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Thread: A life changed forever

  1. #1
    Senior Member Max's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Montreal,Province of Quebec, CANADA

    A life changed forever

    A life changed forever
    By Cynthia T. Pegram
    / The News & Advance

    With a gentle breath, as soft as a whisper, Norman Wood uses an electronic device to call a nurse or phone a friend.
    But with all the power of his mind and body he cannot move from his bed to his wheelchair.

    An outstanding high school athlete in the 1980s, Wood is paralyzed from a 1995 injury that severed his spinal cord at his neck. So complete is the damage that even his ability to breathe on his own is limited.

    His ability to speak relies on overflow pressure from an assisted breathing machine as it fills his lungs with air from a surgical opening in his throat.

    "I say this is not my body from the chin down. From the chin up, it's me," said Wood last week from Avante nursing home in Lynchburg where he has lived the past three years.

    The journey to Lynchburg began with afternoon horseplay on Jan. 7, 1995, near Charlottesville. Wood slipped on a scatter rug and fell backward onto a drinking glass left on the floor. The glass shattered, cutting through his neck and into his spinal cord.

    His life was sliced into two pieces - what it used to be and what it is now.

    Today, a flexible blue tube extends from the base of his throat to the ventilator at his bedside. His

    arms are straight at his sides; his hands resting in specially crafted forms that keep them from distorting. His feet, heels cupped in softness to protect from pressure, are otherwise bare and unmoving.

    At 39, his mind, his voice, and his dark brown eyes are his means of motion. And he keeps on working at keeping on.

    "I would have broke down a long time ago," said his friend Randy Carter of Charlottesville. "He's basically the same person."

    The two have known each since their early 30s, playing softball as adults for a while on the same team.

    Carter says he's probably the only person Wood knows who hasn't read Wood's book, published privately in 1998.

    Wood recently completed a 1999-2002 follow-up to the first edition. Both are titled "From A Top Dog To A Whining Puppy ... But One Day I'll Bark Again."

    They tell of his journey from star athlete at Nelson County High School in 1982 to his life today at Avante in Lynchburg.

    He's not so sure now he should have written the books, he said.

    Intensely personal and written in a stream-of-consciousness style, Wood reveals a fast-moving and sometimes X-rated way of life that was once his niche, and gives insight into his life in the stillness of quadriplegia.

    "Norman was a real good athlete," said Coach Bill League who has been at Nelson County High School since 1980.

    Wood, who some fellow students will remember as Norman Durette, played cornerback. It's a position that calls for toughness, quickness and discipline, said League, "to be willing to go in and make collisions in the backfield, usually against bigger people. It takes some courage.

    "He played that position as good as the best and better than the rest we've had."

    League says that as a game, football teaches toughness. "You get knocked down, go back into the huddle and go back and face the guy again."

    Wood also excelled at baseball. Wood and Glenn Page of Waynesboro started school together in 1970 at Rockfish Elementary School, played Little League together, and were on the extraordinary Nelson County High School baseball team of 1982.

    Wood was a centerfielder, said Page, "very versatile."

    "He's always been a good athlete," said Page. "He comes from an athletic family."

    Like others, Page knows of Wood's present struggle.

    "I commend him for hanging in there as good as he does," said Page. Until Wood's accident, Page said he had no idea of what everyday life was like for someone totally paralyzed. "It is mind boggling."

    Wood's 1999-2002 account of his current life includes mention of the routines that maintain his body - from the daily breathing treatments, to the surgeries he has had to undergo, to the basic care of a human body no longer in contact with its command center.

    He describes how it feels to have the cleaning of the breathing-tube to his throat go wrong and mucus collect. And how he admires the people at Avante who give him hands-on care.

    He can't feel his body, although his arms and legs sometimes give him a burning sensation. When an infection gave him a high fever, he knew it. But when he had a kidney stone, he didn't feel it.

    Page recalls visiting him once in Waynesboro when Wood's eyes were irritated and he needed drops. A medication aide had to be called to the room to put in the drops.

    "I can't even put drops in my own eyes," Page recalls Wood telling him with sadness.

    For an active man, a father of four, it took a while for Wood to deal with the fact of his paralysis.

    In 1995, after his injury, he regained consciousness as a patient at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

    He knew he couldn't move, "but I thought I would be hurt for a couple of months."

    He didn't know he was paralyzed, until a staff member came in to talk to him about paralysis.

    "I said what are you talking about? I told her to get out."

    Since then he has had time to deal with his altered reality. He's tried coaching from his electric wheelchair, even going back to Nelson County High School to speak to students.

    Wood recalls telling them to live each day to its fullest. "You never know what can happen, or what day is your last day."

    League said the presentation went well. "The kids got a lot out of it."

    Wood has lived in a hospital in Richmond, at his mother's home, at an Avante in Waynesboro and at the home of a nurse who took care of him.

    At the facility in Richmond, his mother, Alma Wood, his fiancйe Tammy, and six of his sisters took special training to care for him.

    "I want him to come home again," said his mother, who lives in Afton. "So much has changed in six years - my baby girl has a baby of her own."

    The girls are working, and have their own place and families now, she said. One has injured her back.

    When he was in Waynesboro, Wood was only 30 minutes away, not two hours. And he was in better condition then, she said.

    She knows it is hard for her son, but "I like to think he's a chip off the old block - his daddy had open heart surgery 10 years ago, and he's still going strong."

    Wood thinks a lot. He thinks about his life, his former job as a landscaper. "I miss being with my son and seeing my daughters grow up."

    He has two regrets - that he didn't marry the love of his life, Tammy, and that he didn't go to college.

    Life moves on slowly for him.

    One of the frustrations now is that he can't watch his much-enjoyed TV sports programming because a boost in cable rates led to a less expensive cable contract. He can change channels on his TV using the same kind of technology that makes it possible to use the phone or call a nurse.

    He tries to stay in contact with his friends and he follows the routine that keeps him well.

    "I'm pretty healthy, I guess," he said. "I don't sleep. Because you dream. When you're dreaming, you're fine; you're just like a regular person, you're not handicapped. Then you wake up and reality kicks in. You understand what I'm saying? It makes it harder."

    Norman Wood can be reached at 845-2651. The books will be printed again only when he has pre-paid requests for 60 copies ($20 each).

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  2. #2
    Good story Max.

    Onward and Upward!

  3. #3
    Senior Member alan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Baltimore, MD
    I named the paraylzed part of my body "Irving." When it misbehaved (blown cather, bowel accident), I'd say "don't blame me - Irving did it." No idea why I picked the name Irving.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Max's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Montreal,Province of Quebec, CANADA

    Glad you like it ,Chris

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