(Interview on Feb 19, 2020)

Marguerite (“Peggy”) Moore has been caring for her husband Matthew (“Matt”) Moore for close to three decades. More precisely since 1991 when life as they knew it, as a vibrant young couple with four young daughters ranging in age from 7 to 13, was shattered overnight: in a terrible accident during a rugby game, Matt broke his neck at C3-4, turning him from an all-round athlete into a quadriplegic. Yet this tragedy, which many would have deemed insurmountable, did not deter them from reclaiming bit by bit their fair share of a fulfilling life together -- different from before but nonetheless happy -- through deep spiritual faith that God will provide, sheer will, mutual love and friendship.

News of Peggy as caregiver extraordinaire eventually spread beyond their immediate upstate NY community. This has led to her receiving an award from a support foundation, Leave The Light On Foundation, as Outstanding Family Caregiver of 2019. Last month, CareCFA reached out to her for a possible interview, which she graciously accepted. On this occasion, its Vice-President Georges Leclere and newsletter editor Louise Laheurte were warmly welcomed at the Moores’ home -- a bright and airy house amid a cluster of similar family dwellings in the beautiful quiet neighborhood of Cold Springs NY, with lanes each named after a Beatles song



Peggy, Dawn and Matt



What it took to save the day

“It takes a village!” Peggy instantly said when queried about how she managed and moved forward, especially in the critical first few weeks and months after Matt’s accident.  The injury he sustained was so severe that no one on the day of the accident believed he would survive.  That is, no one but Peggy who, though she knew he was badly hurt, was not immediately told how badly.  After all, didn’t he remain fully conscious and coherent, and even cracking jokes, as he was being carefully strapped on a stretcher and airlifted to the nearest special trauma hospital?  At any rate, the only thought and prayer then racing through Peggy’s mind was that her husband would quickly and fully recover.  Matt was operated on the very next day, and remained hospitalized for intensive treatment and therapy for seven months.  Though paralyzed from the shoulders down, he did survive, keeping his spirits high, with the unwavering love of God and support of his wife Peggy, of their tightly-knit family and of an entire network of friends and resource people.

Matt had been a volunteer fireman, PE and Health teacher, official, team player and coach in a number of sports, including volleyball, swimming, wrestling and rugby.  Both he and Peggy had been active members of their community, taking up volunteer and leadership roles in multiple social, school, youth, sports, and church activities.  When disaster struck, help from family and friends proved invaluable.  Their Pastor, Wayne Kemp, rushed to Matt’s hospital upon receiving Peggy’s urgent call, visited frequently, and remained all along an essential spiritual guiding light.  When Peggy needed it most in a moment of complete despair, the Pastor’s words of wisdom lifted her up, as he quietly and kindly said to her, “you have to mourn the old Matt and celebrate the new.”  Peggy enlisted a volunteer from practically each of those different teams and groups, to act collectively as a “Brain Trust’, as she so aptly put it, with herself at the helm.  Last but not least, her mother, who was living with them, came to the rescue, taking care of the house and looking after the girls while Peggy spent many days and most nights at the hospital by Matt’s side (she made sure there was always someone watching over him).

With such solid backing, and given power of attorney, Peggy charged ahead.  She kept a journal, jotting down every single piece of information she could gather.  She learned at every opportunity from doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and pounded them with questions to seek out the best possible medical treatments and equipments -- if not to undo what was unfortunately irreversible, then at the very least to stabilize Matt’s condition and maximize his physical comfort.  She also sought the advice of social workers and others, and found hospital advocates to help her navigate the system.  She never hesitated to follow through if she thought something was wrong, and she never took no for an answer.        

Challenges were particularly daunting once Matt was sent back home, requiring 24/7 attention and care.  Peggy was taught how to lift and transfer him, suction his trach, straight catharize, bowel routine, ventilation application and how to turn him every two hours to prevent bedsores.  This was done for two years, until Matt was fortunately provided with a state-of-the-art bed which mechanically turned him from side to side.  Still, Peggy was chronically exhausted, even with help from any visiting relatives or friends.  At the same time, she fought insurance companies for the best possible medical and long-term care coverage.  She eventually won a major battle to hire and obtain reimbursement for some daytime nursing help (currently eight part-timers working on different days), but continued to do the nightshift, and not without plodding through mindboggling paperwork.  She even took active part in the design layout and construction of their Cold Springs house, with wide open wheelchair accessible layout, and complete bedroom and bathroom equipment for special needs, which is indispensable for optimal home caregiving. 

Coping with and accepting a new reality

Quite naturally, especially early on, Peggy, though a picture of strength, would find herself overwhelmed at times by sudden grief or pervasive sadness (those “why me, why him?” moments). Not wanting her young daughters to see her crying all the time, she developed a coping technique, a type of release valve that worked for the most part: she would stand in the running shower, cry and visualize her tears going down the drain, and start a new day. She was so determined to maintain a level of family normalcy that would keep them thriving. Sure, Daddy would never be able to play outdoor games with them anymore, but he was still be the same sweet loving dad, who could tell little stories or jokes and whom they could hug good morning or goodnight.

Peggy and Matt were teenage sweethearts, and barely into adulthood when they married. They had a strong physical and spiritual bond together. As a result of Matt’s spinal cord injury, Peggy was confronted with a stark new reality, which was impossible for her to deny or reject if she wished to preserve their lifetime companionship. And preserve it she did. Matt was her one and only, always was, and always would be. She was willing to sacrifice physical love, if that was what it took to be with and to nurture her new Matt. She found comfort in the realization that, if he was no longer able to even touch her hand, she at least was able to touch his. Acceptance of their new physical reality had a welcome effect on their spiritual bond: already strong to begin with, that bond got, as she described it, elevated to a whole new plane – as true soul mates who will be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary in June of 2020!

Maintaining a quality of life

Faced daily with so many demanding tasks, it was essential for Peggy to carve out some quiet alone time, even if only for brief moments in the day. She would go sit and unwind in a dedicated room of their house, to pray, read, reflect, or write her journal. As circumstances stabilized and a care providing routine was in place, she was gradually able to resume or take up some favorite hobbies and other activities, such as quilting, going to the gym, swimming, puzzles, mahjong, and volunteering for a number of good causes. Churchgoing, friends and family outings and visits remain at the core of the couple’s life. With four beautiful daughters and sons-in-law, and eight beautiful grandchildren, they do indeed count their blessings.