My brother-in-law Jim was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma about 3 years ago. He was told that of all the various types of cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is the most treatable.
The treatment was aggressive and the outcome looked bleak. It seemed Jim had to get worse before he could get better. One of the tumors was on his lumbar and was so large that it crimped Jim’s spine and left his lower body paralyzed. He was hospitalized at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland for cancer treatment. While he was hospitalized, I flew to Baltimore to see him and spend time with my sister. Leaving Baltimore a few days later, I fought back the tears, thinking that I might not see Jim again.
He made it through the treatment, beat the cancer, and came home using a wheelchair. He was told he would never walk again due to the nature of the spinal injury caused by the tumor. The home he returned to had undergone some changes. In Jim’s long absence, his friends from work had built ramps leading to the house. They remodeled the main floor bathroom to accommodate Jim’s wheelchair and put in a special shower for him. They converted the den on the main floor into a bedroom. Jim’s sons made accessible shelves and work benches in the garage so that Jim could work on making birdhouses. The family dog, Sonny, a black lab, became the best helper dog a person could dream of having.
Two years ago, Rick and I organized a fundraiser for Jim in Maryland. I taught a yoga session and Rick sold his beautiful postcards and greeting cards featuring the best of his photography. Zina and other family members organized a raffle to contribute to the fundraising. 100% of the proceeds went to a special fund for Jim. My nephew, Adam, designed a website for the fundraising event. Family and friends were incredibly generous in their contributions, and with the funds raised, Jim was able to go to the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, an institute specializing in spinal injuries, for intensive rehabilitative work.
Kennedy Krieger Institute offers the most innovative therapy for people who have paralysis. It is also very expensive. The staff at KKC told Jim that, with a lot of work, there was a good possibility that he would be able to walk again. Fueled by hope, Jim started the hardest work he has ever had to do in his life and started learning how to walk again!
Here is more on the incredible Kennedy Krieger Institute:
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Spinal cord injury (SCI) causes damage to nerve roots and fibers that carry messages to and from the brain. Spinal cord injuries can result from physical trauma, tumors, developmental disorders or a number of different diseases. In 1995, Christopher Reeve known for his role in all three Superman movies, was thrown from his horse and landed headfirst into a fence shattering his first and second vertebrae. Reeve’s cervical spinal injury paralyzed him from the neck down. Reeve sought the aid of Dr. John McDonald, who was working at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. After extensive activity-based therapies, Reeve was able to wiggle his toes and move a couple fingers. Christopher Reeve died in 2004, however his achievements shined light on everyone affected by spinal cord injuries. Dr. McDonald left St. Louis and officially opened the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury (ICSCI) at Kennedy Krieger Institute on June 14, 2005. ICSCI is one of the first centers to have a focus specifically on children with chronic spinal cord injuries and paralysis. The center utilizes innovative activity-based therapies such as FES cycling, aquatic therapy, and partial weight supported walking to help patients regain sensation and feeling in their bodies. The center combines clinical research with a focus on restoration and rehabilitation for children and adults with chronic paralysis.
Over the years, Zina has sent me video clips of my brother-in-law, assisted, treading water, learning to move his legs again at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. It was incredibly moving to see the latest video clip last week in which Jim is walking using a walker! The doctor working with Jim believes he will walk unassisted someday. Jim’s goal is to walk with the walker around the house by the end of April!
Never Say Never to this wonderful person, Jim, who will soothe your mind with his rural Pennsylvanian accent, who can have you riveted to your seat or laughing aloud with his stories, and who has one of the kindest hearts I know.
Never Say Never to anyone! Jim’s story has forged this truth into my life.