I thought I would share some of the more significant aspects of my 2017…
In January, I resumed working as a teaching assistant for entrepreneurship courses at Western Carolina University. It’s all online, and I appreciate the opportunity to try to make a positive impact on my students, while lightening the load on the entrepreneurship faculty. It’s a win-win, I think.
Also this spring, we started year-round, quarterly “IKAN Have Fun Bowling” Leagues online, which is free, just for fun and camaraderie. The idea is that wheelchair users and their family and friends can bowl locally, and can compete/share scores from anywhere in the world. So far, our participation numbers are a little light, but the folks who have partaken (I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before) have been happy about having this new platform to both compete and have fun. (I’m still collecting Q4 scores.)
On May 12, we lost my Grandpa Loren at the age of 92. He passed somewhat unexpectedly, but that could be considered a blessing, as he had quite a bit of pain on a daily basis for quite some time (i.e. years). Thankfully, he was able to accomplish one of his lifelong goals before passing… watching our beloved Chicago Cubs WIN THE WORLD SERIES! Yes, that actually happened.
Also in May, we lost my nursing coverage which had provided 40 hours per week for almost the entire time I have been paralyzed (I passed the 20 year mark in August). Thankfully, it was restored around the beginning of December, ending six months without coverage.
The good news is that, since we were without nursing coverage, we thought that was a great opportunity to take a road trip to Chicago and see our Cubs play at Wrigley Field. That is kind of a bucket list item that I had for my postinjury experiences. So we planned a trip to see the Tampa Rays vs. the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 5. I’m sure Grandpa was in attendance with us, albeit from a better vantage point.
Although the trip was initially planned so that we could see the Cubs at Wrigley Field, and to visit with my brother and eat at Quartino, a highly regarded Italian restaurant where he is a manager… we also planned it so that I could visit a fellow quadriplegic friend and his family on the way up (we needed to stop for the night anyway, so it was a timely opportunity) and to visit several patients at Shepherd Center (where I did my rehab 20 years ago) on our way back. Altogether, it was an excellent trip.
At the end of July and beginning of August, I was hospitalized for nine days. It was just my third hospitalization in the (roughly) two decades that I have been paralyzed from the neck down and ventilator dependent (I thank the Lord for my relative good health, despite paralysis). I had some infection requiring prolonged IV antibiotics, and also some unusual “total body swelling” that ultimately was attributed to low protein absorption. My heart, kidneys, and basically every test that they could run from the hospital came back fine. My layperson understanding is that my body felt it was too low on protein, so it started taking protein from my cells, which resulted in fluid being released into my tissues, hence the swelling.
That hospitalization occurred just before I was given the opportunity to be the “instructor of record” for an undergraduate entrepreneurship course at Western Carolina. Even though I’ve worked several semesters as a teaching assistant, being wholly responsible for the course was a bit of an eye-opening challenge. (Among other things, I learned that trying to convert a course from an on-campus format to an online format is particularly difficult when you are not the original syllabus author or course designer… but I did my best, under the circumstances.) Ultimately, I thought the course turned out pretty well, even though I am probably my own toughest critic. We shall see what the future holds, regarding my efforts to help educate entrepreneurship students.
In October, I spoke with roughly 300 middle and high school students at First Academy. My longtime friend Clint Patterson works there teaching Bible classes, and he asked me to be his guest speaker for morning Chapel, to share my story and my faith with the students. It had been a while since I had done a speaking engagement, as I’m a little hesitant due to not being able to speak as well on my current ventilator as compared with my original ventilator. But, I’ve been told that having to pause more than I would like (as the ventilator catches up) makes me a bit more dramatic, and Clint said the students were the quietest he has seen, as they really seemed to be paying attention to what I was sharing. So that was nice.
Something that was originally planned for October was the fourth annual bowl-a-thon fundraiser for my longtime friend and fellow quadriplegic Rhonda Reese, to help keep her out of a nursing home. That plan was altered by some crazy hurricane (Irma) that came through in September, as we did not feel the timing was right for such a fundraiser with folks needing to recover from the hurricane damage. (Thankfully, most everyone I know in central Florida was relatively unscathed by the hurricane, my family included, praise the Lord!)
The good news is that Rhonda now has full coverage provided by a combination of assistance programs (all of which are still less expensive for taxpayers than a nursing home) however, 24/7 coverage can be difficult for agencies to staff. That forces Rhonda to rely on a small team of caregivers which she has to pay out-of-pocket. So that’s why we are now planning a bowl-a-thon for February 10, 2018.
Speaking of Quad Squad bowling… Claude Giguere is one of the main folks responsible for bowling being possible – and fun – for all types of wheelchair users, even high-level quadriplegics like me. Claude is the inventor of what is now known as the IKAN Bowler® (I am generously credited with co-inventing it) and he put together a Museum-like display to kind of share the evolution from the wooden prototype he built to the precision product we bowl with today. One of the two regular places at which our Central Florida group bowls, AMF Leesburg Lanes, is now displaying our history for all to see, and we are thankful for them giving our display a home.
Those are some of the more noteworthy aspects of my 2017, but obviously not everything (my apologies if I didn’t include something involving you). For the record, I do try to be “present” with whomever I’m with, and to enjoy their company and each day… whatever it may bring.
May the new year (2018) bring you health and the ability to see the positive in essentially all situations (that’s one way to think about the choice to be happy)… God bless!
William A. Miller, BSBA, ME
C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 255 High Bowling Game
Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
My blog: https://powerwheelchairusers.wordpress.com
Business website: http://www.ikanbowler.com
Personal website: http://www.lookmomnohands.net