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An Engineer in the Woods, Installment 12: Why Handicap Accessible?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

You’ve stayed with me for a year now, so I’m going to risk a slightly different writing style for this installment of the Woods.

The house used to have a natural flagstone floor in the entry foyer that was very rough and very uneven.  Most of the doorways were a standard 30” wide but the two hall bathrooms had only 27” doors.  All three of the bathrooms were narrow and cramped as were the showers in the hall baths and sunken bathtub in the master bath. The floors in the main living areas, bedrooms and hallway were covered with thick, luxurious plush carpeting that you would sink into when you walked over it.

I grew-up watching grandparents and great-aunts struggle trying to negotiate through the house.  My elderly mother fell twice and broke bones.  I spent the majority of my 27th year in a wheelchair and when I visited, I found the house more difficult to navigate than it had to be.   As I may end-up in a wheelchair again, the remodeled house has 36” doors in select locations (30” minimum), hardwood and travertine marble floors with no transition strips and spacious handicap accessible bathrooms. 

If you don’t know me that well you may be wondering why I believe it is likely that I will be in a wheelchair someday.  It’s a story that requires a book (or two) to tell it completely, and it would be difficult for me to write as my typical humorist style is not a good fit for many parts of it.  So, as a partial answer to your potential question I’m going to share with you a testimonial that I gave to my church, Our Savior Lutheran in Joliet, as a “thank you” on Thanksgiving Day 2017.

          Too Many Thanks
          November 23, 2017

          I could stand here this morning in the church that I love, with the friends and family that I love, before my Lord who loves me, and read
          to you a list of all the blessings of my life.  After I finished, you would each go home to dried-out turkeys long after the football games
          were over.
          But I would probably have to stay here a little longer to beg the Pastors to let me come back to speak to you at the next services as well
          so that I could list the blessings that I had forgot to mention.
          I have been blessed that much, and I thank my Lord Jesus for this life every day.

          But instead of a long list, today I'm going to tell you a quick story about a Thanksgiving Day 28 years ago.  A day, believe it or not, that
          I thank God for often.
          I don't remember it, but I've been told that my wife Kristen and every member of our families were there to watch me that Thanksgiving.

          It was my fourth day in the ICU at Silver Cross, and I still wasn't stabilized.  I had a bolt and wires in my brain along with many broken 
          bones and internal injuries.  My legs were shredded and shattered and the doctors had tried to clean the mud and grass from the slivers
          of bone and piece them back together with plates and screws and staples.  An innumerable number of machines were monitoring me, 
          making me breathe, medicating me and feeding me.

          The nurses told my family that they had put some liquid turkey into my central line that day.  The joke was appreciated, but the smiles
          were weak as no one was sure that I would ever wake up.
          It would be another week before I did.

          But, so far, I was the "lucky" one.
          Two other young men, the same age as me, were working next to me at the road construction site in New Lenox when the drunk driver 
          accelerated his Chrysler through the barricades.  Since that moment they've held hands with Jesus every day.

          In 1989, I wasn't a member of Our Savior, but Kristen and her parents were.  Pastor Mitschke visited with them often and prayed over 
          me, that's what pastors are supposed to do.  But what touched and surprised me, months later when I read the piles of cards and my
          brain had healed to the point that I could remember them, was the dozens of families whom I barely knew that had prayed for us, sent
          us beautiful notes, visited us, brought us meals and continued to pray for us.
          I hardly knew them then, and today they are my friends.
          More than that, you are my family.
          You successfully prayed for my healing before I knew how to pray for myself.

          I had to join a church with people like that, and whether you were here 28 years ago or not, you are part of a family that prays for the

          Those prayers are answered, and I'm proof.
          Today I'm one of your Elders and I'm blessed to be able to face this altar, stand on my two healed legs, (one shorter than the other),
          and pray for you.

          I thank God our Savior for that blessing, and I thank each of you, my Our Savior family for being part of it.