Painful Blessing: Epilogue

Do you believe it?  The Epilogue is now complete!  Jill didn’t want to write another book, so she agreed to write this 5 page Epilogue: her reflection of what happened over the past 12 years.  Please send this to ANYBODY who has a book.  I hope the email has a BUNCH of likes and gets wildly distributed.  ENJOY!

Epilogue: Is It Over?  

by Jill Krantz Viggiano

We now rounded the twelve-year anniversary of Gordon’s stroke. It is hard to believe our lives have been changed so dramatically for such a long time. The funny thing is that, even after all these years, it still feels strange to me. I still feel out of step with normal life. I struggle to explain our life to anyone who asks the generic question “What do you do?” We aren’t “working,” we aren’t retired, we aren’t sick, we aren’t making any big plans. If I say I am my husband’s caregiver, it sounds like he is incapable of caring for himself and that makes me feel like I am minimizing his tremendous accomplishments in recovery. He does need me for many things and I am his caregiver, but we are more than that. I still haven’t found the right words.

We Decided To Move

We did not stay in our home in Lake Oswego. It became too much for me to maintain our big, beautiful house and yard. As it became clear that Gordon would never return to work, it also became clear that we could no longer afford that life. I remembered that night when Gordon was still in the hospital and I walked around our dark house, saying goodbye to everything we owned. Fortunately, our time there did not end the way I envisioned it that night, but it did end. Our home of 15 years, with our children’s heights marked on their bedroom doorways, is now occupied by a lovely couple who have become friends. They did not paint over our kids’ markings in an act of kindness. I still miss our friends, our neighbors, and our old life, but I know we did the right thing. Like everything else, our new home and our new life is good—different, but good.

Our children are all grown up. Gordon’s stroke and the radical change in our lives affected them both. Their trajectories I described in Chapter 15 have continued in many ways. Neither Rachel nor Tom like to talk about what happened.  They both still like to make fun of their dad when he messes up. Both pursue stability, order, and predictability. Both were happy we sold the house and moved to a new town. 

Rachel has spent much more time with us and seems to have made peace with all that happened. We each have a strong relationship with her. She certainly bears scars from all that happened but she seems to be healing nicely. 

From the beginning, Tom began to withdraw emotionally. Where there was once a warm, loving, sweet child, there became a cold, harsh, young man. I am happy to say that emotional wall he built to protect himself is slowly breaking down. It is always my hope and prayer that the wall will disappear completely. I hope his scars heal nicely too.

Recovery

I am happy to report that Gordon’s recovery continues! His fingers on his right hand began to move at the 4-year mark.  He was able to fully open his hand at the 8-year mark. We immediately rushed him into trying to shake hands with people he met. That created awkward moments as Gordon could only open his hand once, then it clamped shut again—tight. The poor sweet person on the other end of the handshake had to wait as we pried Gordon’s hand loose. At 10 years post-stroke, Gordon could open his hand twice, so handshaking has become possible without taking a prisoner. 

Weird Reflex

A weird reflex common in stroke survivors is that every time they yawn, their affected arm raises up into the air, like they are volunteering for something or are dying to ask a question. For all these years, Gordon yawns, the right arm goes up, and he tries to hold it down with his left arm, like a battle with a possessed limb. Once we got over the strangeness of it, we embraced it as comic relief. Here at the 12-year mark, that reflex is starting to diminish. Positive change is still happening. 

Gordon’s remaining deficits from the stroke have proven to be formidable obstacles. While he has improved dramatically, his cognition continues to be significantly impaired. Cognition refers to all the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, remembering, and communicating. I often have to repeat myself when I introduce a new subject. At first, I thought he wasn’t hearing me. Now I suspect it is his ability to comprehend what is being said. His brain cannot focus on a new subject the way most of us do. He needs a moment, some context, and often a couple hearings to make sense of what is going on.

Conversation

Gordon is great at conversation—I say something (“What do you want for dinner?”), he says something (“Meat.”). But open-ended questions are difficult if not impossible for him. An open-ended question requires a response that follows logical order: a beginning, middle, and an end. We try to make a game of it when he is struggling to tell me something. He says whatever words he can get out, then he starts over and tries again. We laugh. By the third time I have heard enough to piece the response together. I tell him what I think he is trying to say and we laugh again at how hard it was to get those four or five sentences out in the right order and with the correct words.

The physical disabilities aren’t the big deal I thought they were going to be. We still work on his right arm and we keep active so we don’t lose ground with his right-side strength and coordination. It has become second nature to me to help Gordon with all the things that require two hands. I don’t mind helping and he is always appreciative.

My Life Now

 I rarely think of our pre-stroke life anymore. Once in a great while, my mind drifts to what our life might have been and I get that dull, sinking feeling of loss. It passes quickly as I remind myself of God’s generosity and care for us in bringing us to where we are now. We are healthy, we have a nice home, the bills are paid, we have all we need. All this is nothing short of a miracle. Who gets suddenly yanked out of normal life and career, has no ability to work ever again, and still has all he or she needs? We do, by the grace of our good Lord.

All those years ago, in the depths of my helplessness, I learned to fully surrender my life to Jesus. He has been faithful in His promise to care for us and to use our tragedy for good. We continue to do inspirational speaking around the country. We continue to engage with anyone who reaches out to us when they need encouragement in their struggle. It is gratifying to represent hope and possibility to those around us. 

Surrender

One of the greatest gifts of Surrender is contentment. I am not envious, I am not dissatisfied, I am not resentful. I am truly happy for others who are doing well. Forgiveness is easier. I don’t really worry. I am content. Life is short but my eternity is assured. I know I rest in God’s hand and one day I will see His smiling face. What could be better than that? 

While I am here on earth, it is my hope that I can bring joy with me wherever I go. I hope Gordon and I can be good examples of marriage and commitment. I hope we are a blessing wherever we happen to be. I hope the love of Jesus is obvious to anyone who interacts with me. I hope the pain we experienced only magnifies the blessings we have received. 

Pain and Blessing—Painful Blessing. Sounds like the perfect title for a book.
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If you want to have a copy of the downloaded,  go HERE!

Kitchen Safety for Parents with Disabled Children

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Home Advice Guide

While being a parent is the most rewarding experience adults can ever experience, sometimes it can be quite tough, especially for parents who have one or more children with disabilities. Sadly, many children with physical disabilities have accidents in the community or at home, although most of these accidents could have been prevented.

Statistics and Facts

In England alone, there are over 9.4 million disabled people. Even though the prevalence rate of disability increases with age, there are still 1 in 20 children who suffer from a physical disability. (http://www.efds.co.uk/resources/facts_and_statistics). In other European countries, USA and Canada, the statistics are same roughly 1 out of 20 children have a disability. Whether it’s sight, mobility or hearing, these children have special needs and have to be protected.

The Importance of Child Safety

Children with disabilities are more likely to experience accidents, especially in the kitchen area, which is the most dangerous one. With the number of children with special needs on the rise, the need for child safety is greater than ever before.

As a parent, you need to start “child-proofing” your home, and especially your kitchen. In order to discover how to take care of your children properly, it is important to determine what type of physical disability your children have.

Types of Physical Disabilities:

  1. Sight: if your child has sight difficulties, you need to place certain tactile indicators in your home.
  2. Hearing: children who have hearing problems need to be warned visually.
  3. Mobility: children with mobility issues should have an intercom attached to their wheelchair and should have easy access to the nearest exit.

Developing Children Safety Habits

The first step in protecting your children from potential hazards in the kitchen is to develop long-term children safety habits. Here are some things you can do.

  • Be a good role model: never play with fire in front of your children or do something that might threaten your life. Children will always copy your behavior. Remember to act scared when you are in potential danger in order to make your children be scared of any potential danger.
  • Talk to them: Kindly talk to your children and try to make them realize the potential dangers they expose to if they do things in the kitchen they are not allowed to do. This includes cooking, ingesting cleaning products or chemicals, using electric blankets or cutting vegetables or fruits using a sharp knife.
  • Eat together: eating together strengthens your relationships as a family and makes your children more obedient to you. In addition to spending time eating together, you should get children involved in planning meals and cooking together.

The main Dangers in the kitchen

Each of the above three categories of children with disabilities is exposing themselves to certain dangers. We’ll look at each one of these dangers in particular.

Sight Difficulties: children with sight difficulties can accidentally cut with knives or can hurt themselves by touching rough edges of the furniture or kitchen cabinets. Additionally, they won’t be able to notice the fire alarm if it goes off and might have difficulties in finding the exit route. To top it all, if your child has sight difficulties, he might hurt himself if touching certain appliances that are not turned off.

Other dangers for children with sight difficulties include a greasy filter, dirty sponges, molds and bad storage habits in the refrigerator

Hearing Difficulties: children with hearing difficulties will not hear the smoke alarm and might not hear the water boiling on the stove.

Mobility: children with reduced mobility might find it quite difficult to exit the kitchen in case of an accident, a fire or a malfunction. Additionally, they might touch rough edges of furniture and might have difficulties moving in a tight space.

Child-Proofing your kitchen

Now we will talk about practical aspects of child-proofing your kitchen and making it a safe place for your precious children. Here’s what you need to do in order to gain the peace of mind that your children are safe from accidents and that never bad will ever happen to them while cooking, eating or playing in the kitchen.

  1. Sight Disability: In case your children have sight disabilities, her eyes what you can do to child proof your kitchen:
  • Remove any heavy mirrors or pictures that hang on the kitchen walls, along with other harmful objects or appliances such as knives, frying pans or pots.
  • Add a smoke alarm and put a highly coloured sticker on it in order to make sure your children notice it. Additionally, make sure it rings very loud so that they can hear it.
  • To ensure that appliances are switched off properly. Fit plastic blisters to all of your appliances.
  • Check electrical leads in order to ensure they are not faulty.
  • Consider placing a tactile indicator along the escape route in order to help your children find the exit with ease in case of an accident.

All dangerous items should be put away immediately. For instances, always put away the food processor or the blender once you’ve cleaned them. Knives and sharp objects should never be left on the table. Additionally, the kitchen floor should be kept free of clutter and should be thoroughly cleaned in order to ensure your children will not slip on it.

  1. Hearing issues

If your children have hearing issues, you need to ensure that the smoking alarm has plenty of light signals and vibrating pads. Additionally, make sure all gas valves feature shut-off valves. Install shut-off valves right beside your stove to ensure your child will never be able to turn the gas on, either accidentally or by will.

  1. Mobility

For children with reduced mobility, It is imperative to design a corridor-style kitchen and install additional handrails along the sides of the corridor. Here are the main types of kitchens you can have: http://www.livingmadeeasy.org.uk/scenario.php?csid=336#b

Cover your radiators, lock any dangerous rooms and remove any gates or objects that are blocking the exit. For kids with reduced mobility, who either use a wheelchair or a stick, make sure that appliances and other type of kitchen furniture are not stored on top shelves, but on the wall or inside a cupboard. Your children’s attempt to reach something on the top shelf might prove to be disastrous.

In case of mobility issues, you should strive to capitalize on the universal design trend in your kitchen. Click here to read more about this trend. https://www.ncsu.edu/project/design-projects/sites/cud/content/UD_intro.html

Kitchen Safety Rules for Children

Review venting system for flaws. Guarantee all joint and pipe connections are snug. Check air intakes and ventilation systems to certify passages are unobstructed. Check control settings. Test operating controls. Test safety controls. Comprehensively examine heating structure and report any issues. Examine and clean the boiler heat exchanger. Inspect all boiler wirings and boiler connections. Check water PH levels. Examine and clean condensate system. Check and clean burner assembly. Power flush system for optimum performance. Check for correct boiler operation once the boiler has been cleaned and examined.

  • Lastly, here are some ground rules to teach your children when it comes to spending time in the kitchen:
  • Never touch the stove, nor use a knife unless in the presence of an adult.
  • Do not touch the pot or the pan while on the heater.
  • Do not touch the microwave oven, the dishwasher, the blender or the food processor when active.
  • Do not try to dispose of the garbage unattended.
  • Do not use cleaning supplies, especially if they contain dangerous chemicals.
  • Do not run around in the kitchen. Even with smooth edges of the kitchen furniture, your children might still get hurt if not careful.