Sometimes you meet someone who has learned to rise above the limitations of their physical body in such a remarkable way that you cannot forget them. Such is the story of Catherine.
I found her in a single wide mobile home, sitting in a power lift chair with her body twisted by severe rheumatoid arthritis, allergic to the medications that could lessen the inflammation and the pain. Catherine only got out of that chair to take a few painful steps to transfer to a bedside commode, otherwise the chair was her daily and nightly place to eat, sleep and interact with her family. With her was her husband, an amputee in a wheelchair and her mentally challenged grandson. She gave directions from her chair like a gentle queen. There was so little we could do to help her: a modification to the controls so she could use them more effectively, an adaptive eating utensil, and an improved seat cushion. Catherine never complained about her pain and if you asked her how she was that day, you knew the pain was severe when she said, “It’s a little rough today”.
One of the most painful things Catherine had to endure was when her son or other family member lifted her into the van for a trip to the doctor as they had no lift for the wheelchair. We asked her if an electronic lift would help and she affirmed it would but the cost was great.
With the help of some wonderful volunteers, we had a benefit concert for Catherine, complete with a band, comedic cloggers, and a male quartet. A local business woman purchased a new lift recliner for Catherine since hers did not have battery back up in case of a power outage and we raised $3,700 for a used power lift for her wheelchair. I wish you could have seen the smile on her face, sitting in that new chair and listening to the concert with only her toes tapping to the music.
Catherine learned what it was to be content in her own corner of the world and I’m still learning, ever mindful of the music in the background somewhere that I can tap my toes to.
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May 25, 2023
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Francesca Robinson, MA