My dear friend, Jenny, could use your prayers.
I visited Jenny’s lovely parents, Barb and Rob, a few days after Jenny was born, about 26 years ago. She was a gorgeous baby, but, aren’t they all? Nine months later Jenny was stricken with transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation across both sides of one level, or segment, of the spinal cord. The term myelitis refers to inflammation of the spinal cord; transverse simply describes the position of the inflammation, that is, across the width of the spinal cord. Attacks of inflammation can damage or destroy myelin, the fatty insulating substance that covers nerve cell fibers. This damage causes nervous system scars that interrupt communications between the nerves in the spinal cord and the rest of the body.
Symptoms of transverse myelitis include a loss of spinal cord function over several hours to several weeks. What usually begins as a sudden onset of lower back pain, muscle weakness, or abnormal sensations in the toes and feet can rapidly progress to more severe symptoms, including paralysis. Jenny became paralyzed. She has never walked. She has been wheelchair bound her entire life.
In the words of Winston Churchill, Jenny never surrendered. She received a college education. She works two jobs, one as a video editor with the Colorado Rockies baseball team and another with Altitude Sports. She is a writer and a producer.
In Chapter 22 of my book, titled “A Gift and the Super Bowl,” about Jenny I wrote:
“My friend, Jenny, has been wheelchair bound since she was nine months old. She faces Super Bowl challenges a hundred times each day. She has her games within games and she wins daily—the struggle to get into her re-designed van, to go shopping, to prepare a meal, to get to work, to get dressed. Jenny never complains. “You gotta be optimistic,” she tells me and I am humbled beyond my ability to convey.”
A few days ago Jenny suffered a serious car crash. Jenny drives a van that has been adapted to accommodate her physical constraints. Several operating systems—steering, braking, accelerating, signaling and so forth—can be performed using hand manipulated pedals and levers. As explained to me, the steering and brake systems in her van malfunctioned. Jenny could not control the van’s steering or braking. She crashed into a wall on the edge of a Denver highway. She broke her back.
I visited her today at the Anschutz Medical Center in southeast Denver, a magnificent hospital center. Three days ago she underwent a complicated four-hour operation to repair her fractured spine. She lay in bed tethered to tubes infusing drugs and pain killing medications into her. Tired and weary, but not emotionally beaten, she was quick witted, possessed of an upbeat sense of humor and radiating optimism.
“I’m tough Mike. I’ll make it,” she said, a smile beaming on her pretty face. Her words did moisten the old eyes.
Jenny may be the toughest person I’ve met, equaled, maybe, by one other, Marcus Luttrell, U S Navy Seal, author of Lone Survivor. Marcus was wounded in, captured and then rescued from Afghanistan. His book is well worth reading.
Jenny stirs the soul. Jenny inspires people to be better. But Jenny is going to have to be tough. Very tough. She could use your prayers.