Not all of our personal chapters are sweet. In fact, many of them are bittersweet lessons that continue echoing down the halls of our lives.
Consider the personal chapter of Susan Baier and her son Trenton and their extended family and friends. We had the honor and privilege of publishing “Trenton, Believe” this week, available on Amazon. The subtitle is “A mother’s memoir of her son’s recovery after an accident leaves him a quadriplegic.”
Some readers may not be able to pick up or read a book about this mother’s worst nightmare. Don’t we universally worry about and fear our children being in an accident? That happened to Susan and her family when Trenton dived into a shallow pool and became paralyzed. But this book is about more than the accident and Trenton’s recovery. It’s about the love of friends, family and neighbors, all of whom poured out their concerns and offered to help. It’s a story told mainly through updates from Susan to a large circle of well-wishers. It’s also told through emails from that circle of friends and family, all united in their efforts to bring Trenton home to Kansas City to live as independently as possible.
Here are a few excerpts from the book that will give you a feeling for this family’s personal chapter. Susan has written this book as a letter to her son and a reminder of all that happened to him in the early days:
So we went to the lake for one night, planning to head to MU the next morning for new student orientation.
About 2 a.m. my cell phone rang. I did not get good reception at the lake, so when I answered I could not understand what the person on the other end was saying. The phone went dead.
Instinctively, I knew something was terribly wrong. I got up and the phone rang again. I went outside, hoping I could hear the other person. It was your dad. He said you were in an accident, a bad accident, and you had been taken to the hospital at the lake.
When we got to the hospital we saw your dad sitting on the curb with his head in his hands. I can still see his face and the look of total devastation. We got out of the car and he told us you were paralyzed and being flown to a Springfield, Missouri hospital.
* * * *
Your dad and I were finally summoned by the neurosurgeon. He told us he would be performing surgery to basically keep your head from flopping around. Your neck was broken at the C-4-5 level. He said, “He will never walk again,” adding that you would be paralyzed from the neck down.
I asked him if you knew you were paralyzed and I will never forget his response, “Well, if you woke up and couldn’t move or feel anything, wouldn’t you think ‘I might be paralyzed’?” I didn’t know if this man was in a bad mood or what his problem was, and I honestly didn’t care. Your life was in his hands so I kept my thoughts to myself. I saw this same neurosurgeon right before we were leaving for Craig Hospital (for spinal cord injury rehab). He said in a disapproving tone, “So I understand you are looking into taking him to China.” I had no idea where he had heard that. Sure, people had been talking about all sorts of places to go for treatment, but we were just trying to get you well enough to go to Craig at that point. I looked at him and said, “I will be forever grateful to you for saving my son’s life, but if this was your son, wouldn’t you do whatever you could to give him a chance at walking again?” He looked at me, gave me a nod and kept walking.
* * * *
Imagine not having the use of your arms or hands and being forced to get around, like the late actor Christopher Reeve, by blowing into a straw that powers your wheelchair. The challenges are tremendous, as the Baiers learned. But sometimes the results were humorous.
As you had pointed out to us in Springfield, you had lost a tooth in the accident. You wanted it replaced with a permanent tooth, so once you got home we began the process. This is a fairly lengthy process and required a few trips to the dentist. It was during one of those trips that I pulled up in front of the building and put down the ramp to get you out. For some reason (and that reason escapes me now) you weren’t using your sip and puff to get out of the van. I was trying to hold this 500 lb. chair, because if I let it go, I could tell your fingers were going to hit the door and bend all the way back. Of course, I couldn’t hold that chair and I remember yelling, “Sorry” and let go. You were fine, but I was a mess. I then parked the car and you are now using the sip and puff, heading to the door of the building. Your wheel gets caught in the rocks and you can’t get out on your own. It is quite obvious at this point I am unable to do much with that 500 lb. chair, so a Good Samaritan came along and helped you out. You then proceeded to the door. Unfortunately, the door frame is not quite wide enough, and you end up dislodging the door frame, but you are able to catch a fairly tall floor plant, so in you go with the frame ajar and the plant following you. Oh my God, I am half hysterical laughing and crying at this point. The dentist sees us and was amazing. Without skipping a beat she looks at the door and says, “We were going to replace that door anyway.”
I would recommend this book for anyone who might take their health or their lifestyle for granted. There, but for the grace of God, go most of the rest of us. We have so much to be thankful for and “Trenton, Believe” shows us that the biggest area for gratitude is the love of our parents, family and friends. Without such love, our personal chapters would be empty and meaningless.