The mall corridor was ringing with festive Christmas carols. Everyone seemed to be so happy and full of holiday cheer; except me. In all honestly, I was silently praying that no one would see me. Our lives had just been flipped inside out with Jacoby’s accident and I had not even thought of purchasing Christmas gifts for our children. In fact, the very thought of going out in public and “regurgitating” Jacoby’s accident over and over to acquaintances made me nauseous. (Some of you know exactly what I mean.)
Jason came up with the idea of dropping me off at the mall right before it closed. My game plan was to run into Dick’s Sporting Goods, find something for each child in 30 min and then he would pick me up. I felt as if I could hardly breath as I walked “stealth mode” through the aisles; this was the first time EVER I didn’t want to be shopping. I frantically grabbed items I believed the kids would like, then came across a rack of North Face jackets. I stopped and stared at the jackets knowing this was EXACTLY what Jacoby would want for Christmas. My once “hot-blooded” child was freezing 24-hours a day now; warm coats were her new “obsession”. I am absolutely certain an angel placed that rack of North Face jackets right where this desperate momma could find them that night. I grabbed 2 jackets, each a different color, and headed for the check-out. As I had hoped, Jacoby loved the jackets and STILL loves them.
You see, some people have a lot of clothes, some have a lot of shoes, but Jacoby has a lot of North Face jackets. Staying warm is extremely important not only to Jacoby, but also to so many others who are disabled. Why? Because their bodies are no longer able to generate enough heat to keep them at a comfortable temperature. Without getting too scientific on you, Jacoby’s high level of spinal cord injury disabled her body’s ability to regulate body temperature. While maybe not as drastic or life threatening, many others suffering from nerve damage or circulatory issues face similar problems. For Jacoby, body temperature can quickly drop and it can take several hours to bring it back to a safe zone.
Long story short, staying warm is EXTREMELY important for many disabled individuals, so keeping their environment warmer, helps keep them healthy and functioning normally. Now, most of our friends and family understand why we’re wearing summer clothes in our house 12 months out of the year! They also understand why Jacoby has a North Face jacket on in the middle of July. When you see a disabled individual excessively bundled up, now you know why!
Here are a few helpful hints:
- When going to the home of an individual who is disabled or elderly, be ready for MUCH warmer temperatures. Wear layers, so you don’t go into heat stroke or make them feel bad when you start to hyperventilate. Excuse yourself to the restroom if you need to, splash your face with cold water. Remember, they cannot generate heat at a high level anymore, so they MUST keep the house warm. Perspective is huge! Be thankful your body is functioning properly, and realize you’re getting a sauna experience for FREE! (Our kids can attest to this… Many times they “fry” in the back seat because Jacoby needs her van so warm). I wish I could say they all lovingly oblige, but they’re young. The good news is… they’re all still alive and well today. Point Made.
- When out in public, don’t be afraid to hold open the doors for these individuals when going into stores. Many times, our loved ones start to chill just from the short distance between the car and the store entrance. It melts my heart when someone runs ahead and grabs a door for Jacoby; this small act means so much, especially in the colder, wet months.
- Once these individuals become chilled, the ability to focus and concentrate on anything is next to impossible. Their brain is only concentrating on getting their core body temperature back up. If any of you are teachers or leaders who have an individual in your classroom with these disabilities, please take a moment to speak to the person about their comfort. Would a small heater be helpful? Would a certain place in the room be warmer for them than another? As small as these things seem, they are HUGE to individuals who struggle to stay warm on a daily basis.
“Do small things with great love…” –Mother Theresa