A Friend is Someone Who Helps You Hold Your Head High

AUDIO VERSION

 

In the summer of 2015, Priscilla’s neck muscles weakened to the point where she could no longer hold her head up on her own.  She now needed what’s known as an “all-encompassing headrest.” This would keep her head from painfully and dangerously falling forward or to the side while she was sitting in her wheelchair, or to the back when she was being transferred in or out.  We worked with our mobility specialist to determine what model would be best for her.

An all-encompassing headrest, the same model we wanted for Priscilla.
An all-encompassing headrest, the model we wanted for Priscilla.

Our indomitable case manager was once again able to help expedite the process for us. Thanks to her efforts, our medical insurance approved coverage the same day our doctor faxed them a prescription. But when our mobility specialist received the headrest from the manufacturer, it had no hardware to attach it to the wheelchair.  So he would have to see whether he could find some that would work.

Around this same time, after 14 months of continuous use, the battery for Priscilla’s power wheelchair stopped holding its charge all day. We recharged it in the afternoons while she was resting in her “day bed,” but we knew it would soon stop working entirely. Then she would either be stranded in bed, if we knew before she got up that the battery was gone, or else stranded out of bed, because the power “tilt” feature was indispensable for positioning a sling under her to transfer her in and out of the wheelchair.

Under other circumstances, we would have had to bring or send the chair for servicing to a company in a different city, forcing Priscilla to stay in bed for who knew how many days. But we asked our mobility specialist whether he might be able to install a new battery when he brought over the headrest, once he found some hardware for it. This was outside his usual responsibilities, but he was willing to help us out by doing this. The only catch was, the supply company would have to get insurance approval for the battery.

Somewhat desperately, since Priscilla was facing a real risk of injury without the new headrest and immobility without a new battery, we emailed our Dear Praying Friends and asked them to pray with us that the specialist would be able to find some headrest hardware, and that the company would apply for and receive insurance approval for the battery as quickly as possible.  This was on a Saturday afternoon.  We had no idea how long we might have to wait for these things to happen.

But on Monday morning, the specialist called to ask whether he could come with the headrest and the battery in one hour.  He explained that he’d been able to pull some perfectly matching headrest hardware off a demonstration model wheelchair that his company had in its shop. They’d also approved him delivering and installing the new battery even while they were still waiting for insurance approval.  Such a thing had never happened to us before, in our extensive experience with the medical system.

And so Priscilla got an all-encompassing headrest for her wheelchair that made things much safer for her, as well as a new battery that enabled us to use the chair all day long without being concerned about running out of power.  We reported this news to our Dear Praying Friends, and one of them suggested that perhaps the headrest was delayed by the missing hardware so that the the mobility specialist could bring the battery along with it, saving us the trouble of sending the chair out.  This may well have been the case.

The new headrest provided the support Priscilla needed when she was in the wheelchair.  But because of the weakness in her neck muscles, her head was also at risk of snapping dangerously from side to side when I rolled her back and forth in bed to put the sling under her or to remove it, or when I was transferring her between the wheelchair and bed (when she no longer had the support of the headrest that was attached to the wheelchair).  And so at the same time we started looking into headrests, we also began to look for a device that would protect Priscilla under these other circumstances.

Our nurse practitioner had previously worked in a surgical unit and when we asked her about this, she knew just what to get:  a two-piece collar that was held together with Velcro.  I could slide the back behind Priscilla’s neck, whether she was in bed or the wheelchair, and then attach the front tightly so that she’d be safe.

This device, too, was delayed, not by missing hardware, but by inaction on the part of a different medical supply company that agreed to send us one.  Though we prodded the company frequently, a month went by without anything being delivered.  When our nurse practitioner found out about this, she told us she was “going on the warpath.”  The collar arrived within days.

We saw these new assistive devices as more “friends” for Priscilla that would enable her to keep doing what she wanted to do. But clearly they weren’t the only friends who were helping her hold her head high.  We’d seen once again through these experiences that we were surrounded by people who loved her, prayed for her, and did everything they could to help her.  We made a point of counting our blessings at bedtime, and there were always plenty to count.

The style of collar Priscilla needed to wear during transfers.
The style of collar Priscilla needed to wear during transfers.

Author: endlessmercies

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister and served local churches as a pastor for nearly twenty years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School. Dr. Smith answers questions about the Bible, particularly those that arise from the use of his study guides, at goodquestionblog.com.

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