Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Our trip to Vegas in 2007
December 15 my wife and I returned from one week in Las Vegas, a week which we had planned for quite some time in order to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Several weeks before leaving I developed a urinary tract infection and had to have a Foley catheter installed, it wasn't a big deal but carrying a Foley wasn't part of my plan. I only had it for a short time a few days later it was removed only to be reinstalled a few days later during a follow-up to visit with the urologist, That visit turned into a nightmare and rather than voicing my opinion which I did months later the Foley catheter was reinstalled. I was really beginning to wonder whether or not we would make the trip. Things started getting better a week or so before our departure, the Foley catheter was removed I received instructions on how to self catheterize "which later proved to be totally unnecessary." I was set to go! Then a week before leaving my wife developed bronchitis. After a visit to the doctor and a prescription for antibiotics she began to feel better and we managed to embark on our trip as planned.
We saw several outstanding shows while we were there although something happened at one of them which took me by surprise and totally blew me away. Those of you in a wheelchair will undoubtedly relate to this as I'm certain all of us have been in a position where someone will make an off-the-cuff remark about how wonderful it must be to have a chair or how they wished they could have one, a comment made when you’re usually in a lineup waiting. My standard response “you can have the chair as long as you take everything that comes along with it". They usually look at me for a moment then chuckle realizing they are better off without it as if all of a sudden they realize I'm in it not by choice.
Being in a wheelchair they normally bring you up to the doors to the theater and once opened you are ushered into place. My wife and I were waiting when a woman approaches me and asks if I could get out of her chair? I thought to myself, here we go replying with my usual answer to which she replied I'll trade! No one had ever said they would trade, frankly she caught me completely off guard, I told her I had progressive MS, she asked me how long I had been in the chair, how long since my diagnosis, the medications I had to take and finally my age. She replied "I have you beat I will still trade". I was dumb found not knowing what to say I asked her what she had? You could tell she was weak and at one point she had to kneel beside my chair because she was feeling faint.
Turns out she was at the Celine Dion concert her ticket sponsored by the Dream Wish Foundation due to her affliction with leukemia, considered stage four her prognosis was bleak she did not expect to live for more than one year and had just prior to the show received her chemotherapy treatment. She did not qualify for additional treatment there was basically nothing else that could be done for her.
At that point I wish to God I would've had the strength to get up and give her my chair, to look at her you could never tell she was so ill, she was dressed in a formal dress for an evening out alone. The dream/wish foundation offered her two tickets yet other than her caregivers she had no one so she decided to go alone. Several times while we were waiting she had bouts of weakness at one point my spouse offered her to sit on my lap while we waited she was too proud to do such a thing and left several times with the security guard only to return a few moments later. I suspect the chemotherapy treatment she had just finished was having its effects on her. When we entered it took me a while to locate her sitting near the exit with security close by in case she had to make a quick exit. Yet we were relatively close she left several times finally entering just before the show started.
My wife tells me the show was good hard for me to say what I did see I saw mostly in tears. I felt so sad for this woman and realized that I had met my match that there were people out there I would not change or trade places with. After the show she rushed over to give me a big hug and told me that she would pray for me and then hugged my spouse and told her to take good care of this guy.
There were many people in wheelchairs waiting for the doors to open to see this concert, why she picked me I will never know, if I could have gotten up and given her my chair I would have done so in an instant I felt so helpless in my inability to help her that day. Something that I took for granted was someone else's last wish and that affected me greatly. We did not even get to know her name yet I decided to call her Cathy, why? Don't know but everyone deserves a name. I will never forget her, grateful to have met her and to have spent a few moments in her presence sharing in her grief and happiness as she was experiencing one of her final wishes one which I easily took for granted.
To this day it is difficult for me to think of her without shedding a tear, as for the show I watch a bit yet each time it leaves me heartbroken.