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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Rainy Day Angel

By Donna Lowich

Donna Lowich

Splat! Splat! Splat! The large, heavy raindrops collided with the windows. It was threatening rain all morning and now Mother Nature was making good on the threat.

I dreaded having to drive nearly an hour in the rain to the rehab facility where I was participating in the NeuroRecovery Network program, a clinical trial program for people who have spinal cord injuries. It is a treadmill program where the person is placed in a vest that is connected overhead to a treadmill and therapists "walk" the patient's legs at various speeds. I was injured over twenty years earlier and I was seeing improvement in my balance and standing!

Looking at the weather, I knew the forecast was for heavy showers all day was accurate.

But there really was no question about whether I would go. I was able to drive and my anticipation for steady improvement was incentive enough to get in the car and go! I had missed one session already due to a fall so despite the threatening weather, I knew my decision was already made -- I was going!

The only other nerve-wracking component to today's session was that the treadmill was being repaired so I was supposed to go to another parking lot, call my therapist so she could come to my car and assist me into the building. We were going to do mat exercises to work on as another pathway to my road to improvement.

I pulled into one of the few empty spaces in the otherwise-deserted parking lot. It was a strange scene; there were many cars in the lot but no one was around. I nervously reached for my phone. Instead of picking the phone up, I dropped it on the floor. It slid and landed in front of the passenger seat -- just out of my reach!

Now, what to do? In one glorious move, I had just cut myself off from the rest of the world, and even more importantly at the moment, from my physical therapist and my physical therapy session.

If I was nervous before, I was now in a full-fledged panic. If I tried to lean down to try to get to the phone, I could possibly twist myself and end up wedged somehow under the steering wheel and/or dashboard. I didn't want to risk it.

I opened the door, despite being pelted by rain which was again working itself into a torrential downpour, so that maybe, if someone came out of the building, they would see that I was in desperate need of help; time was ticking closer and closer to my appointment. I was hoping for someone willing to stop by and pick up my phone so I could get on with what I was supposed to do.

I kept a steady watch on the door (though not a single person had passed since my arrival). I had lost all hope, when I heard, "Hi, there! Looks like you could use some help!"

I turned to meet the owner of that voice. He was a tall, distinguished gentleman, holding a large umbrella over his head.

"Oh, boy, do I ever!" I answered, all of my pent-up anxiety released with those words.

"OK, just tell me what you need."

I explained what happened with my phone and that I was going to be late for my appointment.

He said, "I'll get your phone for you and help you inside." He explained that he does this all the time for people in his church.

I gave him my keys and he retrieved my wheelchair from the trunk and then helped me to the chair. We got to the door just as the skies opened up.

He leaned over my shoulder and asked, "Where do we go now?" As quiet as the parking lot had been, the lobby showed signs of life; people criss-crossed in front of us. But, I spotted my therapist, Danielle who appeared in the doorway to the therapy room.

I explained to her briefly what had happened. As I finished my story, I turned to my friend to thank him once again. To my complete amazement, he was gone. He was not in the lobby nor was he outside the glass door leading to the parking lot.

I turned to Danielle, extremely puzzled. "Where did he go?" Denise replied, "I don't know. I was paying attention to what you were saying."

She whisked me inside. Once I started my exercises, I concentrated on them. But, when I returned home, my thoughts returned to the events of the day.

Who was this friend/stranger? Where did he come from? I didn't see him in the parking lot. Where did he go? I didn't see him leave the building. How did he get there just when I needed him? The answers all point to an angelic presence to help me.

Danielle shrugged off the incident but I knew better: He was my rainy day angel.

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Aquatic Therapy (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Rehabilitation (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Rehabilitation - Choosing facility (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Fitness and Exercise (PDF)

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

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

American Academy of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationAs the premier medical society for the specialty of physical medicine and rehabilitation, AAPM&R is the only organization exclusively serving the needs of practicing PM&R physicians. With more than 7,500 members, the Academy represents more than 87 percent of US physiatrists and international colleagues from 37 countries.

American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)Main membership organization for the PT profession, furthering the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of movement dysfunctions.

American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA)ATRA is the largest, national membership organization representing the interests and need of recreational therapists. Recreational therapists are health care providers using recreational therapy interventions for improved functioning of individuals with illness or disabling conditions.

American Speech-Language-Hearing AssociationASHA is the professional association for audiologists, speech-language pathologists, as well as speech, language and hearing scientists.

The American Congress of RehabilitationServes people with disabling conditions by promoting rehabilitation research and the transfer of technology.

Association of Rehabilitation NursesPromotes and accredits rehab nurses and promotes the philosophy of care of the nursing professional.

American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)Advances the field of occupational therapy through standard-setting, advocacy, education, and research.

Aquaticnet.comTherapists. Instructors. Managers. To all in the Aquatics industry. This is your single online clearinghouse of aquatic therapy and fitness information. Why re-create the (aquatic therapy) wheel? We are The Aquatic Therapy Command Center.

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

The Centre for Ambulatory Rehabilitation Research and Education (CARRE)Based in Alberta, Canada, CARRE is a research translational facility that examines various treatments for walking after spinal cord injury.

Clinical Trials: Ambulation ProgramsList of ambulation programs currently seeking volunteers.

Clinical Trials: Locomotor (treadmill) TrainingList of trials involving locomotor (treadmill) training.

High Hopes Head Injury ProgramThe High Hopes Head Injury Program was started in 1975, as a result of tough hard work and need of several families. This one-of-a-kind non-profit charitable organization was dedicated to the rehabilitation and retraining of their loved ones who had been devastated by traumatic head injuries.

Lokomat at Sister KennyLokomat® is a robot-assisted treadmill that supports a patient in an upright position while moving the legs through a normal walking pattern – even if a patient is unable to move his or her legs independently.

Model Systems Centers for Spinal Cord InjuryA 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.

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

Lokomat Program at Rehabilitation Institute of ChicagoThe Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) provides robot-assisted walking therapy using the Lokomat® to help people improve their ability to walk after disability caused by brain and spinal cord injuries, stroke or neurological and orthopedic conditions.

National Rehabilitation Association (NRA)Not long after Congress passed the National Rehabilitation Act of 1920, the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA) began its commitment to persons with disabilities. As the oldest and strongest advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, NRA's mission is to provide advocacy, awareness and career advancement for professionals in the fields of rehabilitation. Their members include rehab counselors, physical, speech and occupational therapists, job trainers, consultants, independent living instructors and other professionals involved in the advocacy of programs and services for people with disabilities.

National Rehabilitation Information Center for Independence (NARIC)NARIC offers a range of services, from quick information and referral to extensive database searches of the latest disability and rehabilitation research. They also offer a number of publications, including directories, guides and statistical reports.

RT 300 FES BikeRTI designs and markets innovative electrical stimulation ergometers to help people with a neurological impairment achieve their full potential.

Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN)The Reeve Foundation NRN is a perfect example of basic science being translated to the clinic and changing lives. Funded by the Reeve Foundation through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is a network of cutting-edge rehabilitation centers whose staffs have been trained in intensive activity-based treatments.

Sprint AquaticsOver the years Rothhammer International, commonly referred to as Sprint Aquatics, has been designing and patenting products that continue to revolutionize the aquatic industry. As the current owner, Laurel Maas's primary goal for Sprint Rothhammer was and continues to be creating products that meet the needs of those who use the pool as a form of physical therapy, training, and recreation.

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.