It has been a week since my last blog. At that time, Aimee was suffering from intense pain from at least eight areas of her body. Today her pain is concentrated in only one area of her body, primarily her abdomen, the donor site of her muscle flap. Aimee’s other donor site, her right thigh from which the skin was taken to complete her skin graft, is healing rapidly and her pain in that area has subsided significantly. The area where she received the skin graft is healing well and the grafts are adhering as expected. Her progress from where she was a week ago is as night is to day.
I love the night and day comparison when referring to Aimee’s progress. Nighttime is full of uncertainty and often evokes fear. Bad things usually happen at night, good things happen during the day. Sampa always told me that nothing good happens after midnight and he encouraged me to always be home before then. I have dispensed that same advice to Aimee and Paige and I believe there is much wisdom there. Daytime is when you plant and sow, it is a time to seize opportunities and embrace new challenges. I am happy to report that as of this past Friday, the sun has once again begun its ascent.
The readers and followers of this blog represent Aimee’s daytime. I believe that you are one of the key reasons for Aimee’s improvement. I read to her many of the emails and blog responses that you send in and she is encouraged by your words and well wishes. Some of you send cards, which we also share with Aimee. A gentleman in Ohio even sent Aimee a Cabbage Patch doll named Sasha Eden. Sasha made Aimee’s rising sun shine even brighter.
Aimee has had celebrities reach out to her and she was amazed to learn of a recent star-studded event during which many renowned stars and musicians reached out to her with words of encouragement. Ann Curry, Katie Couric, Kirstie Alley and Sophia Vergara are a few of the most notable stars to reach out to Aimee. But you don’t have to be famous to attract Aimee’s affections. She has been most amazed by the testimonials of people like Becky Springer, Ashley Kurpiel and Scott Rigsby, fellow amputees who have fought through the difficulties of relearning their basic life skills. These are the heroes on which Aimee’s inspiration and recovery will be based. They are also people who greatly inspire me with their testimonies and vigor for life.
Aimee truly appreciates the words of encouragement and prayers that she has received from all over the world. I can testify that we have a “prayer bubble” surrounding us. At first it seemed concentrated at the hospital, but now it appears to follow our entire family around. I believe this is because your prayers have been broadcast out to all of us and you need to know that those prayers have been effective in reaching us.
Speaking of daylight, Aimee got a huge dose of it yesterday. For the first time in 49 days, Aimee got up in a wheelchair and rolled out of her hospital room.
Now that you have picked yourself up off the floor, I will continue.
In your mind’s eye, you probably are picturing Aimee grabbing a wheelchair and scooting into it by herself and then rolling herself through doorways and down hallways like some superhuman quad amputee. Dispel such notions. The process of actually sitting up requires the aid of a very good physical therapist, which we are fortunate to have in Chris the “PT Guru”. Chris is pretty amazing. Not only can he move Aimee smoothly into a wheelchair, he can do it without eliciting the slightest sign of discomfort from Aimee.
After she got up into her chair, I pushed Aimee down the hallway and out the front door of the burn unit. For one full hour I pushed Aimee around, giving her a tour of the outside of the hospital while her mother followed along with a water jug for Aimee’s hydration. All three of us talked while we rolled along and eventually we came to rest near a grove of pine trees. The smile on Aimee’s face said that this was the best therapy that she has had in weeks. Not one thought of the pain in her abdomen, not the slightest concern over her time away from the ICU. Fresh scenery and close proximity to nature was all she needed. Nature therapy – the basis of Aimee’s master’s thesis.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to spend 49 days in bed in the same room, staring at the same walls. It doesn’t matter if you drape the walls with “Get Well Aimee” banners, it’s the walls themselves that seem to close in on you after awhile. It isn’t just the appearance of the room that soon disagrees with you, or the closed in space of four walls. It’s the absence of the warmth of the sun upon your skin, the feeling of the breeze blowing through your hair and the smell of pine trees that you truly miss. These are things we take for granted, but they are things that people living shut-in lives long for. These are the things that have brought Aimee great joy over the past two days.
As we sat amongst the pine trees, Aimee, Donna and I talked about life. We tried to come to an understanding about how the events of the past 49 days have impacted her life.
“So Aimee, how do you really feel about everything that has happened the past 49 days?” I asked.
“It’s okay,” she responded after a bit of thought.
“Okay how?” I dug deeper.
Aimee pondered the question for a moment. She’s always been very thoughtful and she doesn’t speak on the fly without knowing where she’s going. Aimee seems to always be two steps ahead. I bet she’d make a very good chess player.
“I don’t have any regrets about what has happened. I don’t focus on what I’ve lost, I would rather focus on what I’ve gained. I feel like I’ve been blessed.”
I was stunned by her response. I hadn’t anticipated this from her. It wasn’t that I was surprised about her lack of regrets, but her comment on being blessed caught me off guard. Keep in mind that I have said this to the media, that we’ve been blessed by God that Aimee is alive, so I thought this is what she meant by that statement.
“Yes Aimee,” I replied, “I feel blessed that you are alive.”
Aimee shook her head. “No, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Then what do you mean?”
“I mean that I am blessed to have the opportunity to experience something that not many other people have the chance to experience. I am blessed to be able to have a challenge that not many others get to have. I am blessed to have the capacity to share my experience with others and have a chance to improve the quality of someone else’s life. I’m blessed to be different.”
I could only shake my head. I was and I am in awe of my incredible daughter. She has embraced her new life as a challenge and an opportunity. Perhaps all this was preordained. Last night I received a picture text message from Paige. She took a picture of a magnet that we have had hanging on our refrigerator for the past ten years. The words on the magnet are in beautiful script:
“Help me O Lord to recognize Your opportunities in my difficulties.”
I have seen that magnet on the fridge for ten years, but it has become such a common sight that I have relegated it to the back of my mind. Perhaps it was in the backs of all our minds, but God has yanked it out to maintain a prevalent position in all our lives.
So here we are on the dawn of a new day and Aimee, Paige, Donna and I all view life exactly the same. While we all see that Aimee’s opportunities are boundless, we also know that Aimee’s response will be critical. I believe she has the right to change her mind. She has the right to mourn her losses, the right to be angry, the right to be sad. I continue to expect it, but I continue to be amazed at her resilience and strength. Perhaps she is simply projecting my thoughts. It could be that she is telling me what I want to hear. However, I have no expectations of what Aimee should think; I simply want her to be herself. She’s a very smart woman and I don’t think she’s merely parroting my thoughts back at me. At the same time, I don’t want everyone to think that she is an unreal superwoman, but her responses to her condition continue to amaze me.
I only relate this because I want you to understand and appreciate the incredible heart of a very strong young lady. I also ask you to grant her the grace to be less than perfect. I’m sure that she will have moments of extreme frailty, but even when that happens she will always be an incredible inspiration to me. In Aimee’s greatest moment of weakness, she will always be stronger than I can ever hope to be.
God bless you all!
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