I wanted to share a story of one of our clients, Paula Lange, her life through her eyes - Carla Bertke, Rehabilitation Center Executive Director
It’s almost mind-boggling looking back to think anyone in their right mind, who never traveled before would be so daring just to leave and go west with a new husband. Deep in my heart I knew if we just worked hard and held to our values we would succeed. It didn’t take us long to find jobs and before we knew it we had all the modern wealth our hearts desired but Alcohol and domestic violence drove me to a point where I felt an urgent need to return home. I felt The Holy Spirit was guiding me back to my family roots where my values were formed.
Gathering with my family during holiday dinners, fishing trips and picnics was such a joyful time as I was always energetic, athletic and ready for fun. Then during a game of badminton at a picnic my coordination and balance had seemed to slip away causing me to fall to the ground every time I went to score a point. Knowing something was drastically different, the mild headaches and fatigue, the numbness sensation of pins and needles tingled the soles of my feet eventually started spreading through my body over the next couple weeks. The strange feeling traveled up through my legs first until it reached my hands and palms.
I went through the laundry list of medical tests for a period of one year and finally received the news that I had been dreading, “You have Multiple sclerosis (MS) !” The diagnosis of MS meant I had an incurable disease in which my body’s immune system eats away at the protective sheath (myelin) that covers my nerve cells.
Feeling like I had just been handed the most unfair and cruelest punishment by God, I was angry at everyone and everything! How could life be so unfair to me? Weeping in self-pity lead me through some of my darkest days. I can remember being a slave to depression and letting the depression beat me every day with fear of loosing my mobility and being confined to a wheel chair for life. I felt so alone, beaten, terrified, and devastated by the unknown course my life would take. Knowing I would have to leave the old Paula and re invent a new Paula was a horrifying thought .”Oh my God, How am I going to do this?”
For seven years, I remained in a state of denial and hiding at the same level of disability with periodic exacerbations of the disease with a complete recovery following. But as my disease progressed, I could no longer hide my health concerns from friends and coworkers. I remember like yesterday the first time I was showing signs that something was wrong when I lost the use of my left arm but completely recovered within two weeks. Fatigue and muscle weakness from too much exercise was my most common symptom. It wasn’t necessary for everyone to know of my diagnosis because with a little rest, I was good as new! On one frightening occasion however, I temporarily lost the sight in my left eye and I was torn between wanting to talk about my disease and not wanting to be seen as weak and vulnerable. My MS had become progressive but just how progressive, no one could say. In that progression I have lost fine motor skills like writing with a pen or pencil, cutting with a knife, opening small bottles, unlocking things with a key
I made a decision to not chase therapies, to be still and just keep myself physically and emotionally healthy. Eat healthy foods, drink pure water, balance my life, practice spiritual wholesomeness and surround myself with people who encourage my healthy lifestyle. It was in seeking to increase physical strength and range of motion; I was introduced to the compassionate staff at the Rehabilitation Center for Neurological Development located at the Hahn-Hufford Center of Hope in Piqua. I began with Aquatic Therapy, an individualized one on one aquatic routine in their large heated aquatic therapy pool and within time added the other services of EEG Neurofeedback Training and the Neurodevelopmental Program, which all combined proved to help me in many ways.
It is truly amazing because after a period of one year, improvements in my arm, leg and core strength and range of motion have been significant. I have become more independent in feeding and caring for myself. My sequential thinking, problem solving ability, fine motor skills have increased and my anxiety level has decreased.
A wheelchair is my choice of mobility, for now but that does not stop me from fully experiencing life and meeting daily challenges. I have created a paradigm of wholeness by keeping my mind active, my body strong and my heart submerged in love.
Experiences of discrimination, rejection and exclusion have attempted to hinder my journey but the experience of living with Multiple Sclerosis has afforded me rich blessings from people like the staff at the Rehabilitation Center for Neurological Development, Brain Wellness Center and the Aquatic Therapy & Wellness Center all located at the Hahn-Hufford Center of Hope who love, affirm and celebrate all their client’s gifts and abilities. A huge thank you to all who support such a great organization. I don’t know where I would be without them.
Carla Bertke, Rehabilitation Center Executive Director at the Hahn-Hufford Center of Hope