Monday, November 24th, 2014

FACES project: Community Care for Disabled Adults

Community Care for Disabled Adults offers case management, homemaker services and a range of other in-home services to help individuals who have suffered catastrophic disabilities to remain in the community and to live independently.

Helen

Zen and the art of living a life on wheels.

Many things have been taken away from Helen: mobility, feeling, opportunities, and at times, even her dignity and independence. Helen is not one to give up easily, nor does she succumb to the challenges life has given her. Decidedly energetic and feverntly optimistic, Helen has made the most of her life—a life that is confined to a wheelchair.

It was the beginning of October, 1981. Helen was a bright, young landscaper. She was retuning from a job site in northern Connecticut and was navigating unfamiliar roads in her ’66 Mustang. She missed a turn and in seconds, she went careening down into a gully. Helen suffered a broken neck.

She spent the next seven months in the hospital, two and half of which were spent in ICU. To Helen, the stay felt unreal. It was frightening, undergoing numerous surgeries and procedures, but Helen’s imagination and optimism ensured that her fire would never die. She would equate her time in the hospital to one of her favorite films, The Wizard of Oz. “When am I going to get out of here?” she’d ask her nurses, feeling all too much like Dorothy. “If I click my heels three times can I go home?”

Unable to move her legs, Helen instead spent many hours in the hospital library, learning about her body, to the point where nurses would ask her to go back to her room. Helen describes herself as having a curious nature and wanted to know everything she could about her condition.

Helen also pioneered something she named “retail therapy.” Always wanting to maintain independence, she asked to be taken out and allowed to shop for herself. It was an alternative to physical therapy “which was a drag,” and occupational therapy “which was just so boring.”

When she left the hospital in 1982, she moved into her parents’ house. “The house wasn’t at all accessible,” she said. “I felt trapped.” Helen then spent a number of years moving around the country and living in all parts of the US. She was even the president of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association in San Diego.

Over the years, Helen received many different services for care and assistance. Finally settling in Florida, she began receiving Community Care for Disabled Adults (CCDA) services. “It’s probably the best care I’ve received,” Helen said. CCDA provides Helen with homemaker and personal services. The CCDA staff perform the tasks she is unable to do for herself, but Helen is not one to be pampered. She only requests what is absolutely necessary and the rest she has learned to do on her own or with the help of her service dog Encore. She  strives to make every situation as positive as possible. When she sees others in a similar position, she feels they too should adopt her attitude.

“You can’t feel sorry for yourself,” she says. “Life handed you a rotten hand, I know. You didn’t pass Go and collect two hundred dollars, all that stuff. You can get beyond that and make some choices for yourself, by not expecting everyone to do things for you. Be proactive.”

Helen has even developed her own form of Yoga, a routine she has completed every morning for the past 29 years. It requires personal assistance to perform and every one of her aides has learned the routine.

Helen’s attitude is inspirational. She is very grateful to her CCDA aides for their hard work.

Helen woke up one day to find she wasn’t in Kansas anymore, and unable to click her heels together to go back home, she boldly and without hesitation wheeled her way down the yellow-brick road with dignity and independence.

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