I can honestly and wholeheartedly say I would be lost, lonely or mostly likely dead, without the selfless, unconditional love and support of my mother Laquita Conway.
She gave up her entire world; her dreams, her desires, her career to see me through a life changing experience, by challenging with me, a grim prognosis. Together we have redefined OUR lives, rebuilt OUR world, and celebrate together many milestones along the way.
Aaron and I both knew the doctor’s grim prognosis would be absolutely correct if we adopted the traditional rehabilitation method of learning to adapt to the injury instead of working for return of function. To give up, give in, and settle by accepting status quo before even trying for improvement was shockingly unthinkable. We attacked each day with willed intent and single minded focus. I told the doctor’s, nursing staff, and all other clinicians treating Aaron to not tell him the prognosis. It was quite obvious he was in a critical situation, declaring any kind of absolutes about what his future held was, in my mind, planting a seed of hopelessness which could destroy his will. We suited up for a battle unlike anything we had ever fought before. We needed a steely, unwavering determination and belief to carry us through for any possible recovery.
It was impossible for Aaron to improve without complete support. I passionately believed that if I became his arms, hands, legs, removing some of the frustrations and helping maintain his spirit, this would allow him to focus and pour all his energy into therapy. I transformed the hospital rooms, including ICU, into a healing sanctuary, with music for meditation, sounds of the rainforest, ocean, and thunderstorms which assisted in transcending his frozen physical state, providing mental peace. The music never stopped for our entire 6 month hospital stay. I was fueled primarily by two thoughts: I wanted Aaron to have every opportunity to recover, even if it took the rest of my life to help him achieve that. I never wanted to look back and regretfully contemplate if we had put more into the process of recovery, would he have a better quality of life, a better quality of health.
We stepped into action, aggressive pro-action right after surgery. I was told numerous times to go home, Aaron had to adjust and adapt to a new way of life, that I was doing my son a tremendous injustice by giving him false hope and living in denial. I steadfastly held on to my core belief that I was doing the right thing and dismissed all negative comments. I have heard so many times through the years, “you need to get your life back” – the simple truth is, this is my life. It has become my life’s purpose. I have never witnessed nor could I imagine a more powerful experience than sharing with my son this profound, life affirming process.
The actual horror of the injury came to be when Aaron was released from any further rehabilitation therapy only one year after the accident. We were told that the maximum recovery potential had been reached yet Aaron was still completely dependent for every need. We both knew his body was just beginning to respond and to stop the process would be deadly. I searched tirelessly for the next step, for a place to continue the work we had been doing in hospital rehabilitation and came up with absolutely nothing. It was inconceivable to me then and it remains inconceivable today that the opportunities for management and improvement stop once the prescriptive hospital rehabilitation time ends. I vowed to myself, to my son and to all others in similar situations during those days that I would do everything in my power to see this change. It is only through our insistent, consistent, unwavering commitment to restorative exercise that my son is alive and achieving the extraordinary goals he is. His example should not be the exception. It should be the rule and we aim to make it so. Aaron is indeed “One in A Million” but yet he is also “One of A Million”. This mission, this passion, this caring is what defines who I am today. I will spend the rest of my life working toward providing the necessary opportunities for those who have sustained a catastrophic injury or suffer a chronic condition which will help them THRIVE, not just SURVIVE.
With my complete conviction in the “Power of Possibility” and all this entire experience embodies, I move forward with the words of our hero, Christopher Reeve, penetrating every cell of my body – WE CAN, WE MUST, WE WILL…….