The Unexpected Visitor

Hey Everybody here’s another piece of writing that talks more in depth about what I do at the hospital  I sent this article to the people who put together the Chicken Soup for the Soul books but it didn’t make it. Enjoy!

I volunteer at my local hospital. I’m known as the “patient visitations” volunteer but I have many names. Nurses and doctors who have known me for a while and know what I do say, “Here comes the magazine lady.”
 Personally, I like to call myself, “the unexpected visitor.”
At the hospital, I knock on a patient’s door. When I hear “come in,” I enter with a big smile on my face as I say, “Hi, my name is Rachael. I volunteer here. Would you like a magazine? It’s free.”
     Patients are often surprised when I say that – for a couple of reasons. One reason is that they can’t believe something free is being offered to them. Once a patient answered, “What a delight.” 
 The other reason people are often surprised is because I’m in a wheelchair, and I have cerebral palsy. Many people are surprised by the fact that someone with a disability is out in the community, let alone out contributing to society. They wonder how I can help others when it looks as if I need help myself. They might also wonder why I’d want to help others.  No one says anything, but it’s obvious that people don’t know how to react because I’m in a wheelchair. Silently, their first reaction seems to be, What is she doing here?  
My wheelchair starts conversation. People will ask, “What kind of illness do you have?”
            “It’s not an illness,” I tell them. “It’s a condition.  It’s called cerebral palsy. I was born this way. I have a walker at home. I use the wheelchair in the community for faster mobility.”
People are also surprised by my openness and my ability to communicate. It makes them want to know more. A doctor may have told their patient that they’re going to have to start using a wheelchair at home. They’ve never had to use a wheelchair before, and now they want to know what it’s like.
“It takes a lot of practice,” I tell them. “It’s like learning how to drive a car. Even if you’ve been driving for years, every time you get a new car, you have to learn how that particular one works because each one is different. It takes time and patience. But once you get the hang of it, you can do it.”
At the end of a visit people are encouraged. Seeing me in my wheelchair often gives patients and their families the assurance they need that everything is going to be okay.  Many times someone will say to me, “Thanks for coming by.”
“You’re welcome.” I reply.  “I’m glad to be of service.”
People also say, “God Bless you.”
I smile and say, “Thank you.”
Volunteering at the hospital reminds me to be thankful for what I have.  Some patients I visit don’t have any family at all, or their families live too far away to come visit them. I may be the only person they see besides a doctor or a nurse. If they want to talk, I’m usually the only one who has time to sit and listen to them. For these patients I call myself, “the unexpected visitor.” If I didn’t come visit them, who would? I’m able to brighten someone else’s day. It’s my pleasure. 
Volunteering at the hospital and visiting patients also gives me a sense of fulfillment. People are always looking for ways to help me because of my disability. When I’m volunteering, it’s the other way around. I’m able to show them that having a disability doesn’t mean they can’t be a productive member of society. Even if they suddenly have to adjust to a lifetime in a wheelchair, they can still do the things they used to do, maybe just a little bit differently. I’m able to get people to start thinking, If this girl can do it, and she was born this way, then what’s stopping me?
I always say that I was born with extra determination. If someone asks me, “Rachael, don’t you thinks this is a little dangerous?” I look at them and say, “Danger is my middle name!”
It makes people laugh as they reply, “Well then, go for it!”
     That’s how I strive to live my life, and I try to communicate that to the people in my community. If you really want to accomplish something, nothing is impossible! Go for it!

OakBridge 2011

Hey everybody I just got back from Oakbridge Camp in San Diego with my Fun Life friends this past weekend. Here’s the  letter I wrote to God. Enjoy!

Friday August 26, 2011

Dear God,
Thank you for the opportunity to be at OakBridge-for a break from life at home. Thank you for the beauty of your creation. Help me to keep my eyes focused on You. Thank you for keeping me and my friends safe on the way to club. Thank you that the injuries were not worse.
When I go home, help me to take home the things I’ve learned. Help me not to worry about the Day Program. Help me to be there for my mom. Help me not to worry about her. Thank you for being a father to the fatherless.

“Ask for help!”

I love to be independent and do as much as I can for myself.  Sometimes I try so hard to be independent that some pretty dumb things can happen if I let them. 
I volunteer at my local hospital. I’m known as the “Patient Visitations” volunteer. I deliver smiles and magazines to patients and their families. The rooms at the hospital are small. One time, there was a really small chair in the room. I should’ve asked for help, but for some reason, I looked inside, and thought, I can make it.
I went into the room to ask the patient if they’d like a magazine. The patient was asleep so I started to slowly back up my wheelchair. Little did I realize what had happened. After I came out of the room, I still heard a noise right behind my wheelchair. What ’s that noise? I thought.  I looked behind me and discovered the problem. The chair from the patient’s room had gotten stuck to my wheelchair! One of the legs had gotten wrapped around my wheel! How did that happen? I wondered. This was definitely a first! 
Realizing that I couldn’t get myself out of the mess, I finally called on my aide for help. “Jamie I need you.” I called. She came in. I moved my wheelchair forward and backward. We were trying not to wake the patient. Finally, after much work, Jamie was finally able to free the chair from my wheelchair. Unharmed, and in one piece! Phew! The good news: No one saw us!
However, Jamie was frustrated. When I came out of the room, there was a moment of silence between us. At lunchtime she explained, “I was never really mad just frustrated. I wouldn’t want anyone to hear about what happened and think that you weren’t capable of doing the job. I don’t want the hospital to require me to have to follow you into a room because of what happened.”
“I understand I said. I’m sorry.”
Jamie replied, “You don’t need to be sorry. You just need to ask for help next time. Maybe this is God’s way of telling you to slow down and ask for help.”
“I’ll ask for help next time. I promise.” I said in agreement.
Okay, she nodded as we moved on with our day. From that day forward, Jamie and I often said to each other, “We had a great day and no broken chairs.” We laughed.
Since then, the incident hasn’t happened again. Now, if a room looks questionable, I always ask for help.
            As Christians, I believe God allows things to happen in our lives to keep us from being prideful and to help us realize that we need to depend on Him for our strength. In our weakness, He is strong.
            Dear Lord,
                Please help to rely on you and never be afraid to ask for help.  Amen