Think & Write #106

Paralyzed

Amy cruised down the highway in her Lexus sedan.  The sun was shining and all that she could think about was the good news that her company received the other day. The good news was that Pholtage, their communications company had recently made a new acquisition.  With another communications company under their belt, Pholtage would see record profits this quarter.

It was a buyout, Amy thought.  Of all the decisions that the board of directors have made, this was their best one yet. Everyone in upper level management will receive a nice bonus for pulling this off.  This should pay for that week in Waikiki.  Amy turned up the smooth jazz that was playing from the radio.

Not too long after that, Amy felt a buzz in her pocket.  Keeping her right hand clutched on the wheel, Amy grabbed her Pholtage cell phone and answered it.

“Hello.” Amy answered.  “Uh-huh…What?  Our client is there already?”

A brief pause.  “He’s early?  What do you mean he’s early? He’s been waiting for that long? Yes, I’m almost there, okay?  Just give me a few minutes!”

Another pause.  “Yes.  Next year’s budget is all finished!  I’ll see you in a little bit.  Bye.”

Amy hung up and stuck the phone back in her pocket.  Being vice president of finances sure has its ups and downs.  Sure, the pay is great but sometimes the unexpected happens.  Bad quarters can happen, deals can fall through, or a client can show up early for a financial meeting.  He wasn’t supposed to be this early.  Oh well…

Amy came up to the intersection.  The light just turned red before she could even go through it.  Great.  This is not what I need today.

She glanced at her watch.  Fifteen minutes until the meeting actually started.  It was still plenty of time.  It will be fine.  They’re probably making small talk with him right now.

Amy passed a gas station, a gift shop, and a handful of fast food places as she continued in the next mile.

As she passed another gas station, she approached another intersection.  The light turned red again and Amy stopped her car.  Not again.  Twelve more minutes and only a mile to go.

She noticed a stout man crossing the crosswalk in front of her wearing a t-shirt and some tattered jeans.  He was carrying a newspaper and what looked like a Styrofoam cup of coffee.  Amy stared up at the light.  “Could you just change already?”

Two others crossed the street.  A mother crossed with her daughter.  She was carrying a brown grocery bag while the daughter was carrying a juicebox.  Amy drummed her finger on the dashboard.

The light turned green.  Finally!  Amy started to take off when she noticed a car from her side rapidly approaching her.  She was about to go faster when the car zoomed toward her.  The next sound Amy could hear was the sound of glass breaking.

***

Amy heard a series of beeps.  She felt some pain on her temple and cheeks.  She flinched, turning her face and noticed that she was hooked up to an EKG.  She looked up and saw her husband Will standing there, with their son and daughter.

“You’re finally awake!”  Will said.

Amy looked at him and sighed.  I don’t know why I am here, she thought.  “How long have I unconscious?”

Will walked closer to her bed.  “It has been about five hours.  I’m just glad to see you alive!”

Amy tried to sit up, but she couldn’t move.  She pressed her hands on the mattress and tried to prop herself up.

“Use the remote,” Will suggested.

Amy picked up the remote and inspected it.  She found the button that elevated the back of the bed and pressed it.

She looked at her body, which was covered in bandages.  “What happened to me, Will?”

Will stared at her, who looked confused.  “You were just involved in a major accident.”

“Accident?  How did I end up here?  What did the accident do to me?”

Natalie, the younger daughter, stared at Amy’s bed.  “Hang in there,” she sniffed.

Tyler, the older son, shrugged his shoulders and blew his nose with a Kleenex.  “You will be okay, mom.”

Will turned to both of them.  “Can I talk to mom alone for a few minutes?  I’ll go get you guys and we can all see her after I talk to her, alright?”

“Okay,” they both said in unison.

Tyler and Natalie left the room and sat on the chairs outside.

Will walked up close to Amy’s bed and stared at her, wiping tears off his eyes.  “This may be really hard to accept, but you were seriously injured.”

Amy looked at Will with confusion.  “How was I seriously injured?”

Will looked at her legs and then he brushed the steams of tears off his face.  “This is really hard for me to say,” he said, choking back a sob.  “You have a spinal cord injury! You are paralyzed!”

Will continued sobbing and hugged Amy, who was now beginning to cry.

Amy shook her head and sighed.  Paralyzed?  This can not be happening!  What about work?  What about the meeting with the client?  And what about the freedom of mobility?  Amy looked at all the wires that were connected to her and began to bawl.  She tried to move her legs but nothing moved.  “I can’t move, Will!” She wailed.  “I can’t move!”

Will continued hugging her, and stared at her closely.  He tried to say something but no words came out.  He then heard himself say “Oh honey!”

Amy stared at Will, sobbing.  Why did this happen?  She was unable to move the lower half of her body.  She became a paraplegic in just a few hours!  What is going on at work?  How are they faring without her?  “What about my job?”  She sniffed.  “How am I going to work again?  Will I ever be able to walk again?  Tell me, Will!  Will I be able to walk?”

Will grabbed a chair nearby and placed it next to Amy.  He sat down.  “Your job would be the last thing I would be worrying about.  You can call them and explain the situation.  I don’t know if you’re going to be able to walk again.  The doctor still needs to look at all the x-rays.

“Who hit me?” she asked.

“The police told me that it was some young guy.  I left work and I came right over to the accident scene after I got the call.”

Amy scratched her right cheek near the bandaged spot.  “Who was this young guy?”

“The police identified him as Stewart Faulkner.”  Will said.  “He said that they found a quarter pound of marijuana in his car.  Some people that saw the accident said that the car ran through the stop light, but was beginning to slow down.”

Amy shook her head.  “That kid ruined my future.”

Will sighed.  “No he hasn’t.  We can hire a lawyer and sue his family.  Everything will be okay.”

“That won’t fix the problem.  All the money in the world won’t bring my mobility back.”

Will sat and stared at her for a while.  He kneeled down and embraced her.  “Oh honey.  I don’t know why this had to happen to you.  I know that you can’t walk anymore, but you need to count your blessings.  I’m just happy that you’re alive.”

Amy sighed.  It’s true that I’m alive, she thought.  But why do I have to remain alive like this?  Was it some sort of punishment?  Was anyone wronged in the past?  Where did this bad karma come from?

Amy grabbed a Kleenex and blew her nose.  “I want to see our kids.”

Will stood up from his chair.  “I’ll go get them.”

Will left the room and motioned his kids to come back inside.

“Is mom going to be alright?” Natalie asked Will.

Tyler rolled his eyes at Natalie.  “He doesn’t know that.  He knows as much as we know.”

Natalie and Tyler walked over to Amy’s bedside.  “How are you, mom?”  Tyler asked.

Amy flinched, and grabbed another Kleenex.  “My face is sore.”

“Would you feel better if I hugged you?”  Natalie asked.

Amy blew her nose.  “Yes.  Mommy would really appreciate that.”

Natalie kneeled down and hugged her.  Tyler kneeled down and did the same.

Will walked over near the kids as the nurse came through the door, holding a clipboard.  “Amy Thatcher?  The doctor will be seeing you shortly.”

A few minutes later, the doctor came into the room, holding a file and a notebook.  He walked over to Amy’s bedside.  “I see that Amy is finally awake.” He said.  “Amy, I am Dr. Chad Litky.  I ran some tests while you were out of it.  I will tell you the situation we’re looking at.”

Dr. Litky turned to face the whole family and Amy.  “I just received Amy’s x-rays.  I was able to look at them and inspect them for any ruptured or broken bones.  What I found was a broken spinal cord.  From the x-ray here, you can see that it was severed just above the waist.”

Dr. Litky pointed with a pen to the lower middle section of the x-ray.  “What she has is a myelopathy.”

“A myelo what?”  Will interrupted.

“A spinal cord injury,” Dr. Litky explained.

Amy stared at the doctor in shock.  “A spinal cord injury?  Will I ever be able to walk again?”

Dr. Litky shook his head.  “There is no way that you’re going to be able to walk again.  With a severed spinal cord in that area, you would not be able to control any function below your waist.”

Will shook his head.  “What limitations would this give her, other than immobility?”

Dr. Litky scratched his head.  “Well, Amy would experience impotence and certain degrees of incontinence.  I would get her a wheelchair after her recovery here.”

Amy’s face became flush with embarrassment.  “How long would I stay here?”

Dr. Litky glanced at Amy and then at Will.  “To have a full recovery, I’m guessing that you would be staying here for at least ten to twelve weeks.”

Amy cupped her hands over her face when she heard this news.  She wouldn’t be able to work for a long time.  She buried her face in her hands and began to cry again.

***

As the months passed, Amy started to get used to her loss of movement in her legs.  She gave up crying about it.  I guess I better get used to it, she thought.

During those months, Amy had dreams of being able to walk.  One of her dreams was going off to work and talking to the president of Pholtage.  She walked into his office and she was given a raise and a bonus for all the hard work.  As she was congratulated by the president, she woke up.  She then tried moving her legs. When she realized that it was just a dream, she started to bawl.  Why can’t it be real?  It was a nightmare that she couldn’t wake up from.  As she had these dreams more often, she became less depressed.  Oh well, she thought.  I might as well accept reality.

At the beginning of that time, she called work and took a leave of absence.  Over the weeks, she received roses, flowers, and many cards.  Some of them were card trees from her coworkers at Pholtage.  The president of Pholtage visited one time and she was updated on the happenings in the company.  She was told that they were going to elect a new vice president of finance.  She wasn’t guaranteed this position upon coming back but was guaranteed to work in upper level management.

Will and the kids visited Amy three times a week.  During each visit, Will gave Amy some kind of gift.  Once a week, Will gave Amy a fresh bouquet of white roses.

Since Amy’s incident, Will’s work hours declined.  To compensate for this decline, Will had to work half day shifts on the weekends.

After two more weeks, Amy was discharged.  She spent a total of 58 days in the hospital.

During the first week of Amy being home, Will spent most of his hours tending after Amy.  He bought her an electric wheelchair right away.  He made a room for her downstairs, since their bedroom was on the third story. He made frequent trips to the grocery store, buying supplies to address her incontinence.

Tyler and Natalie received a lot of attention at school.  Since the accident was reported on the news, Tyler and Natalie received mixed reactions among their peers.  A few students made fun of them due to their mother’s condition.

At the end of the first week, Natalie came home frustrated.  “Why did this have to happen to mom?”  She shouted.  “The kids have not treated me the same since the incident.”

Will looked at Natalie, squinting his eyes.  “I know that we all had a rough first week.  This is just an adjustment period from her being in the hospital.  Just give it some time to sort itself out.  We’re all in the same boat.

Three more months passed.  Stewart was charged with running a red light, reckless driving, driving under the influence of drugs, and personal injury and was put in jail until the date of his trial.  The Faulkner’s were contacted and a trial date was scheduled for five months after the incident.  For the house, an elevator was installed and Will hired a limo to give Amy transportation.  Amy spent three months in physical therapy and she learned how to use her electric wheelchair.

After her physical therapy, she was ready to return to work.  Pholtage gave Amy a job in the finance department.  It would be middle-level cubicle work but it’s better than nothing.

Amy woke up.  She lied down on her bed and pressed her hands underneath her back against the mattress.  Pushing forward against the mattress, she dragged herself backward toward her wheelchair, which was sitting at the same level as her bed.  When she was sitting in the wheelchair, she strapped herself in and turned it on.

Will sat up and yawned.  “You’re up, honey?”

“Of course,” She answered.  “I wouldn’t want to miss my first day back.”

Amy used the joystick and steered the wheelchair toward the bathroom.  Since the incident, all the doorways in the house had to be refitted to accommodate her wheelchair.

Amy got ready for work and steered the wheelchair toward the elevator.  She pressed the down button and grinned.  Before she left the house, her husband and her kids came toward her.

Tyler and Natalie both hugged Amy at the same time.  “Bye mom.”  Tyler said.  “Have a good first day at work.”

“Good luck, mom!”  Natalie added.

Amy looked at them both and smiled.  “Thank you.”

Tyler and Natalie went upstairs to finish getting ready for school.

Will kissed Amy and embraced her.  “You have a good day, honey.”

“I will,” Amy told him.  “You have a good one, too.”

“I will, honey.”

Will kissed her again and she steered herself out of the house.

Amy steered her wheelchair over to a black SUV limousine, which picked her up.

A chauffeur came out with an assistant.  “Let us help you in there, miss,” the chauffeur told her.

The chauffeur lifted her from the waist out of her wheelchair and the assistant supported her legs.  They sat her in the back seat.  They took her wheelchair and placed it the seat beside her.

The limousine drove off to Pholtage headquarters downtown.

The chauffeur and assistant got her wheelchair out and got her back in it.  “You have a good day, miss,” the chauffeur told her.

The limousine drove off.  Amy steered her wheelchair into the Pholtage building.  This was her first time in the building in six months.  This feels kind of strange, Amy thought.  What will I manage today?

Amy pushed the up button and took the elevator to the 40th floor.  It was the top floor of the building.  As she steered her way toward the president’s office, a couple managers looked up from what they were doing and just stared at Amy.

Amy looked at them and frowned.  “Hello, Steve and Judy.”

Steve, the chief of operations, shot Amy a double take.  “Welcome back Amy.”

Judy, the chief of human resources, stared at Amy.  “Nice to see you back.”

Amy sighed.  “Thank you.”

Amy wheeled forward to an office that looked familiar.  She inspected the title next to the door and saw someone else’s name next to it.  This made her frown.

Amy tried opening the door, but it was locked, and the light was turned off.

A voice made her turn around.  “Hey Amy.”

Amy saw that it was Bradley, the president of Pholtage.  Bradley walked toward her.  “You’re right on time!  Welcome back.  Is there something that I can help you with?”

Amy adjusted her tie.  “Yes.  I was wondering when you will be electing a new vice president of finance.”

“As I told you before in the hospital, we have elected a new vice president of finance.”  Bradley told her. “Until the current vice president resigns, I would advise that you stay in the position that we agreed upon.”

Amy nodded.  “Okay.  That’s fine.”

“I’ll let you know when that position opens up again.  You have a good first day back.”

Amy grinned.  “I will.”

Amy took the elevator to the 35th floor.  “Busy cubicle work.” she sighed.  “It’s better than no job at all, I guess.”

As Amy wheeled through the cubicle farm, everyone stared at her.  Amy shook her head and increased the speed on her wheelchair.  She at last found a cubicle with her name plaque sitting there.

Amy moved the chair aside and steered her wheelchair next to the keyboard.  She began processing the financial statements for the company.

Throughout the day, Amy noticed her coworkers staring at her.  When she saw this, she frowned and shook her head.  What is their problem?  I feel so uneasy here, she thought.  Why do the employees feel so uncomfortable around a woman in a wheelchair?

The day ended and Amy left the Pholtage building.  Maybe tomorrow will be better, she thought.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t.  More people were staring at her and lying to her face when asked why they were staring.  As the days went by, it got worse and worse.  It eventually began to interfere with her work.

Finally, the day came for Bradley and the board of directors to elect a new vice president of finance.  Her replacement found a job at another company.  However, they did not select Amy at all.  Some guy got the position instead.

This was it.  One day later, Amy told Bradley that she wanted to quit Pholtage.  Two weeks later, Amy had her last meeting in the president’s office.

“Farewell Amy,” Bradley told her.  “It’s too bad that you decided to leave this organization.”

Amy stared at Bradley straight in the face.  “Well it’s too bad that your organization discriminates against paraplegics.”

Bradley looked at her with his mouth wide open.  Before he could say anything, Amy turned around and went to the elevator.  She took the limousine back home.

***

A month later, Amy was offered the job of chief of finance at Dietrich & Stein, a major pharmaceutical company located a little further downtown.  It was larger than Pholtage and Amy thought that the corporate culture was a lot better.

Instead of a limousine, Amy bought a van with a movable platform on the door of the driver’s side.  It was designed with hand brakes and hand acceleration.

On her way to work, she came to the same intersection where she had her accident.  The light turned red.

Amy looked around and sighed.  She felt a little more nervous being behind the wheel.  This was the intersection that paralyzed her.  The intersection that almost defeated her.

As the light turned green, Amy looked to her left and passed through the intersection with confidence.  She turned up the smooth jazz on the radio and drove forward.  She stared into the rearview mirror and watched as the intersection slowly began to fade out of her view.

______

©2007  K. L. Walker

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