Spinal Cord Injuries – Is there Hope?

Published: July 16, 2009  |  Source: examiner.com
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Turning tragic events into opportunities for others

There are many flashing lights in our lives – when we see “green” we speed right on through life not even aware of what the next day or move could bring. As we cruise through the green light not realizing that sometimes others who have the red light do not halt and come to a standstill – they are in a hurry to “beat” the light and then our lives collide.

There are flashing yellow lights which warn – and instruct – they mean “caution” or “look out” – proceed with care. And then that ever nuisance, the red light, which makes us have to stop dead in our tracks when we want to be moving forward.

Then there are the flashing lights accompanied by a siren – warning everyone else to get out of the way – a police car, ambulance, or fire truck. Some people are like that,
“Get our of my way, or I will run you over!”

Life is like these flashing lights in our lives. Sometimes we have the “green” light in our lives to go ahead – get to our goals – and expect smooth sailing. But then we run into stop signs along the way that hinder, confuse, and frustrate. We start a project and are sailing through only to have something happen that stops us cold.

Some times we do not heed the caution lights in our lives even through the yellow is flashing frantically. We know we are taking a chance and that we might come out okay on the other side and we may not – but sometimes we throw caution to the wind and proceed anyway only to find out our broker is a crook, we should not have trusted our child to someone we didn’t know very well, or we make an impulsive purchase or investment only to find it rotten to the core.

And then we get angry when we see “red lights” and red flags admonishing us to stop, look, and listen. But these lights in our lives can be the most valuable. We heard stories of those who were delayed for some reason on the morning of 9/11 and were probably a little frustrated at the time; but that little bit of a red light may have saved their lives.

And sometimes in life, we just don’t have any flashing lights at all – something comes at us from another color – “out of the blue.”

Joni Eareckson Tada went swimming with some friends and dove off on a dock and broke her neck. Had she ever seen a caution light in her life reminding her not to dive in shallow water? Did this come to her out of the blue or did she throw caution to the wind and “jump in” anyway as we do in so many things daily in our lives? This site tells Joni’s story http://www.joniandfriends.org/about_us.php (A must read.) This one tells of her organization which would have never been if she had not been injured and not given her life to Christ.

Christopher Reeve, the horseman that he was, did he have any idea that he would fall from his horse and be paralyzed for life – to fight a courageous battle only to die from an infection as a result of a bed sore? Did we all think that Superman was invincible? Many times we all think we are invincible, too.

The world knew him as Superman – we knew him as a man with more than superhuman courage as he inspired so many through his continual determination to overcome his injury. He had been making good progress with his injury when he succumbed to the infection – as is the case in so many who are immobile. This site will bring you up to date on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. http://www.christopherreeve.org/

When Nick Buoniconti was playing professional football and racking up awards and honors including the NFL Hall of Fame (He played for the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins) little did he know the tragic event looming in his future. During those high riding glory days, he never knew that one day a disaster would crash into their lives when his son Marc was paralyzed when making a tackle at the Citadel? From this came the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Buoniconti

President Marc Buoniconti’s Message:

“Since my accident twenty-four years ago, my life has changed. While I can no longer play football, I believe I’ve been given a purpose in life far greater than what I could have achieved being an athlete. I believe life has called me to help bring awareness to the issue of paralysis and raise the money that will find this cure. I understand that is only through the amazing dedication of our scientists that a cure will be found.” And I would add, God!

Did young James Shepherd, age 22, have any idea what a day of body surfing in Rio de Janeiro would bring? Could he have predicted a huge wave slamming against his body would have instantly paralyzed him? His story: http://www.shepherd.org/about/history.asp

About Shepherd Center – http://www.shepherd.org/ Take a video tour: http://www.shepherdtv.org/

Did Larkin Allen Collins, guitarist for the Lynard Skynrd Band throw caution to the wind and go ahead against all warning signs to choose to drive while under the influence of alcohol, killing his girlfriend and leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life – ultimately dying of chronic pneumonia as a result of his paralysis? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allen_Collins

Did Gloria Estefan have any foreknowledge that she would sustain a severe back injury while riding on her bus for a tour? I am sure this was one of those “out of the blue” moments. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_Estefan

Did Kevin Everett, tight end, of the Buffalo Bills ever expect to be injured with what doctor’s called a “life-threatening” neck fracture? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Everett

We can have empathy for those we see injured when they are in the public eye and well known for their careers and celebrity status; but there are thousands of people all across our nation who suffer from brain injuries, broken necks, and spinal cord injuries. Many of our gallant, strapping, strong soldiers go off to war only to come home wounded and maimed for life – many of them paralyzed.

And what about the everyday folks who are not in the “lime light” who suffer these types of injuries and have to have their lives permanently halted at the “red light” or stop sign of life?

Case at point, nineteen year old William Henry Hardee, of Lavonia, Georgia, student at Polytechnic State University – avid musician – drum major his last year at Hart County High School – was honored to play in the Georgia Tech Band – playing and marching with them in the Macy’s Day Parade – went for a drive on a bright sunny summer day – was “T-boned” when another driver did not heed the “stop” sign in his life.

We hear a siren somewhere off in the distance and give little thought to where or why it is flashing its lights and in a hurry; but that is the sweetest sound and sight in the world when you have rolled over in your truck three times and praying for help as William Hardee was. While the other driver did not pay attention to the sign in his life, he was not the one injured while William Henry is at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia having suffered crushed vertebrae in his neck. After being taken to a hospital across the Georgia line into SC, and having two surgeries in the same day, he was later transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Read his story here. http://www.thehartwellsun.com/articles/2009/06/24/news/news03.txt

Sometimes tragedies just happen to people and they die, move along, or sink further into their own closed world like Allen Collins did. He had lost his wife after a miscarriage and he sunk deeper and deeper in drugs and alcohol and it cost the life of his girlfriend in the accident and ultimately his own.

After Joni Eareckson’s swimming accident, she wanted to give up and die in despair; but she gave her heart and life to Christ and as a result today God has compensated her in so many other ways for her paralysis. She is a gifted soloist making many inspirational recordings; there was a movie made of her life – and she has a remarkable artist ability using pencils and paint brushes in her teeth.

But most of all she took what could have ended her life years ago and turned it into “Joni’s Friends.” She started an organization to collect and supply wheelchairs for people all over the world. She has been a much sought after speaker. In such a speech made at a Billy Graham Crusade, she said that if this was the way to bring her to Christ, then she would rather gratefully sit in that wheelchair with Christ and than to be walking without Him. So many people look for ways to cope and find it difficult and sometimes impossible – but those like Joni who find Christ and submit to His will, they will not be disappointed. While still confined to a wheelchair, daily she is still walking – walking with God.

Christopher Reeve, Superman, could have just taken a dose of kryptonite and pitied himself to death. Rather, along with his devoted wife, Dana, they made the world aware of the need for more research and more study and more help for those confined to a life of immobility. Together they started a foundation which is now carried on by their children (Another generation of those who care.) While they both are now walking and talking with the angels – their son and daughter carries on the work they started.

Nick Buoniconti didn’t just walk away from his son’s situation; but with a few other devoted believers started a research team that may one day find a cure for spinal cord and brain injuries.

Gloria Estefan and Kevin Everett didn’t take their injuries lying down either. They were the blessed ones as they both were able to regain their mobility.

James Shepherd has also made a remarkable recovery although he still walks with a cane. It was through his efforts and the support of his parents that he received intensive rehabilitation going all over the US to find the best care available. Realizing there was no state of the art rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, James and his parents began raising money to build one. Their story is a blessing to so many and you can best read of the history of the Shepherd Center in their own words. Today because of their unswerving dedication and desire to help others who were going through what they did, they have given to Atlanta and the world an unspeakable gift. William Hardee is doing well there.

Sometimes we see different lights in our lives and we can either proceed with caution – go full speed ahead or come to a dead stop. But sometimes we see the light of God around a person and it is called a halo. How else could Joni give that beautiful smile to others; and how else could Superman in all his pain be so human as to think of others – other than himself? How could Nick begin a major research center to help others if it had not been for the tragic events in their lives?

How else could James Shepherd visit William Henry Hardee in his room at the Shepherd Center encouraging him and telling him that he was just about his age when he had his accident and giving him advice on how to heal more quickly? Because he and the others made a difference in the lives of others through the tragic events in their own lives – they are real live angels with halos.

My family suffered a horrendous tragic event last year and for while, I didn’t want to move on – didn’t care about life – but God had a plan for my life and my verse that sustained me daily was: Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.”

The Bible tells us to post scripture where we can see it everyday – and I put this in huge letters on my fridge. Those words sustained me through some of the darkest days of my life – they still do. When you need encouragement read this fourth chapter of Philippians and see how Paul kept going through difficult times. Through his difficulties came much of the New Testament which has survived thousands of years.

All of these wonderful organizations were started by family – families can do anything through the power of God. Families are the hope of this nation through Christ. With all the evil going on in the world, it is our hope and refreshment to see those who care and who have the love of God in their hearts.

There is a song which has a line, “Will those who come behind us find us faithful?” Because of people like these who came before William Henry, there is more hope and help toward a complete recovery for him. There is an old adage that says, “Don’t judge me until you have walked a mile in my shoes.” Sometimes it is only those who have walked in the same shoes that can truly identify and understand … and even those who may never walk again are still living life to the fullest and finding great joy in helping others.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him ….because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

….”And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.’

Suffering can produce bitterness and anger – or it can produce love and HOPE! Yes, because of what all these people endured and then followed a path to helping others – there is hope for spinal cord injuries and other neurological injuries for the everyday folks like William Henry.

“Our glorified body,” says Joni Eareckson Tada, “will be a body like the Lord Jesus’ body. It was perfectly fit for earth; He could eat a breakfast of fish on the beach with His disciples after His resurrection. His body was also perfectly suited for heaven; He could walk through a wall, or be walking on the road to Emmaus in one moment and appear in the upper room in Jerusalem the next. So we’ll have these incredibly marvelous bodies, perfectly suited for both earth and heaven.” There will no need for the handicap sign anywhere in our lives ever again.

By Patricia Walston