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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Promises Made, Promises Kept!

by Donna Lowich

Mr. & Mrs. Lowich

Donna and Walter's wedding

November 18, 1973. ". . . For better, for worse, in sickness and in health..." On that day, our wedding day, Walter and I pledged ourselves to each other for all the days of our lives. What seemed like an abstract promise and a vision of things to happen in our later years came all too true a mere twelve short years later.

On December 2, 1985 I had spinal cord surgery to relieve pressure from herniated disks in my neck that was causing me to have a stiff left knee. I woke up in the recovery room only able to shrug my shoulders. The surgeon went back, unsure of the cause of my complete paralysis. I returned to the operating room early the next morning.

While we never got a definitive answer on the cause, I was left paralyzed. After nearly six months of hospitalization and an extended stay in a rehab facility, I was able to begin to move my arms and started to stand up and take some steps. But Walter and I both knew it was going to be a long road back.

After my stint at the rehab facility, I arrived home to a more comforting and familiar setting. But it wasn't any easier dealing with my difficulties in my home than it had been at the hospitals. In fact, in many ways it was far more difficult than I had ever imagined.

Things that didn't pose problems in the hospital now became major obstacles to getting through each day. How was I going to dress myself? Cook? Go back to work? I had a myriad of questions. Unfortunately the answers were in short supply.

I was in the hospital until mid-January. I was then admitted to the rehab center where I remained until mid-June. During that time, I asked those questions of my doctor, nurses and therapists. Each time, they responded in a similar manner: wait until the family conference and we'll have answers then. The family conference is a meeting of the patient, family and the medical team that is held just before the patient is discharged home.

When it came time for my family conference I asked my oft-repeated questions. Imagine my shock when they still did not have any answers! They were going to send me home with no nurse and physical therapy as an outpatient when they knew I had no way to get there. I insisted on answers that were going to help me with the result that I was able to receive therapy at home and a nurse to help five days a week.

It was a good start but for all the times the nurse wasn't there, Walter was. He helped with dressing and became my chauffeur to work and doctor appointments. Sometimes, he also filled in as cheerleader!

Needless to say, it was a very difficult time in many, many ways and for many, many reasons. But I do believe that good things can come from bad situations -- kind of a "that which does not kill you makes you stronger" philosophy.

From the depths of my needs when I returned home from the rehab hospital came all the help I could use. It was freely given which made it at least a bit easier for me to accept.

With Walter's help, I returned to work. He helped me to dress in the morning, got breakfast for our son, Jeffrey, age four, and then drove me to work before ever getting to his office. He reversed the order at the end of each day. Such was his schedule day after day, five days a week from November 1, 1986 until September 23, 1989 when I finally was able to drive myself. Driving again helped but still the rest of Walter's schedule remained intact.

Despite my best efforts to remain positive, every once in a while, I couldn't help but verbalize what I was feeling. "How are we going to do this?" I would ask.

Recently, I asked the question yet again after I fell and broke my shoulder, bringing on a whole new round of caregiving. Walter replied now as he did all those years ago.

"We'll get through this just like we get through everything else, just as we've always done." We've been married so long I can finish the thought for him. "Together."

Even in our toughest times, we can still manage to find humor in a situation. With my arm in a sling, it was difficult for me to wash my face. Walter thought he would help the process along. He got a washcloth and began to scrub my face. I yelled out, "Wait! You don't have to rub that hard! I'm not that dirty!"

Walter has been my hands and legs for the past twenty-five years. But he's been my heart for many years before that.

Editor's note: Donna Lowich is an;Information Specialist in the Foundation's Paralysis Resource Center. Donna was spinal cord injured over twenty years ago and has since dedicated her life to helping others living with paralysis.

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 Adjustment to SCI (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Aging with SCI (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Caregivers PCAs Respite (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 Sex and Pregnancy for Females (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on SCI Autobiogs or Biogs (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on SCI Chat Rooms (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on SCI Research (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on SCI Tutorial 101 (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on SCI Videos (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Deep Vein Thrombosis (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)

Arkansas Spinal Cord CommissionThe mission of the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission is to administer a statewide program to identify and meet the unique and lifelong needs of people with spinal cord disabilities in the state.

CaringRoad.comCaringRoad.com is dedicated to helping family caregivers obtain information, locate services and find support so they can make informed decisions about the care of their loved ones. An online community of family caregivers.

CareCure CommunityRelationships and Sexuality Forum

CareCure CommunityCareCure Community features a SpinalNurse bulletin board with informed comments on matters of the bowel, and all issues of paralysis.

Canadian & American Spinal Research OrganizationPromotes and supports funding research to ultimately find a cure for paralysis. Also publishes journal of latest research they fund. Call (800) 361-4004 or use the link above.

Canadian Paraplegic AssociationAssists people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities to achieve individuality, self-reliance and full community participation. Call (613) 723-1033 or use the link above.

Craig HospitalWith funding from the US Department of Education's National Institute on Disability & Rehabilitation Research, has developed educational materials to help people with spinal cord injuries live in the community maintain their health. Topics include skin care, exercise, heart disease, weight control, alcohol abuse and conditions related to the aging body. Use the link above and click on SCI Health and Wellness.

Center for Research on Women with DisabilitiesProvides web pages on abuse related to women with disabilities.

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

Caregiver.comOffers a directory of support groups for caregivers.

The Caregiver InitiativeA project of the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company to help family caregivers provide care to their loved ones and reduce their own stress. Includes information on caregiver needs, and training materials for family caregivers.

Determined 2 HealProvides helpful information for the newly spinal cord injured.

Family Caregiver AllianceCaregiver Media Group is a leading provider of information, support and guidance for family and professional caregivers.

Family Caregiving: It's Not All Up to YouNFCA and the National Alliance for Caregiving launched a public education campaign to give information and support to caregivers.

FacingDisability.comFacing Disability is a web resource with more than 1,000 videos drawn from interviews of people with spinal cord injuries, their families, caregivers and experts. I know that this is a lot to ask, but we'd be so grateful for your help. I'm looking forward to discussing this link with you, and to answering any questions you may have.

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.

Model Systems CentersA federally funded program of 14 specialty medical and/or rehabilitation centers across the US. The SCI Care System collects and submits acute, rehabilitation and follow-up (annual, long-term post-discharge) data on SCI patients who received care in the these centers following injury.

The Miami Project to Cure ParalysisThe Miami Project to Cure Paralysis has studied functional electrical systems for exercise.

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

National Family Caregiver Association (NFCA)The National Family Caregivers Association educates, supports, empowers and speaks up for the more than 65 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability or the frailties of old age. NFCA reaches across the boundaries of diagnoses, relationships and life stages to help transform family caregivers' lives by removing barriers to health and well being.

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC)NSCISC supervises and directs the collection, management and analysis of the world's largest spinal cord injury database. Headquartered at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

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

National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA)At NSCIA, we educate and empower survivors of spinal cord injury and disease to achieve and maintain the highest levels of independence, health and personal fulfillment. We fulfill this mission by providing an innovative Peer Support Network and by raising awareness about spinal cord injury and disease through education.

National Alliance for CaregivingThe Alliance was created to conduct research, do policy analysis, develop national programs, increase public awareness of family care giving issues, work to strengthen state and local care giving coalitions, and represent the US care giving community internationally.

New York Online Access to Health (N.O.A.H)Offers information and links related to spinal cord and head injury treatment, rehabilitation, and children. Materials in Spanish.

Neuroscience for KidsOffers an understandable look at the segments of the spinal cord; from University of Washington.

New Female SexualityThis link provides part one of Paraplegia News' two part series on women's sexuality, written by Dr. Stanley Ducharme, a clinical psychologist in the Departments of Rehabilitation Medicine and Urology at Boston University Medical Center.

New Female Sexuality, pt. 2This link leads to part two of Dr. Stanley Ducharme's series on women's sexuality, from Paraplegia News

Paralyzed Veterans of America, in support of The Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine, offers authoritative clinical practice guidelines for bladder management. Consumer guides are available to download.

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.

Rehabilitation Institute of ChicagoSpinal Cord Injury: Sexuality

Red Cross Family Caregiving ResourcesInformation for caregivers.

SpineUniverseAt SpineUniverse our goal is to help patients and their families understand their back or neck problems. In clear, straightforward language we aim to explain what causes spinal problems and how they can be treated. We are committed to ensure that all of the information we present is trustworthy and of the highest quality.

Spinal Cord Injury CaregiversYahoo Internet Forum is a place to share information and to support other caregivers who are caring for people with SCI.

Spinal Cord Injury Information NetworkThe Spinal Cord Injury Information Center features clinical information about bowel management and all other medical issues of paralysis.

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.

United Spinal AssociationOur mission is to improve the quality of life of all Americans living with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D), including multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and post polio.

University of Miami School of MedicineSexuality in Spinal Cord Injury

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Fact Sheet: VA and Spinal Cord InjuryOf the more than 250,000 Americans with serious spinal cord injuries and disorders, about 42,000 are veterans eligible for medical care and other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Well Spouse AssociationA national, not for profit membership organization that gives support to wives, husbands, and partners of the chronically ill and/or disabled. Through information and support groups, the organization address issues common to family caregivers: anger, guilt, fear, isolation, grief, and financial threat.

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.