When I got the call in June 1986 that David had been in an accident, I told my boss the circumstances and left work. A car had turned into David while he was driving a motorcycle. When I got to the hospital, I was told that with every hour that passed there was an increased chance David would not walk again. We have never said he will not walk again. You have to have hope.
Before the accident, my job was to take care of the children and the house and I was working full time in town. After the accident, I still had to do that, and a lot of farm chores too.
We had Jessica, our daughter, two days after David’s release from rehabilitation. We taught our oldest daughter, Brittany, to climb up the spokes of his wheelchair like a ladder.
At first I had to ask people to back off so I could deal with my own emotions. I was told I was the support and could not break or they all would break. I finally had to admit that I couldn’t handle it alone. It was tough to go to family and say can you do this or will you do that. You wonder if you have used people too much. You have to allow people to offer help. My mom reminded me I was not superwoman.
We did tap into public health nursing. That was hard. I felt I should be doing it, being his wife. Not only did the nurse help with David, but I was able to bounce things off her when I was stressed. David’s grandma was always good for words of wisdom. She, along with other family members, helped with the chores. We also went to the social worker to discuss what David could do. We saw a modified tractor in a Breaking New Ground manual.* My dad was a mechanic, and I asked him if he could build one – he did.
Life outside of rehab is not the same. You don’t have perfect exercise equipment; everything is not accessible, and you don’t have the rehabilitation professionals around. So you have to take care of yourself. Establish your identification right away and have the person with the disability do that also.
I would encourage other caregivers to maintain their sense of self-worth. Keep a positive light on things. It can be a growing experience for all, and things can change for the better. Dave has more time now and has his priorities set better.
~ Kimberly Zimmerman, Courtland, Minnesota