‘Thank You for Bringing Me Home, Mom’
I WAS always nervous when Glen, my husband, went out flying, and I couldn’t wait till he came home. He usually flew for pleasure. This time he had been hired to take some aerial photographs. Our younger son, Todd, accompanied him. Glen was always a careful pilot and never took unnecessary risks.
When the phone rang that Sunday afternoon, April 25, 1982, I answered it with a sense of foreboding. It was my brother-in-law. “Glen and Todd have been in a plane accident,” he said. “We’ll meet you at the hospital.”
My 13-year-old son, Scott, and I said a prayer and rushed to the hospital. Upon arriving, we learned that Glen’s plane had crashed some 60 miles [100 km] north of New York City. (The exact cause of the crash was never determined.) Glen and Todd were alive but in critical condition.
I signed the legal forms giving the hospital permission to administer necessary treatment. But as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I would not agree to the use of a blood transfusion. To do so would have violated the Bible’s command to ‘keep abstaining from blood.’ (Acts 15:28, 29) Glen carried a medical document that clearly stated his convictions in this regard. We did give the doctors permission to use nonblood volume expanders, however.*
Glen had massive head and chest injuries. He died within a few hours. The hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was to walk into the waiting room and tell my son Scott that his father had died. He just clung to me and said: “What am I going to do now? I’ve just lost my best friend!” Yes, Glen had been a best friend to both of his sons, spending time with them in recreation and in worship. He was also my best friend and my husband. His death was a terrible loss.
Holding To Our Convictions
Todd had a broken leg and finger, crushed cheekbones, and severe brain trauma. He lapsed into a coma. How hard it was to look upon my nine-year-old son, who just hours ago had been full of life! Todd had always been a delightfully active little boy. He was talkative and loved to sing and play. Now he was not even aware of our presence.
Fearing that Todd might need surgery, the doctors demanded that I agree to a blood transfusion. I refused. They responded by obtaining a court order allowing them to use blood. It turned out, though, that surgery was not necessary, and Todd had suffered no internal bleeding. A few days later, however, I was told by the doctors that they were going to give him blood anyway. We were stunned! “We just need to do it!” was the only explanation his doctor gave us. They cast our religious beliefs aside and gave Todd three units of blood. I felt utterly helpless.
For several days following the accident, we were front-page news. The local paper led readers to believe that Glen had died because he had refused blood and even quoted a local physician to that effect! This was not true. The medical examiner later confirmed that Glen simply could not have survived his massive head and chest injuries. Fortunately, several Witness ministers were invited by the local radio station to explain our Bible-based stand. This resulted in some fine publicity, and the stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses on blood became a common topic for discussion in our door-to-door ministry.
Efforts to Revive Todd
Todd remained in a coma. Then on May 13, a nurse rolled him over, and he finally opened his eyes! I hugged him and tried to talk to him, but there was no response. He couldn’t even blink or squeeze my hand. But from then on he began to make steady progress. When we walked into the room, his head would turn toward the door. When we spoke to him, he would look at us. Did Todd really know we were there? We didn’t know. So we started working to keep him mentally and physically stimulated. From day one we spoke to him, read to him, and played musical and Bible-related tapes for him. I even played my guitar for him; it was therapy for both of us.
We received much help from the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My older son, Scott, recently recalled: “Two families virtually took me in as their own son, taking me on vacations with their family.” Furthermore, some mowed our lawn, did our laundry, and made us meals. Friends and family members also took turns staying all night with Todd at the hospital.
For weeks, though, Todd could not respond to such attention—not even with a smile. Then he developed pneumonia. The doctor asked my permission to put Todd back on a respirator. The risk was his becoming permanently dependent on it. Just imagine: This life-and-death decision was placed in my hands! Yet, when it came to a blood transfusion, my wishes had been totally ignored! At any rate, we opted for the respirator and hoped for the best.
That afternoon I went home to freshen up. Standing on my front lawn was a government official. He informed us that we must sell our home to make way for road expansion. Now we had one more major crisis to contend with. I had always told others that Jehovah would never let us bear more than we were able to handle. I would quote the words of 1 Peter 5:6, 7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.” Now my faith and trust in God were being put to the test as they had never been before.
Weeks came and went, with Todd developing one infection after another. Days were filled with blood tests, spinal taps, bone scans, brain scans, lung taps, and endless X rays. By August, Todd’s temperature finally returned to normal. August saw the removal of Todd’s feeding and tracheal tubes! Now we faced the biggest challenge of all.
Doctors had told us that an institution would be best for Todd. One doctor reminded us that Scott and I had our own lives to live. Even well-meaning friends reasoned similarly. What they failed to realize, though, was that Todd was very much a part of our lives! And if we could manage to care for him at home, he would be surrounded by those who loved him and shared his faith.
We purchased a wheelchair and a hospital bed. With the help of some friends, we knocked out the wall in my bedroom, installed some sliding glass doors, and built an outdoor deck and ramp that would allow Todd to be wheeled directly to his bedroom.
On the morning of August 19, it was time to bring my still semicomatose son home. Todd could open his eyes and slightly move his right leg and arm, but his doctor predicted that he would improve no further. A few weeks later, we took Todd to a highly recommended neurologist, only to hear those words repeated. Still, what a wonderful feeling it was to bring him home! My mom and a few close friends were there waiting for us. That evening, we even went to the Kingdom Hall together. This gave us our first taste of the enormous effort that would be involved in caring for Todd.
Caring for Todd at Home
Caring for a disabled person proved to be unimaginably time-consuming. It took Todd over an hour to eat a meal. It still takes me almost an hour to give him a sponge bath, dress him, and wash his hair. A whirlpool bath can take him a good two hours. Traveling is a major production, requiring considerable physical effort. Though recently he has improved greatly, Todd has had much difficulty sitting upright, even with the help of an adjustable wheelchair; he usually has had to stretch out on the floor. For years I sat with him on the floor in the back of the Kingdom Hall. Nevertheless, we did not let this stop us from attending Christian meetings, and we generally made it on time.
Our patient efforts have paid off. For a while the doctors thought the accident had rendered Todd deaf and blind. However, before the accident I had begun teaching my boys sign language. During that first week home, Todd started to sign yes or no to questions we would ask. Later he developed the ability to point. We would show him pictures of friends and ask him to point to identify certain ones, and he did so accurately. He could also correctly identify numbers and letters. Later we moved on to words. His cognitive skills were intact! In November, just seven months after the accident, a long-awaited event occurred.
Todd smiled. By January his smile was accompanied by laughter.
As you’ll recall, we were forced to sell our home. But it was a blessing in disguise, since our two-story home was small and greatly limited Todd’s mobility. With little cash, it was going to be difficult to find a home that met our needs. A kind real-estate agent, though, found one. The house was owned by a widower whose wife had been confined to a wheelchair; it had been laid out with her needs in mind. Just perfect for Todd!
Of course, the house needed cleaning and painting. But when we were ready to paint, over 25 friends from our congregation arrived, rollers and paintbrushes in hand.
Coping With Day-to-Day Life
Glen had always taken care of the family business, the bills, and so forth. I was able to take over this aspect of life with little trouble. However, Glen had not felt it was important to have a will or proper insurance. We would have been spared much financial hardship—problems that persist to this day—had he taken the time to care for these matters. After our experience, many of our friends began putting their affairs in order.
Another challenge was dealing with our emotional and spiritual needs. After Todd came home from the hospital, some acted as if the crisis were over. Scott, though, continued to need help and encouragement. The cards, letters, and phone calls we received will always be cherished memories. I remember a letter from one person who gave us financial assistance. The letter said: “I will not sign this letter, since I do not want you to thank me but to thank Jehovah, since he is the one that moves us to extend love to one another.”
Still, we have learned not to be totally dependent upon others for encouragement but to take positive steps in our own behalf. When I feel low, I often try to think of others. I enjoy baking and cooking, and from time to time, I will entertain friends or just bake a few things and give them away. When I’m really stressed out or need a break, there always seems to be an invitation to dinner, to lunch, or for a weekend away with friends. At times, someone will even offer to stay with Todd for a while so I can go on errands or shop.
My older son, Scott, has also been a wonderful blessing. Whenever possible, Scott took Todd with him to social gatherings. He was always there to help in one way or another with Todd’s care, and he never complained about having too much responsibility. Scott once said: “If I sometimes found myself wishing I had a more ‘normal’ life, I quickly recalled how my experience had drawn me closer to God.” I daily thank Jehovah for allowing me to have such a loving, spiritually-minded son. He serves in his congregation as a ministerial servant and enjoys being a full-time evangelizer with his wife.
And Todd? He has continued to make steady gains. Within a couple of years, he began speaking again. First it was little words, then sentences. Now he can even express himself at Christian meetings. He is working hard on speaking more fluently, and speech therapy has helped. He still loves to sing—especially at the Kingdom Hall. He also continues to be ever optimistic. He can now stand with a walker. Some time back, we had opportunity to tell some of our story at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When asked what he would like to say to all the friends in attendance, Todd said: “Don’t worry. I will get better.”
We give full credit to Jehovah for having sustained us through all of this. Indeed, we have learned to depend upon him as never before. All those sleepless nights, all the hard work involved in caring for Todd’s personal needs and comforts, all the sacrifices we have made have been worth it. Some time ago, when we were enjoying breakfast, I looked up and found Todd staring at me with a big smile on his face. He said: “I love you, Mom. Thank you for bringing me home from the hospital.”—As told by Rose Marie Boddy.
For information on the Biblical view of blood transfusions and the use of nonblood products, see the brochure “How Can Blood Save Your Life?” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Blurb on page 13]
The hardest thing was to tell my son Scott that his father had died
[Picture on page 15]
With my sons