Dixie Peach: The help you get from friends

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The help you get from friends

Yesterday's trip outdoors with B went much more smoothly than Wednesday's. A friend of ours and his wife came over and helped me get B into his wheelchair and I can report that no one sustained injury. The outing was wonderful - we just went to the same restaurant where we'd been Wednesday - and enjoyed the great weather and conversation. I did, however, forget to bring the camera so there are no pictures.

These friends of ours, Norbert and Helga, have experience with folks who have spinal cord injuries because their son, Holger, had one as well - in fact that's how the two families met.

B had just arrived at the rehab center a few weeks after his accident and was put in a room with some lumberjack guy from some village in the mountains. Lumberjack Guy had fallen out of a tree and injured his spine and evidently this was the first time he'd been off the mountain. He spoke some dialect of German that was impossible for B to understand and he talked and talked and talked. All. The. Time. It drove even the normally incredibly patient B mad for this man to be yammering without stopping so he begged for Lumberjack Guy to be put in another room and a new patient was put into B's room - Holger. And as luck would have it, Holger was about the same age as B and they even vaguely knew each other because Holger happened to be from Magdeburg as well. He was a sort of wild fellow - drank too much and lived too fast and that's how he injured his spine. He was drunk one night while out with friends and jumped off a bridge into a little creek to show he could and broke his back.

But putting Holger in B's room was just what he needed. Now he had someone to talk to who he could not only understand but who could relate to him and his life. B and Holger became good friends and since both sets of parents would come for visiting days they often made the long trip together. Holger and B both took the attitude that someone always has it worse than they have and their ability to encourage each other helped their time of adjustment and their rehabilitation.

Holger also once saved B's life.

In an effort to keep down pressure sores the staff at the rehab center put B in a sort of sling that kept him turned on his stomach and suspended slightly above the bed. One day while B was laying face down in that sling the upper part came loose and B's top half came down on the bed, his face pressed into the pillow. Holger saw that B would be unable to breathe and at that time B had little ability to turn his head so of course he couldn't help himself. Spinal cord injured people with the degree of injury that both B and Holger had don't have the ability to talk loud, let alone yell but somehow Holger was able to yell for a nurse to come to the room and they got B off the pillow and breathing again. Had Holger not been there or if he hadn't been paying attention, B most certainly would have died.

After B and Holger were both released from the hospital the families continued to visit each other. Holger wasn't one to stay indoors if he could help it and even though it was tough on his body, he was up and out in his wheelchair. He often had pressure sores and only when one got really bad would he stay put. By all accounts Norbert and Helga took wonderful care of him but Holger just lived a life that kept him on the edge. Even a spinal cord injury couldn't break him of his wild style.

Eventually Holger got a pressure sore that was devestating to him. It became very infected and after a while the infection got into his kidneys. Everything was done to save him but on August 24, 1989, Holger died. August 24 is a bittersweet day for that family. On the very same day that Holger passed, his brother's first son was born and ten years later on August 24 his brother's second son was born. Norbert and Helga mourn the loss of their older son on that date and at the same time celebrate the birthdays of their grandsons.

I never got to meet Holger but everyone tells me that he was someone I would have loved. Funny and wild and at the same time very kind and friendly. I wish I could have known him. I wish I could have shared a beer with him and laughed at the jokes he'd tell. And I wish I could have thanked him for saving B's life. I owe that man a lot.


Blogger Maria said...

Hey! I think I figured out the comment problem!

Great story, Dix. I'm glad you and B had a nice afternoon with friends. They sound like wonderful people.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Marshamlow said...

Wonderful story. I am glad you and B got to get out and be with friends.

2:14 AM  
Blogger Miz said...

What a wonderful day these outings must be for B. It's great these people remain in B's life, it is so easy for relationships to get left by the wayside over the years.

7:38 AM  
Blogger christina said...

Wow, what an amazing story. I'm so sorry to hear about Holger - that must have been heartbreaking for his family, and for B.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post made me cry. Both out of sadness for B's loss and out of happiness knowing that there are people out there who will give even if they don't have anything left to give.

Really uplifting story and I'm SO SO glad you were both able to take advantage of the beautiful weather :D

12:25 PM  
Blogger Miss Kim said...

You're such a wonderful story teller Dixie darling! Sometimes I can see your angel wings poking through :)

2:57 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

That is positively surreal. You owe a debt of gratitude to a person who passed away before you ever met, yet played such an important role in your life today. God bless Holger, and keep him, wherever he is. Good man like that, I'm sure it's a wonderful place.

7:08 PM  
Blogger BarefootCajun said...

Wow. What a great story. Holgar sounds like he was one cool guy.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

The stories you tell, Ms. Dixie, make mine seem so puny by comparison! What a great memory for B and to know that someone is preparing a place for him!

4:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That made me cry!

Love you both,

11:41 PM  

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