By Brian Harrison
It’s so hard to remember a time when things in our lives were not affected by transverse myelitis. Sixteen years ago, I woke up and went to work like I always did. Kim was out in Dallas, Texas on a business trip and was looking forward to returning back to Atlanta in a couple days. A few hours into my day, I received a call from Kim telling me she was in the hospital for what we believed was a pinched nerve or something like that. Unfortunately it wasn’t something so simple as that. Kim went from walking that morning at 6am to being paralyzed from her waist down. The doctors worked for hours and hours trying to figure out what was happening to her body. The one thing they could all agree on was pumping her with massive doses of steroids to stop the progression of the paralysis.
Kim and I were able to talk a little bit during those first several hours. I know she was scared and so was I, being over 800 miles away and not being able to be by her side to provide the support she needed. It took the doctors over 5 days to finally come up with a diagnosis. They told her she was lucky and didn’t have multiple sclerosis (MS), but that she did have TM (transverse myelitis), then got up and left her room. If I could have come through the phone lines, I could have strangled that doctor. No explanation as to what in the world this disease was or if could be treated.
Over the next week or so of being in the hospital, we started trying to come to grips with this new pathway which had been laid out in front of us. Knowing Kim would never be able to walk again and would have a wheelchair for her mobility was hard, I’m not going to lie. But we supported each other in learning what TM was and what she could do after this attack.
Over the last 16 years, October 6th is not one of those anniversaries you want to go celebrate. No, but it’s either sit there in despair and cry about it or get up and learn how to face the trials given to you and move forward. That is the path Kim took. She has never stopped getting out and enjoying life. Kim has done so many different types of sports and began to become an advocate for the wheelchair community. If she’s not going to Washington DC to work on helping to change the laws regarding Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, she is out doing something just as exciting.
It’s funny, before she got sick, sports were just one of those things she didn’t really participate in. Nowadays there isn’t much of anything she will not try. If Kim doesn’t like it, she just finds something else to do. Her positive attitude has provided her and so many others with the courage to get out and enjoy life. Our big joke between us is the last thing we would ever hear from her mouth is the word WEEEE!!! Kim loves to go fast and live life to the fullest.
These last 16 years have been hard on both of us, but I’m not sure we would want it any different. Kim, you amaze me each and every day with that “go get ‘em” attitude. When you get down or worn out, I will always be right there for you to help lift you up. Yeah, 16 years seems like a lifetime ago, but I wouldn’t want our lives to be any less fulfilling than they are now.
I love you Kimmer.