"If you're going through Hell, keep going."
-Winston Churchill

Feb 27, 2012

It's the final countdown..

Well, here we are. In just four days a dream of mine that I have worked towards for nearly 21 months is coming true. Thursday morning at 5:30 AM my mom, aunt, uncle and I will be headed to Atlanta, GA, for my evaluation at the Shepherd center. I feel so many different emotions: excited, nervous, anxious, thrilled, scared- just about any emotion other than sad or angry. There are lots of reasons for the way I feel. For one, it is a near six hour car ride, and I already dislike long distance driving (more so since the accident). Also, six hours is really the maximum time I should go between catheterizing. So I must be sure to catheterize as soon as I leave and as soon as I get there and make sure to limit my fluids on the ride up. I will also have to figure out how to do an outfit change while in my chair. I will have to wear a skirt up there so I'm able to catheterize; however, I will need to be wearing shorts or pants for my evaluation. I'm not sure if you ever had somebody else try to put pants on you while you're sitting down and unable to lift or help in any way, but take it from me, it is quite a difficult task!

This will also be my very first time staying somewhere other than my home or the hospital. So that in itself is a little nerve-racking. Because it is usually just my mom and I, we still use the Hoyer lift to transfer me from the chair to the bed. Fortunately, I am borrowing a portable Hoyer lift to bring with us to be able to get from my chair to the hotel bed. The unfortunate part is that most hotels have their bed flat on the ground and in order to be able to use the Hoyer lift, you must be able to get the wheels underneath the bed. So, if we are unable to use the Hoyer lift, then my mother and my uncle will transfer me to the bed, for the first time I may add. This will also be my first time to sleep in a bed that is not a hospital bed so I will be unable to raise my head and sit up. For those who do not see me and may not know, I cannot sit up unassisted or sit myself up without some sort of support or help. 

So all this combined with the excitement of the actual evaluation is causing me a lot of stress and anxiety. In addition, I have been trying to paint as much as possible as well as try to coordinate and organize a T-shirt fundraiser, not to mention that I am actually designing the T-shirt as opposed to having Southern Belle do it. Hopefully within the next few weeks I will have prints made of my work to be able to sell. I have roughly 15 paintings “in line” at the moment that people want to buy. During the work week I have an exercise routine so I usually do not settle down to paint until 2 or 3 in the afternoon and I generally stop around 6 or 7, after dinner. All the painting has been a blessing in so many ways. It is mentally therapeutic as well as physically. It is the one thing that can distract me from everything else going on in my life. However, painting is really like physical therapy and occupational therapy combined. By the end of the day, I'm barely able to hold my head up on my own because my neck hurts so bad. But I wake up the next day, grit my teeth, and go back to the grind. And though I love to paint originals and try new and different things, I will be so relieved and happy when I finally have prints so I'm able to sell a lot more without having to individually do each one due to it being very time-consuming and physically painful. 

And one reason for me being so anxious to start selling my artwork is because I'm starting to make car payments on my new van! Yep, I have a new vehicle that I am totally and love with! It is a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT and it is going to make life so much easier and better for me and my mom. 
I am actually able to take the remote/key and by the press of a button open the door, let down the ramp, and drive myself into position for someone to lock in the tie downs. Then I can shut the door and we’re ready to go! In the van I was in before, the 96 Chevrolet, it was about a 10 min. process to get me up in the van and loaded in. Now it takes less than 2 minutes! It is incredible how much of a difference a ramp makes instead of having a lift. It is such a blessing and I'm so thankful that we were able to find something so quickly. And it is a blessing that I will be paying on for a long, long time! Hence why I will need to be doing some fundraisers as soon as possible! It is amazing how expensive anything medical related or handicap accessible is. It's ridiculous, really. But what can you do? I just know I'm so fortunate to have the support and help that I do. Hopefully within the next few weeks I will know more about when I will be able to have the new vehicle modified with hand controls so that then I can drive myself into the driver seat and take myself where I need (or want) to go! What an incredible feeling that will be on that day. It is amazing all the things they can adapt. I will be able to independently get in my van in my power chair, open and close the doors, drive up to the steering wheel and the tie downs will automatically lock into my chair. If people think they hear or see a lot of me now, just wait!

And one final thing I want to talk about is another realization I had the other night of how this accident has been a true blessing in disguise. All my life prior to my injury, I always put something or someone else in front of me. Whether it was a boy, friends, social life, school, or work, I always put myself on the back burner and took care of other things before I took care of myself. For the last year that I have been single and working so hard on me and my recovery, I have realized more about myself than I did in the first 23 years before my injury. I would have never known how strong I am mentally and emotionally. I would've never realized my passions, not only in the arts, but as being an inspiration to others. I have always been a very passionate person and it has definitely helped in my recovery. I recently told a friend that yes; I truly believe I can walk again. I know it will not be easy, it will not be over night, and it will take the proper help, rehab, and therapists along with the determination and strong work ethic. I know I possess the latter qualities but the real challenge is getting the proper help. But I know and I believe that those things that are truly worth having do not come easy, but if you want it bad enough, you can make your dreams come true. I believe I have proven this in the last 20 months. Going to the Shepherd center has been a dream of mine now for so long that the reality of the fact that I'm going Thursday, in just four days, is so surreal. Who would have known the power of the Facebook page and how much good would come from it. I am forever indebted and thankful to everyone and anyone who has helped in any way. Whether it is an encouraging word, a prayer, participating in a fundraiser, or sending in a donation, I am so grateful for each and every one of you who continue to support me on this journey of regaining my life back. 

I look forward to my next blog where I can tell you all about my evaluation and when I will actually be attending the Shepherd center for a month of rehab. Let this be proof that dreams do come true and that hard work does pay off in the end. March 13 will mark 21 months that I've been injured, but honestly, this is just the beginning of all the great things to come. Stick around and see where I am in another 21 months, because I'm going places and plan on doing great things with my life! Time to buckle up, it’s gonna be a fun ride.

PS- if you are not on Facebook it would like to see my art, please visit the following link: http://photobucket.com/katyblake

Feb 15, 2012

God's Timing

I cannot believe it has only been a little over 3 weeks since my last update! There has been so much going on it is hard to keep up. Honestly, I'm not even sure where to start. I suppose I will backtrack to my canceled surgery, which has turned out to be an amazing blessing in disguise. If you are unaware of what happened with my canceled bladder surgery, please read my previous post. Upon returning home, I poured my heart, emotions, and all my time into painting. (if you are not on Facebook and would like to see my artwork, please visit this link: http://photobucket.com/katyblake) Not to sound cocky, but I had no idea I could paint so well; especially considering the complete lack of finger function. I wake up early to do my exercises (roughly 2 hours of leg stretching and arm exercises with theraband and/or weights) and eagerly rush to paint every afternoon. Not only is it therapeutic for my mind but my body, too.  I'm still trying to figure out exactly how to go about selling my work. I am hoping to be able to make mass prints of popular pieces so I do not have to individually paint each one because it is very time-consuming. It generally takes me between 2-7 days to finish a piece of art; and that is if I'm able to paint for long hours at a time. I recently recorded a video to show people how exactly I am able to paint without finger function.  

Although I am learning that I can paint many things -owls, Fleur de lis, the Cross, octopus, ladybugs, crabs, the evil monkey from Family Guy, butterflies and flowers- I am still expanding my collection to see what else I can possibly paint. However, my favorite painting by far is my Saints “Hoo Dat!” owl. Those who are not on my Facebook may not know but I have been trying desperately to find a way to deliver this to the person who inspired it: Saints quarterback, Drew Brees. 
Call me crazy but you never know what dreams may come true if you let it be known what your dreams are. I am sure much crazier things have happened! As soon as I'm finished with the letter that I intend to send to Drew, I will post it for all to read. I want him and everyone to know how inspiring he is through his actions rather than his words. He is a true role model for anyone to look up to, Saints fan or not!  Although I have had a few potential leads, nothing is officially official as of yet. So if you or someone you know knows Drew Brees or any connection to him or the Saints, please do not hesitate to contact me!! You can e-mail me here.

So aside from painting and exercising, we have recently begun actual van shopping… for ME! What do you know that the very first van I got in, I fell in love with. So I'm crossing my fingers and praying hard that everything will work out and I will soon own what will be my next vehicle (for a very, VERY long time). The vehicle comes already modified with an automatic door, ramp, tie downs, and movable driver’s seat and passenger seat. After I purchase the vehicle, the state will then modify it with hand controls so that I could drive right up to the steering wheel in my power chair and take myself wherever I need to go. What an amazing feeling that will be!!! It will be made to where I can drive it with hand controls or so my mother -or anyone else I allow- can disengage the hand controls, put the driver seat back in, and drive it like a regular van. I could even sit in my wheelchair in the passenger seat! As exciting as it is, it is equally as stressful! Not to mention extremely costly, which means I will more than likely be trying to organize fundraisers to help raise the money. 
So, you can imagine how hectic things have been around here. Between exercising and painting, I'm trying to coordinate a new fundraiser, buy a new vehicle, preparing to go for my evaluation at the Shepherd Center on March 1, and then attend the fundraiser hosted by Sigma Nu fraternity at Ole Miss in Oxford, MS, in late March. I am extremely honored, blessed, and fortunate to be chosen to be the recipient of the 2012 Charity Bowl. If you're interested in reading about or donating to this fundraiser, please visit the following link: 2012 charity bowl. We're trying to get a new van as soon as possible due to all the long trips that we have coming up because our current van (96 Chevrolet) is not a fun or pleasant ride, not to mention an extreme gas guzzler. It is also more of a process to load up in my current van as opposed to the new van. You cannot have the car running while using the lift, which is not very much fun during the summer when the temperatures reach 100°!  The Mean Green Mystery Machine (my name for the beast of the van I have now) is too large to even park in a parking garage because it is too much of a high-top! Also, it is by far easier to load up with a ramp (which the new vehicle would have), as opposed to a lift (what I currently use). 

So I think that is all I have to say for today! So I have basically just been doing these things: painting (I currently have about 10 paintings that I have promised to do for people who want to buy them- I promise I'm working as hard and as fast as I can), exercising, researching vans, scoping out different rehab and disability programs, preparing for my evaluation at the Shepherd center on March 1, trying to get a grant to purchase an FES bike ($15,000 piece of equipment but well worth the cost), coordinating a new fundraiser, planning the trip to Oxford, MS, in late March, and trying to have a social life! It is a lot to balance but I know in God's time and in His Hands, everything will work out the way it was meant to be. I have learned a very long time ago that we live on God’s time, not our own. Just to think, if I would I have had the bladder surgery on January 18, I would have never discovered how much improvement and talent I have doing arts and crafts. In addition, I would not be making all this physical strength progress as I continue on a rigorous exercise workout. As more information becomes available regarding any fundraisers, it will either be posted here or at my new domain: www.rehabforkaty.org (not yet completely up and running).  Or you can always just check Facebook! Thank you all for taking the time to read this and continuing to help support and pray for my family and me as we continue on this long road to recovery. We’re only at the beginning of the journey and I know I have a long way to go before I reach my destination, but I refuse to give up until I do! God bless.

PS- Did I also mention that I managed to move my thumb??? It's only a twitch now but it's a start! Always believe!