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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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That's What Sons are for

Our family on Jeff and Katie's wedding day

Our family on Jeff and Katie's wedding day

By Donna Lowich

Lying in bed in the rehab center, my mind wandered back home. I missed being there so much! After two spinal cord surgeries, I remained in the hospital for six weeks. This was followed by a five-month stint at the rehab center where I found myself on this long and lonely day.

In my mind's eye, I thought of each of the rooms of my house, and I pictured myself being back in each one of them, surrounded by my family-- my husband, Walter, and, of course, four-year-old Jeffrey.

The thought of being home was enough to bring tears to my eyes. But missing my family made my depression that much worse.

As I remember it, this particular morning was a Saturday, before I was able to go home for weekend visits. It was going to be a long, boring day because there would be no physical therapy until Monday. I was looking forward to a visit with Walter and Jeffrey, but unsure if they would make it in for their usual visit. They had both been sick during the previous week.

Soon, I heard footsteps, the rhythmic taps on the linoleum floor that let me imagine the long, strong strides as Walter made his way down the hallway.

"Gee, I hope it is Walt," I remember thinking.

Then the dead giveaway -- the quick tap-tap-tap of small, sneakered feet running, and as they got closer to the door, a whispered, "C'mon, Dad, hurry up!"

Then, as if by magic, Jeffrey appeared in the doorway. He was out of breath and very excited. He hesitated but only for a moment. We looked at one another, each soaking up the vision of the other.

"Mommy!" Jeff ran over and threw his arms around my shoulders and laid his head on my chest.

This was truly not only the highlight of my day, but of my entire week! Every day during the week, I worked hard at my therapy trying to get back what I had lost.

This visit, and others like it, is what made the rest of the week worth getting through.

By this time, Walter had entered the room and had come over to my bed. Jeffrey could hardly contain himself. He was jumping up and down. "Mommy! Guess what? I have a surprise for you!"

"You DO? What could it be?" I made a funny face to show I was thinking hard. I had no idea what his surprise was.

He was ecstatic that he had not given me any clues. He reached for my hand and gently put his little hand around mine. He looked down, cleared his throat and began to sing.

It wasn't just any song. It was a song that was very popular at the time: "That's What Friends Are For."

He had memorized all of the words and the melody. He was serenading me!

When he had finished the song, he looked at me with tears in his large Hershey-chocolate-colored eyes but with such a big smile that I had to smile too. But my tears had already spilled out onto my face and were racing downwards on my cheeks in a mad dash towards my chin.

He was so proud of himself and I was proud of him too. He had remembered all the words and had sung the song perfectly! The words were perfect for me, and somehow he knew that.

How could he have known the deep funk I had been in less than an hour ago? Jeff's singing pumped more energy and resolve into me than he could ever even know.

I took inventory of myself. Being depressed and crying was not going to change anything. Quite the contrary, it would only serve to work against me and all that I had worked for up until now. Definitely not the road to travel, I decided.

Jeffrey had worked his magic once again.

I found such comfort in the words that Jeffrey sang to me that day!

Before they left, Jeffrey turned to me with words wise beyond his young age:" Keep smiling, Mommy."

Fast forward twenty-four years. Many things have changed: Jeffrey is all grown up now.
(I just got older.) But some things remain the same.

He has always been there to cheer me on, to cheer me up. Even now, all these years later, I look at the wonderful man standing in front of me, and as the song suggests, I close my eyes and I remember. That's all it takes to make my world right again.

Recently, Jeff was married. At his wedding reception, he walked over to me, and put his hands around mine, much as he had done all those years ago at the rehab center. He helped me get up from the wheelchair and held me as we swayed to the strains of "That's What Friends Are For."

Because that is what sons are for.

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Pediatric SCI (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Religion and People with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Children with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Parenting with a Disability (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Mindfullness (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on New Injury Top 10 Questions (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Umbilical Cord Blood Banking (PDF)

The American Camping AssociationAccredits camping facilities, including dozens across the U.S. that cater to kids with paralysis, to assure a safe and healthy experience. Click above to locate a camp.

Children With DisabilitiesOffers information about advocacy, education, employment, health, housing, recreation, technical assistance, and transportation covering a broad array of developmental, physical, and emotional disabilities.

The Council for Exceptional ChildrenDedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted.

Children's Neurobiological SolutionsChildren's Neurobiological Solutions, Inc. (CNS) is a national, non-profit organization supporting collaborative research to advance treatments and therapies for children with neurodevelopmental abnormalities, birth injuries to the nervous system, and related neurological problems. CNS offers families and health care providers information and educational resources.

Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD)Dept of Physical Medicine and Rehab Services at Baylor College of Medicine.

Exceptional ParentThe magazine often runs a column on dentistry for people with disabilities.

DREAMMS for KidsDevelopmental Research for the Effective Advancement of Memory and Motor Skills specializes in assistive technology for students and youth with special needs in schools, homes, and the community.

The Fathers NetworkSupports men who have children with special needs through support and mentoring programs, technical assistance, national conferences and information resources.

Internet Resources for Special ChildrenProvides information to parents, family members, caregivers, friends, educators, and medical professionals who provide for children with disabilities and other health related disorders.

Getting Benefits for KidsThis link illustrates the kinds of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits a child with a disability might be eligible for and explains how we evaluate disability claims for children.

Indian Health ServiceU.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services.

Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery at the University of LouisvilleThe Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery provides activity-based therapies to promote recovery from neurologic injury in children; conducts research to enhance recovery; and trains families, practitioners and scientists to maximize recovery and improve the quality of life for children and their families. In short, we are here to help kids kick paralysis and through science have every reason to hope.

Mobile WomenArticles, resources, online forum for women with disabilities especially wheelchair users.

KidsHealthOffers reliable health information about children from before birth through adolescence, with separate areas for kids, teens, and parents.

Kids MoveDevoted to pediatric movement disorders with up-to-date information about the recognition, assessment, treatment, and support.

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)Provides information on disabilities and disability-related issues for families, educators, and other professionals; special focus is children and youth (birth to age 22).

National Resource Center for Parents with DisabilitiesA deep resource on childbirth and parenting, adaptive equipment for childcare, networking and support groups

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative ServicesThe Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is committed to improving results and outcomes for people with disabilities of all ages.

Our-KidsAn online family of parents, caregivers and others working with children with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Parenting with Disabilities OnlineProvides information, support and resources to parents with disabilities.

Parents On WheelsSite is dedicated to parents who use wheelchairs.

Parents with Disabilities OnlineProvide information and resources to parents with disabilities.

The Shriners HospitalsThe Shriners have three facilities in the U.S. to provide expert, no-cost care to children under 18 with spinal cord injuries.

State Respite CoalitionsThe Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project was established in 1969 with funding from the Federal government as part of our nation's earliest attempts to provide educational services to young children with disabilities.

Through the Looking GlassThe purpose of the National Parent-to-Parent Network at Through the Looking Glass is to connect parents, as well as those who are considering becoming parents, with others who may have shared similar experiences or faced common barriers as parents with disabilities.

Paralysis Resource Center The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

Reeve Foundation Online Paralysis Community Connecting people living with paralysis, families, friends and caregivers so we can share support, experience, knowledge, and hope.

Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.

Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3001, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.