It’s been weeks since Cecilia landed in room 215 at the Milford Genesis Health Care Rehab ward. The first four were spent, still in a cast, but going to therapy every day. She didn’t seem to be hating it any, but wasn’t all that enthusiastic either.
Every day, with the exception of three or four, I’ve gone into the nursing home to collect laundry, put clean laundry away, straighten her closet, wash her face, talk to her, adjust the pillows under her elevated legs, check on her progress with the staff, or in the evening, to sit by her bed, smooth her covers, sing her some favorite bedtime songs, and to pray with her before she slept.
There were days when it seemed right to pick up a dozen Krispy Kreme Donuts from the local Royal Farms and take it in to the staff. They treated me so well, and were almost without exception, eager to chat a minute, learn about things that worked with Cecilia, and to inform me of anything that was an improvement. They were kind to Cecilia, thought that she was “so sweet,” and took very good care of her.
She has had a succession of good roommates; women I’ve become friends with. They have been of a great help to me, informing me of things that have happened, and letting me in on their lives as well. This started back in the hospital, and always, always, I’ve prayed for Cecilia s roommates when I pray the nighttime prayers. They have been grateful, and their thanks has been one of the ways that God has moved me to continue this practice, night after night after night. In the nighttime prayers, I’ve also prayed for the nursing home, for the nurses, the CNA’s, the therapists, and even the janitors. I’ve especially prayed for the “hands on” caregivers — for patience and for strength and for wisdom and insight into the needs of the patients. I’ve prayed for gentle hands and kind words. I’ve prayed for everyone who is there, in a general sort of way, that there would be healing for those who are there for rehab, that there would be peace. I’ve prayed that those who come into Cecilia’s room would sense the very presence of Jesus, and that it would be a place of peace and comfort and calm.
About two weeks ago, Cecilia’s cast came off. The healing was complete. There were no restrictions, nothing to hold her back from full rehabilitation. It was Thursday, the day before the July 4th weekend. Her therapy sessions for the first week were very spotty, but when I inquired as to how she was doing, they would say that they felt that she was making progress. “Just not very fast.” Last Friday, when I went in, the delightful gal who has been doing her therapy caught me up on how things were going.
“We are pretty sure that most of this is behavior,” she said, “because she is doing just fine with transferring and such. But she just will not stand up for us for any length of time in the rehab room.”
I was not surprised. Cecilia tends to be a little lazy when it comes to such things, and if someone is going to do stuff for her, she is very inclined to let them And as far as the work of rehab? Let’s just say that years ago, she broke her left wrist in a fall at Easter Seals and we never did get that hand back to normal. “She can,” (as her mother says) “be a little stubborn.” I stopped by during one of the sessions, and it was obvious that she really wasn’t cooperating to the extent of which she was capable. My heart was heavy. I mulled over the possibilities and breathed a prayer for wisdom. If things didn’t change, she was going to end up over in long term care.
I finally had a chance to speak to the physical therapist. She was a bit disheartened, but not giving up. She just didn’t know how to reach our blind, non-verbal, autistic girlie. I didn’t know what to tell her with any concrete suggestions, but I finally said to her, “You know what? I’m going to really pray about this. I’m going to ask God to give you guys creative ideas and I’m going to think really hard and ask God to give me some ideas as well. I’m thinking we just need to find the right solution to this.” They agreed with me, and I went on home. I later thought about how much Cecilia likes ice cream, so I called back and talked to the therapist about incorporating ice cream into therapy. She was delighted with the suggestion. She also mentioned that they felt that the ankle brace that had been sent along as a precautionary measure, didn’t fit into Cecilia’s shoe properly, and they wondered if that was part of the problem.
Like I said, that was Friday. On Saturday, Middle Daughter, Deborah, went in for me to sing to Cecilia and say prayers and bring home the dirty laundry. Her mother, with a death in the family and (at almost 88) having health issues herself, had managed to get in earlier in the day. Of course, being the weekend, there was no therapy. On Sunday, I bought an ACE ankle brace at Wal-greens, went in and made sure it fit inside her shoe, and wrote a note to the therapist. And prayed.
Monday afternoon, I stopped by the nursing home because I was out anyhow, and I was surprised to see one of the therapist coming down the hall towards me. She was fairly dancing and before I could get anything out, she said, “Did they tell you???”
“Tell me what?” I asked.
“Cecilia walked today! And not just a little bit! She walked from the back of the rehab room all the way out to the nurse’s station!”
I could not believe my ears and my disbelief must have sown on my face. “How in the world???” (This was the girl that wouldn’t even stand, much less walk, just three days ago.
The therapist said, “I don’t know why, but this morning I said to Felecia, ‘Why don’t we just try her with one person on each side of her and try walking her that way?’ So we did, and she walked! Is she up now? Because we will show you!”
My heart was somewhere in my throat. I peeked around the corner to see if we were talking about the same person. Yep! It was her, alright. Sitting in her recliner like a bump on a log. Cecilia??? Walking??? And then it seemed as if the stirring of the Holy Spirit began stirring something warm and alive in my heart. Wasn’t this exactly what I had prayed for? The therapist decided that it wasn’t worth getting her up just to prove that she could do it, but the whole atmosphere was charged with emotion. It was time to celebrate! I went out to that Royal Farms and found the racks full of just delivered donuts. Perfect! I corralled myself a dozen and headed back into the unit. And celebrate, we did!!!
But that isn’t the end of the story.
When I was leaving the nursing home two nights later, a nurse, standing at her medication card, looked up with a smile and a comment about my frequent visits.
“Yes, well,” I said, “I wouldn’t want her to forget me!” Then because she was working the evening shift, I asked her if she had heard about Cecilia walking earlier that week.
“Yes!” She said, beaming. “It’s amazing!”
I told her then about how we have been at a loss to know how to motivate her and how I had told the therapists that I was going to pray for good ideas and things that might help, and how I felt that it was a direct answer to a very specific prayer when someone came up with a solution that worked.
“Well,” she said, laughing. “You must be spreading pixie dust all over this ward because it seems like everyone on this hall is making phenomenal progress right now – getting better, faster and are just far above the expectations! We can’t figure out what’s going on! It’s a little unusual, to tell you the truth!”
And this Delaware Grammy was suddenly on Holy Ground with goose bumps to boot!
So I told her how I had been praying for all of the staff as well as the patients there in the nursing home. I said that I have been praying exactly that for the people in there. I explained how I prayed that Cecilia’s room would be a place of peace and that when people come in there that they would feel the presence of Jesus. She looked at me strangely and said something about that being an incredibly nice thing for me to do.
And I said to her, “It’s not me, for sure, but it is an incredible God!” And then she let me out the back door into the night and I came home with this quiet, joyfully incredulous place in my heart.
But one of the things that sorta’ made me wonder a bit was that I couldn’t figure out why God didn’t tell me that tip. I mean, I should have known it because Cecilia has always liked for there to be “both arm support” even when she was feeling good. I never thought about it. All I could think of was that lame suggestion about feeding her ice cream as a reward for co-operating. (No one said anything, but I was pretty sure they thought that was a little far-fetched. And not age appropriate, for sure.)
However, the next day, I was talking to Cecilia’s mother. I asked her if she had been in to see Cecilia a during therapy and she said that she had been there. “But I didn’t see her walk,” she said. “I did see the funniest thing, though,” she said, chuckling. “They had Cecilia on the bicycle! And they were feeding her ice cream! Every time she would pedal a few rounds, they would give her ice cream. Then she would pedal a few more rounds, and they would give her ice cream!” She paused and laughed again. “Funniest thing I ever saw! I never would have thought of such a thing,” she said, “but it was working!”
“No, I wouldn’t have thought of it either,” I thought. But I did ask, and I shouldn’t be surprised at His direct answers, especially when it comes to one of these who cannot speak for themselves. Cecilia has a long way to go, but she is progressing. If this keeps up, she will be able to come home. So I plan to keep on praying – for her, for healing, for the people on the rehab ward, for the nurses, the CNA’s, the therapists, the janitors. I plan to keep on praying for wisdom, insight and creative ideas to help her cooperate. And I’m especially going to pray for peace and for the presence of Jesus in Room 215 at Milford Genesis Health Care.
My Heart gives grateful praise.