For most of my life, I can say that I had never broken a bone. but on October 18, 2015, all that changed. As my associates, Jim Stengel and Carrie Beauchamp said, I have now “joined the Broken Bone Club” and that the only membership dues was to have broken a bone somewhere in the body. I didn’t really ever want to join this club to be honest. I think they view me as an overachiever though, because as everyone has told me, I did a bang up job on my shoulder. I was on a simple hike on Casper Mountain’s Bridle Trail to celebrate the victorious journey to health of my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg, who had become ill two years to the day, and had gone on to make an amazing recovery. I suppose that it is true that I did a bang up job on my shoulder, in that you almost never see a break like this one, unless it was a bad car accident, or a bad fall. The fall itself wasn’t that bad, but the bone did break on impact. It was the twisting movement that happened after the break that caused the ball of my shoulder joint to twist a quarter turn in the socket, thus requiring surgery, including a plate and nine screws, to be necessary to make the repairs. That surgery was a week ago, and I have learned so much in that one very long week.
It has been just ten days since my life was turned upside down, and I went from being a caregiver to a care receiver. What a shock to my system that was. My mind does not really like the concept of needing help with my daily needs. Nevertheless, that has become the case. I am very thankful to the group of experienced people I had with me at the time of my fall. My sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely is a nurse, and a friend of my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg, Laura Murray is a physical therapist, The two of them immediately set about making a sling out of a Laura’s dog’s leash and Jennifer’s handkerchief. Jennifer’s boyfriend, Brian Cratty is an prior life flight pilot, and my husband, Bob Schulenberg and sister-in-law, Brenda are experienced caregivers. As I was laying on the ground trying to control the feeling of needing to pass out, two CNAs, who’s names I do not know, unfortunately, came up behind us and helped get me to my feet, and fashion a gait belt for me out of a sweatshirt, so I could walk the last three quarters of a mile to finish the hike and go to the hospital. I could not have asked for a better group of people to have with me…if I just had to break my shoulder.
While that group was amazing, and I owe then more than I can ever repay, it has been something within my self that I have found to be equally amazing, since my fall. It is the power I have in my right arm…the power of one, as I call it. People do not think about how many things take the use of both arms to do. When you are down to one arm, you find out just how strong…or weak it is. Thankfully for me, it was my non-dominate arm that suffered the break. My power of one level would have been far less successful had it been my dominate arm that suffered the break. Still, my right arm, which is the dominate arm, did have to be retrained. There were things that I simply could not do without assistance at first, but in my minds refusal to truly be a care receiver, I continued to think of ways and try to do things one handed, if I could find a way. In less than a day, I was able to put my contacts in one handed, with just the assistance of my teeth to open the container of my dailies lenses.
In less than a week I could dress myself, including jeans, for which I fashioned a way to button them with a ribbon and minimal help from my left hand. I figured our ways to get my shoes and socks on one handed too. I did makeup one handed and brushed my hair one handed. I typed my stories one handed, and even lifted my laptop onto my lap one handed. While there were a number of things I couldn’t do one handed, I must say, I’m surprised at the things I could. We don’t often think about how important it is to have both hands to perform our daily tasks, until we don’t have both hands. Having the use of just one arm is a set back to be sure, and a serious inconvenience, but after spending the last ten days in just that predicament, I can also say that I am very much amazed at the power of my one arm.
When I first read about the six Knox brothers who were able to place themselves into a family history where they belonged, but in which no one had been able to connect them to before, I was intrigued, for sure. They seemed so resourceful, but I had a feeling that there was a lot more to them than just finding their place in the family history. I’m sure I will come back to these brothers over and over in the future, but when I read about Dr Nicholas C Knox, I was…well, amazed really. This man had the character and fortitude to overcome adversity, and move forward with his life, and in the end, make it better.
The fourth son of Absalom Knox MD, Nicholas married Henrietta Craigan. After their marriage, the civil war slammed its way into the midst of their lives. Nicholas enlisted in the Seventeenth Mississippi Regiment, which was commanded by Colonel WS Featherstone, and was a part of McLaw’s Division. Nicholas took part in all the great battles in the Army of Virginia in which his command was engaged, but it was the Battle of Gettysburg that would change his life forever. On the second day of the battle, Nicholas lost his right arm. To make matter worse, he was captured and confined as a prisoner on Hart Island, off the city of New York, for several months before being parolled and sent into the Confederate lines again…without his right arm, and he managed to stay alive during the remainder of the battles he fought in.
During his entire enlistment time in the Civil War, Nicholas was never home…until the day he was discharged. I don’t know if he had been able to tell his wife about his arm, but even if he did, there is nothing like actually seeing it for the first time. It had to be hard for her…and for him. Many soldiers coming home from wars with life changing injuries feel very concerned about just how their spouse will look at them now. They feel like they are a lesser person than they were when they left, and that is just the physical challenges. I’m sure that an injury that cost you your arm, would be a moment that would live in your memory files for the rest of your life.
Nevertheless, Nicholas was not a man to let adversity take his life or his future from him. He returned to Mississippi, and he started the task of rebuilding his life, and getting reacquainted with his family. He started out by teaching school. Now most people would think that was a noble profession, and they would be right, but it was not enough for Nicholas. While teaching school, he began to study medicine, and received a diploma from a medical college at Nashville, Tennessee. When I think about the challenges of being a doctor in post Civil War America, with only one arm, and during a time when prosthetics were primitive at best, I am amazed. Still, Nicholas was not satisfied. He entered politics, and represented his county in the Legislature, and afterward was a practitioner of medicine in Reynolds, Mississippi, and he was an elder in the Presbyterian Church. No matter what challenges hit Nicholas, he met them head on, and succeeded in every endeavor he took on. He was not a man content to settle on the ordinary. He was truly an amazing man.
There are some people who, for whatever reason, have a way with children. Bob is that way, and he doesn’t even have to try. Kids just take to him. And it’s not just babies…it’s kids in general. Our grandchildren loved being picked up in his strong arms or sitting on his lap while he showed them things about nature. Bob has always loved sitting out on the front porch in the summertime, just watching nature. And it’s something he enjoys sharing with anyone who wants to come along. The babies loved to come along.
Bob has a way of making kids laugh. Maybe it’s because he is such a big kid himself. He is always doing goofy things to see if he can make people laugh, but the funny thing is that he doesn’t have to. Just his presence in a room draws the kids to him. I don’t really know how he does it. He just seems to be a kid magnet.
This past weekend we went to Gillette for Men’s State Bowling Tournament. As we went into the bowling alley, there were two kids that came charging up to him. Now I’m used to that happening, but not at a bowling alley in a different town! Of course, these kids do know him…they are the children of one of Bob’s teammates. Nevertheless, you can tell by the reaction, that they consider Bob their buddy. I know exactly why they think that. It’s because that is truly what Bob is. He is a buddy to many…adults and children alike. He is a kid magnet, but also an adult magnet. I have a tendency to be somewhat shy…especially around people I just met, but not Bob. He seems to know everyone…and their kids.
The really funny thing is that he doesn’t even have to be the one to initiate a friendship with the children of his friends. Once those kids know that he is a friend of their parents, that is all they need, because Bob has already made them laugh in some way. And he has already been laughing and joking around with their parents.
That is simply what Bob is like. He is a people person, and a man of the highest character. People don’t worry about their kids being around him, because he is like a grandfather to them. He loves his own kids and grandkids so much and loves spending time with them. The boys always manage to get him rough housing, and of course, his granddaughter will always have him wrapped around her finger, just like his daughters did. Yes, he is a kid magnet, but maybe they are magnetic to him too, or maybe he just never really grew up. Now, that makes sense to me.