The Arch Foundation kicks off our Caregiver Corner series! Each month we will share a window into the journey of a caregiver. My hope is to share these #brutalybeautiful lives and stories to educate, bring awareness, and help build our community of exceptional caregivers.
Here is Ann & Georgiana’s story.
My cell phone rings and my daughter’s, contact info pops up on the screen. When she is away, at school or on a trip, I of course get excited to see an incoming call from her. I eagerly take the call and, as always as I do with any of my three kids, I smile when I hear her voice. “George”, as we affectionately call her, was eager to tell me about her most recent events she had experienced during the first few days of her summer in New York. However, toward the end of the conversation, she happened to mention she had burned her butt while sitting on some rocks on a recent excursion to Vermont. It is probably important to mention here that George is a L1 burst fracture and T12 compression fracture walking paraplegic. She has function in her quads and little to no an abductor and adductor, but no sensory or function below her waist. George walks with bilateral AFO’s ankle braces and shoe orthotics. She also uses hiking poles hence Chic with Stixs!
She assured me she was taking care of the situation and not to worry. Of course, I have flashbacks to the words of instruction from her physical therapist during rehabilitation from her injury at Craig Hospital: “Be careful of your skin. Even things like seat warmers in cars can burn you.” George is usually very careful of all things that could happen to her with an SCI. I guess this time, a rock that had been baking in the sun for hours didn’t register on her radar as a risk factor for a burn. I tried to let go and let her handle it.
Fast forward to four days later. Georgiana is calling me from a Manhattan emergency department. She is being admitted to the burn unit for third degree burns to her gluteal area. I am thinking, “…seriously, how can we be doing this again?” A year and a half ago, George had a burn to her calf from an overheated computer charger. She spent 6 months in an outpatient wound clinic healing this spot. The key phrase, well-put by a friend with an SCI, “...it’s the gift that keeps on giving!” So off I fly to NY to begin another hospitalization with Georgiana.
In the end, the result was two successful skin grafts to her gluts. The process was once again an enriching learning experience for us. As in the past, we were well-cared for by excellent doctors and nurses. And once again, and this is the theme of this writing, she and I were healed, energized and kept upbeat by the love and compassion of friends. We try to look at this whole scenario as positively as we can: If it were not for this incident, I would not have several new Mom-friends from the host of college kids living in NY for the summer. I loved every minute I got to spend getting to know them; they were faithful and fun with their frequent visits to George in the hospital. The grace and kindness of these families and their extended families was a beautiful display of love and kindness. Once again, Georgiana’s injury gave us some meaningful and beautiful new friendships that I am thankful for.
Yes, SCI does often rear its ugly head, for some its daily, for others it’s less frequent. But none-the-less, it has given George and our family enriching experiences and new friendships. The fatigue of this injury is EXHAUSTING, but I consider us stronger for keeping on in redefining possible!
- Ann Burnside, SCI Caregiver since 2015
Ann is a nurse, wife, and mom to 3 grown active kids in Arkansas and George is in her second year of school at Sandford University studying Computational Biology.