“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.