I remember my father once telling me, “It’s dangerous to live.” What he meant was that life is full of risks and dangers and that if we are constantly worried about those risks and dangers, then we’re not really living.
I’ve often recounted this quote whenever a therapist overplayed the safety card with Ben—you know, when they say it wouldn’t be safe to transfer Ben into his walker or some other piece of equipment. In those situations, I always countered that unless we gave Ben the opportunity to try a new activity, he would never learn the skills.
Recently, we acquired a new walker for Ben—a dynamic Pacer from Rifton. This piece of equipment is amazing. After the first few trials, Ben was catching on. We were excited about seeing him return to the days where he would move effortlessly in his walker in any setting.
A few days ago, I was making some small adjustments to his new walker when I heard a “thud” come from the bathroom. Ben was in there with his caregiver. For a split second, my eyes widened, my heart stopped and my mind raced to believing that sickening sound was Ben’s body crashing to the floor after having rolled off the massage table. That is always a risk, of course, however small, since it’s dangerous to live.
“Are you OK?” I yelled, thinking his caregiver must have dropped something.
Silence. No response.
A Nightmare Scenario
I dashed into the bathroom only to find that my horrifying thoughts had come true. Ben was lying on the floor, on the cold, hard ceramic tile of the bathroom, terrified, his arms outstretched. He had, indeed, fallen off the massage table (which we use to get him freshened up).
It was a fall of nearly 3 feet! His caregiver was frozen, in shock, not knowing what to do. Clearly, she had taken her eye off the ball for a few seconds.
I was scared and shaking. There is no other way to describe the feeling of terror bubbling up inside of me.
I was sure that Ben had either broken every bone in his body or had some sort of serious head injury. With Herculean-like strength, I lifted his 120lb frame off of the floor and lay him back onto the table. I’m not quite sure how I did that.
As I gazed into his eyes and started examining his body, my mind played out a million nightmare scenarios:
That we would surely have to call an ambulance.
That my dream about his walking skills improving would never come to pass.
That this massive concussion he had would cause months and months of uncontrollable seizures.
And that his injuries would prevent him from ever completing his university education.
As the minutes passed, his face relaxed and he began to extend his arms and legs. Nowhere could I find any bumps or bruises. His range of motion was all intact. He didn’t wince or stiffen as I bent and straightened his limbs.
This didn’t seem possible. A free fall onto a hard, unforgiving surface? But, yet he was responding like nothing had happened.
Coincidentally, Ben had a physio appointment that evening. We were planning to show off his new walker with his therapist. As I continue to examine him, I wondered if we should cancel the appointment but, of course, his therapist would be the ideal person to check Ben out to see if he had some hidden injury.
As I sat in the treatment room with Ben, I began to worry how a possible concussion might not show up until days later and so I feverishly asked used my iPhone to ask “Dr. Google” what I should look for. Bad idea. I didn’t really learn anything other than add more worry to my already shaken state of mind.
Ben’s therapist touched and manipulated every inch of his body. He saw nothing that would indicate any injury, only a slight tenderness on some lower ribs. Amazing! With his therapist giving a thumbs up, I asked Ben if he still wanted to try his walker. He winked and smiled a strong acknowledgement.
What does a miracle look like?
To say that I witnessed a miracle is no overstatement. For Ben to fall that far, and not break some part of his body, something had to have cushioned his fall. There is no other explanation.
As I got Ben into bed later in the evening, the stress of the day consumed me. I was overcome with emotion and wept uncontrollably. All I could think about was how disastrous the day could have turned out. In the blink of an eye, all our lives could have been changed forever. Those words from my father played over and over in my head.
Once I got control of myself, Ben looked at me and smiled. His smiles have a way of washing away all my fears and pain. At that moment, I felt this deep sense of peace that Jesus must be right there with us, at Ben’s bedside, and as He was earlier in the day when Ben crashed to the floor. Only His grace and goodness could turn something that potentially catastrophic into just a scare. Even though I tell myself that He is with me every step of the way, I suddenly felt that connection at a deeper level.
I also learned that today was the feast of St. Charbel Makhlouf, a Maronite monk and priest from Lebanon, where my grandparents were born. I remember attending masses with the local Lebanese community when I was young, and we would always pray to St. Charbel.
I guess he heard me!
Mike is co-founder of SoaringFamilies, an online community focused on providing families with Caregiving expertise and Coping solutions, so they can live more freely, more fully and with more energy. SoaringFamilies is about believing in a future that is bigger than the past, creating a world where all persons are accepted and included, and where every life is of equal value. Visit https://soaringfamilies.com to learn more and experience the inspiration of Ben's story and the power of an inclusive community.