Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Faces of Caregiving: Laura - Spinal Cord Injury

Imagine the joys of being three months pregnant (okay, leave out the morning sickness part). Imagine the thrill of expecting your first child with your husband of 20+ years.

Laura and her husband, Greg, were experiencing this immense joy when Greg was involved in a horrific motorcycle accident and left for dead.

The strength shown by Laura when this happened to her and she was thrust into the world of caregiving is nothing short of inspiring.

Laura not only tackled the challenge of caregiving but became a devoted mother and terrific advocate for emergency preparedness for the disabled.

Laura recently lost her husband but continues her advocacy work and was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Robert’s Sister:   Tell us about your caregiving situation.

Laura:  When I was three months pregnant my husband was in a hit/run road rage motorcycle accident. It seemed only natural to care for my friend, my husband at that time of 20 years. He had a T-5 Spinal Cord Injury leaving him as a tetraplegic (legs & one arm) with Syringomyelia, Autonomic Dysreflexia and Complex RegionalPain Syndrome. He recently went to "dance with the Lord" on July 1, 2012.

Robert’s Sister:  Tell us a little bit about the diseases/disorders your husband faced.

Laura:  He required 75% assistance throughout the day to transfer, use the restroom, retrieve things that had been dropped on the floor and had pain so severe that it can cause the entire upper body to spasm uncontrollably. We had to watch for lumps on the back which was a sign of spinal cord fluid back up. We also had to watch for signs of body shutdown which was (high x (blood sugar + temperature + blood pressure)) = body shutdown. He escaped it four times.

Robert’s Sister:  As a caregiver, what is the biggest obstacle you've had to face?

Laura:  Ignorance. From day one we were told we couldn't continue to be together, that we wouldn't survive, that it was too tough, that people with disabilities got everything (even financially) including accommodations in emergency management design (of which there weren't).

Robert’s Sister:  How did you overcome that obstacle?

Laura:  Those obstacles – don't listen to naysayers!  They also say that marriages don't survive major family changes within only a few years. Within six years we had a spinal cord injury, a baby and move from one state to another!  We also continued to smile!  But we fought our challenges by getting active in the community via emergency management, through politicians and through writing.

Robert’s Sister:  What organizations did you become involved with due to your caregiving situation?

Laura:  In Florida we were involved with Spinal Cord support groups, Center for Independent Living, and County Emergency Operation Committees. In Georgia, I became involved with the Gwinnett Emergency Preparedness Committee, a National Emergency Preparedness Committee for the National Center for Independent Living Centers, the Gwinnett Emergency Assistance Committee, wrote essays for two (soon to be 3) Caregiving.com books, blogged on Caregiving.com, worked with the local Independent Living Center, and gave presentations in both states mostly on emergency preparedness.

Robert’s Sister:  What motivated you to be involved and to want to share info or advocate?

Laura:  My husband and our daughter. I was very frustrated that people with his level of medical challenges were set aside and ignored in community plans and furthermore were not acknowledged as being able to participate in parenting. It was troublesome that the only way one could find out information needed for assistance programs was to already be "in the know" and that is pretty much impossible when there are no warnings as to when a life changing disability occurs.

Robert’s Sister:  What have you done as an advocate or to share information with others?

Laura:  I have written many times in Caregiving.com and submitted essays for them. I challenge people in emergency management design by participating in any community meeting that I can. I freely and as often as I can give presentations, interviews and am planning on writing a book about the last six years.

Robert’s Sister:  Is there anything else you want people to know?

Laura:  To fight for your beliefs, you must believe in your fights. To succeed you must get others to believe too! 

If I can simply get my foot in the door and cause someone to think about something I said, then I consider it a success. Because thinking leads to discussion, which leads to debate, which leads to calls for change, which brings change about. Change can't come without thinking about it first. People call me an expert. I'm not. I am just a tenacious student who thinks in terms of family first and challenges second.

Life is about choices. Good/bad; positive/negative and yes/no. But at the end of the day, what decision are you willing to lay your head on your pillow with?!

Robert’s Sister:  How can people contact you if they want to learn more about?  

Laura:  On Caregiving.com, look up The Roaring Mouse. On Facebook I can be found at www.facebook.com/Laura.George.3532 or www.facebook.com/GetReadyGwinnett. On Linked In via Laura George or via email at educateandadvocate@gmail.com. At www.getreadygwinett.org, you'll find a dedication to my husband there.

Robert’s Sister:  Many thanks to Laura for her time and continued advocacy work even after losing her husband.  I’m excited to see the change this dynamic woman will bring about!

Next, I am excited to turn the interviewing tables on Denise M. Brown, creator of Caregiving.com. Once a month, I join Denise on her internet radio show, Your Caregiving Journey, Table Talk to discuss working caregivers but this time, I get to interview Denise about her advocacy work for caregivers.

1 comment:

Assisted Living Directory said...

An unbelievable story. I can't imagine the strength it would take to face such a caregiving challenge. I really appreciated the quote "To fight for your beliefs, you must believe in your fights."
Thanks for sharing this story Trish (and Laura)!