“Nothing in my accomplished life prepared me for the morning of May 27, 1999 when I walked into an Intensive Care Unit to find my 20-year-old son alive only because of life support machines of every type.”
Laquita Conway's son, Aaron Baker, broke his neck in a motocross accident. His injury had left him paralyzed from the shoulders down and required him to breathe with a ventilator and eat with a feeding tube. He was also attached to various other tubes and IVs to keep him alive. “I struggled to even breathe. My heart was shattered within the confines of my chest,” she shares.
Investing in her son's recovery
Not willing to leave her son’s side, Laquita and her son began a new journey as she came to understand the extent of her son’s injuries. “The first words I heard were that the surgery went well, however Aaron would have a one in a million chance for regaining any function, including the ability to feed himself again,” she shares.”I was overcome with nausea, tears flooding down my cheeks, with a piercing pain which felt as though I was dying myself.” Laquita was not willing to settle for that prognosis and the negativity she felt from the medical staff.
She took it upon herself to direct Aaron’s care. “I asked my sister to go buy a CD player and a number of different CDs of meditation music and sounds of nature to transform the room into a healing environment,” she shares. She also kept the negative energy to a minimum. She even met her son’s medical team in the hallway to avoid overwhelming Aaron or sharing his grim prognosis. She left space for hard work and hope.
The music never stopped playing and Laquita never left her son’s side. “We worked for improvement, utilizing every nanosecond, every moment in rehabilitation to move forward,” she shares.
“Being proactive assisted tremendously with my ability to cope, knowing without a doubt that if I did not take this kind of action, once again that the initial prognosis would be true.”
Laquita worked to support Aaron so that he could “conserve his limited energy and to channel that energy to his rehabilitation.”
The impact of the spinal cord injury on the family
“Catastrophic injury is not discriminating nor does it only completely alter the injured one’s life,” Laquita explains. “Every family member, every friend is affected severely.” Their investment in Aaron’s recovery also impacted their lifestyle, finances and ability to be spontaneous. Laquita even retired to take over Aaron’s care. His sister also felt the impacts of the new lifestyle coupled with a devastating trauma.
“I often refer to the family of those that suffer a catastrophic injury as the silent, invisible casualty."
And after a long period of hard work, commitment, and exercise, Aaron overturned much of his original prognosis and regained many of the abilities he was told he’d never have. “The future of recovery will come by way of collaboration between scientific research and continued rehabilitative exercise,” Laquita shares. She now dedicates her life to spreading this idea.
“When faced with a catastrophic injury, it is wrong for medical professionals to state dire, hopeless prognoses,” Laquita shares. “Hope for improvement must be left intact.” The benefits of a wellness protocol go beyond potential gains in mobility. Keeping your body healthy and a positive mindset is valuable on every level, including preventing secondary health conditions.
“Recovery is a nebulous term, as you never really know what type of recovery you may have, until you try,” she shares. Now she runs C.O.R.E. in southern California, a wellness gym she started with her son, with the goal of being “a place where persons of all fitness and ability levels can achieve their greatest physical potential, and build a lifestyle of health and wellness that will help them to live fulfilling and empowered lives.” Every situation is different, every body is different, but even if there are no gains in mobility, don’t overlook the value of a healthy, active lifestyle.
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