- February 10, 2016
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Love that Triumphs
Have you ever come across people that make you stop and reevaluate parts of yourself? People who cause you to want to be stronger, complain less and find the rainbow hiding behind the clouds. I met them today, Lynn and Jim Clark.
As Lynn ushered me into their beautiful home I was greeted by yet another brilliant smile on the face of a man that even laying in his chair I recognized as a giant. Jim’s face held in it a thousand emotions at once, with intelligent laughing eyes. I was invited into this private world of love and intimacy for awhile. Instantly I fell in love with these people and knew that my life was about to be made better for having met them.
Attentive and alert Jim sat up and looked at me and Lynn took her place next to him and smiled and began to share their amazing story with me. I was taken back because I realized how rare it is to see this kind of commitment and love between two people.
As I pulled into the driveway at the Clarks home I paused for a moment with a sense of anticipation. It is difficult to know how to respond when I am getting ready to meet someone who faces daily difficulties that I can’t begin to fathom. Mr. Clark suffered a very serious stroke 5 years ago and is paralyzed on his left side, his wife Lynn is his full time care taker. I was imagining a very tired women, and a severely debilitated man. A house filled with medical equipment and the emotional weight that all that can bring. I knocked on the door and it opened quickly to a brilliant smile and warm welcome into a home filled with so much love it was palpable to me as I walked through the door.
Lynn began, it was 5 years ago this Christmas, our daughter was here and our son was on his way to spend the holidays together. We had a normal day, we exercised and lifted weights that day, Jim used to be a body builder and he loved working out. Everything appeared to be normal. Lynn said they went to bed and the next morning their whole lives changed. When Jim woke and tried to get out of bed he fell to the floor, his body already paralyzed from an apparent stroke he had sometime during the night. Lynn found her 6′ 4″, 240 pound, body builder husband on the floor unable to move. Because they had no idea when the stroke happened all post medication that could have helped could not be used because of the lack of information.
The first week was like a whirl wind. They were not even certain the Jim would survive. Because the stroke was on his left side his speech center and ability to swallow had been all but wiped out. He could not move his left side at all. The news was grim and at times seemed hopeless.
The hospital started the process of trying to convince Lynn that he would need to be placed in a nursing care facility. I am sure looking at the 5’1″ women they were having a difficult time imagining how she would take care of this giant of a man, her husband. I realized pretty quickly that Lynn was not much for being told what she could not do. For Lynn, Jim being away from her was not an option. And with grit determination she began assessing her life and figure out how they were going to make it work.
After several weeks of beating the odds and astounding the doctors and therapist, she took her beloved home. He was on a feeding tube, unable to walk or take care of his basic needs. With little training and nothing but love and determination they began the task of defining and figuring out this new life.
Lynn said, I would love to talk to young people before they get married and help them to truly understand what for better or worse, in sickness and health, really means. We never planned for this. I do what I do because I love him and I am committed to him. He is still in there, my Jim, same guy. We still laugh together and enjoy each other.
I looked over at Jim as he handed her a tissue to wipe her eyes and without a single word expressed deep love to his beautiful wife with a look. His words still difficult to form, his mind is sharp as a tack. He has complete comprehension, this tall man with the warm eyes who used to control satellites for NASA. Lynn said he has asked her why she has stayed and done all she does. She simply told him because she loves him.
Jim is a jokester and as Lynn said, a real aggravator. I could tell this right away when he saluted Lynn when I asked him if she was hard on him about exercising and the other things he has to do. He laughed out loud when she laughed. When she told me that she married him for his legs their sweet flirting back and forth almost made me blush. Here was a man, paralyzed, speech impeded, unable to do many normal tasks for himself that we all take for granted winking at his beloved and making her smile.
Jim and Lynn were referred to Alexander Lyons, C.P.O., clinician and owner of Lyons Prosthetics & Orthotics, Inc. in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Jim had a difficult time keeping his left foot straight so any hope of walking was lost unless they could find someone to make a brace for his foot. Alex was brought in early on and has been making braces for Jim’s foot and for his arm to keep his hand from loosing flexibility when he sleeps. Lynn said, “Alex has been great, he has made several braces for Jim and is always researching and finding new and better things to try to help Jim.” She said, “Alex always makes time for us and his office staff are amazing, they schedule us when it is convenient and have always been supportive and kind to us.” She thinks Alex is a smart and very compassionate man.
When I asked Lynn what she missed the most about their lives before the stroke, she says going to the beach together and sitting and talking for hours. But she added, we still have fun together and laugh a lot. I asked Jim what he missed, he looked over at his wife and made kissing noises at her. He pointed to a picture of his beloved dogs that had passed away and made motions of weight lifting. I said, “in that order.” He grinned from ear to ear. Sensing an opportunity here I teased him and said, “Jim if I didn’t know better I would say you are flirting with your wife again right here in front of me.” He simply said, “Yeah”.
Yes my life has been enriched today meeting an amazingly strong brave woman and her prince that others would have discarded. They share an amazing love. Commitment takes on a whole new meaning when you meet people like the Clarks.
Story by Christine Koppel of CKPhotography
Alexander Lyons, C.P.O., clinician and owner of Lyons Prosthetics & Orthotics, Inc. in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.