a PC, software, 3D printer even robocarving setup to get back into designing and creating three-dimensional art? You must be brimming with visual ideas!
dear john- all he wants to do is carve again. he is working to get that right hand back. he has a one handed battery chainsaw that the boys are going to set him up with this spring- some small blocks vised onto a stump that he can move around- that will do magic in getting him motivated and working harder
The details that you’ve shared on both of your journeys through Todd’s devastating injury has given your “metropolis” of support people the empathy to stay with you two. What you’ve given to others has come back around to you both. It’s so uplifting to see the progress Todd has made after all the hopelessness in the beginning. You two are models of inspiration for many others; I pray that your community of support can continue to bolster Todd’s & your determination to continue the hard work of recovery.
thank you dear – i hope you are well and are riding your horse and hiking and getting out
Both of you are such an inspiration. I know it is hard on you as it is on him. As I was reading the top part of your article, I was thinking she should write a book about this. A few paragraphs down, there it was, that you were going to write a book about this.
I think about the two of you often and send up prayers for healing. Sending hugs and prayers!
of course- that keeps me going- posting on FB every night and writing in my journal- think I’ll illustrate too!