Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Twist in the Road

I felt like I knew Sharon and Bob Hanlon from Bob’s book, “The Twist in the Road”, before actually meeting them at our St. James UCC book club earlier this week. This book became our summer reading book after our leader, Joanne Morris, met the local author.

Bob’s quite the character… which I mean in a very positive way. He’s a storyteller, he’s funny and he does dress like a cowboy. Which is cool because I happen to think Pennsylvania needs more cowboys. Cowboys have a certain presence that lets you know they’re around and they are brave and hardworking.

The other half of the duo is Bob’s wife, Sharon. Sharon is soft-spoken and her name’s not on the book cover so you mSharon Hanlon, Joanne Morris, Bob Hanlonight think she’s shy and living in Bob’s shadow. Ohhhh, not so! Sharon is a soft-spoken cowgirl with an equally great sense of humor, just minus the apparel. She brings meaning to “speak softly and carry a big stick” except that her “stick” is a cane.

Actually, Bob and Sharon both use canes. In our office, we would refer to them as “slow walkers”- travelers who don’t use wheelchairs, but need some extra consideration of the details for the most comfortable and successful vacation. The details for slow walkers can range from some extra advice to a bit of minor tweaking to some more involved arrangements.

Bob and Sharon have had major “twists” in their road. Bob woke up one day to a day like any other. He went out for a spin in a private plane he piloted and went to bed that night with a newly acquired spinal cord injury. After an issue with the plane making it a “lawn dart” (his words), he ended up with a T12 incomplete break. Years of surgeries, rods, tenacity, hard work and faith have passed. He walks using braces and a cane, but he’s walking.

Bob meets Sharon, they marry and life is good. His experience with the health care system enables them to disagree with a doctor which saves Sharon’s life over a blocked artery. A couple of years later, Sharon goes from feeling good one day to being in the hospital with only the ability to blink a day or two later. Again, experience helped push for the right people, a gut feeling and the right tests. Sharon was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). Her new road included pit stops at ventilators and plasma exchanges. Sharon still has residual effects that are part of her new road, but she's doing great.

This is a story, but not one of victimization or depression. I usually shy away from the adjectives of “brave” and “inspirational” because I feel they get overused. But this is a brave couple with an inspirational story filled with lessons in spinal cord injury, GBS, navigating and advocating in the health care system, goal-setting, humor and faith, but without feeling inundated, bored or depressed while reading it. It’s how to get through those twists in the road and thrive in spite of them. Their being brave and inspirational isn't due to what life threw at them. Instead, it’s because of how they used their resources to meet their goals. They’ve learned things the hard way and their ambition is to share what they’ve learned to benefit others.

The Twist in the Road is a quick read and I think you’ll enjoy it. After you read it, reply to this blog with your thoughts on it.

~ Connie

P.S. The MDA telethon is this weekend. If you are interested in learning about how MDA has been involved in treatment of GBS, click here.

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