In all of my whining and moaning about pain and how I am tired of it, somewhere there was a voice screaming "QUIT! Someone else has it much worse than you do!". I had this feeling like I was being selfish. Selfish for not sharing the good things - only the bad. Whining when I should be rejoicing that we are still relatively healthy, we still have a home, and we still have some sort of semblance of jobs. Money is tight, and yes, I have not been feeling well. But someone has it much worse than me, and I am being childish about my woes.
And then the phone rang. My friend Sue called to tell me the horrible news.
Tom, former Director, and just this year, the President of my Board -- who just recently left his job in our small town late this summer for reasons that aren't important - resigned himself to moving south - to Texas - to manage a larger facility in the field he loved. His wife Kristen planned on staying here a little longer. Maybe until their daughter Verva graduated, maybe longer. Kristen loves her position as Director of a childrens organization. So Tom went to Texas. As a God faring family, they knew they would survive any separation, because they have strong family values - and a love for one another that space cannot divide.
Just before Thanksgiving Tom got what he believed to be a bad sore throat. The condition continued to worsen, causing body shakes and eventually pain in his arms and legs. It was not a cold. It also was not what the doctors believed to be Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome. Guillain-Barré syndrome is a neurological disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms vary in severity. Tom's were the most severe. He was unable to move from the chin down. He could not respond to bodily movements, only eye movement. On Tuesday doctors placed a central port to do a plasma exchange. During the procedure, Tom suffered a massive stroke.
As yesterday and today have gone on, Tom has worsened. There is no way of knowing if he will now survive this disease that normally has a 90% recovery rate.
On top of the stress of Tom's failing health, he had only worked one day at his new job. And Kristen used all of her sick and vacation time for surgery she had to have on her heart just this fall. They have no income, and two households to maintain.
Our small town is devastated. I am devastated. Tom helped me establish myself in the position I am in, and with honor accepted the elected position as President in 2008 because he knew we were doing great things. Tom also managed Jim's grandfathers care at the nursing home. I always felt that we received special care while Tom was there because we knew he cared about our family.
So this afternoon a small group of people who have special attachments to Tom and Kristen gathered in the backroom of my favorite coffee cafe and met to brainstorm ideas to help them in ways that people in small towns do. And the group got bigger and bigger as time went on. By the time the meeting started, our small group went from 8 or 10 to over 20 people, crammed tightly in the small room, eating lunch and sharing ideas. By the time we left the meeting, we planned three special events that includes Christmas Caroling by the small children Kristen has overseen for the past three years. It also includes a benefit in January.
There was not a dry eye when the meeting adjourned.
If only the energy that filled that room could be bottled up and sent to them. Sent to Tom and injected - with all of its love and prayer - to heal him.
As I walked back to my office hunched over, I reminded myself that someone has it worse than me. I reminded myself that I still have it pretty good - I still have my life. I still have my home, and my family, and my job. And I still have tomorrow to look forward to.
I don't know if Tom has that.