One aspect of life that has really been a challenge for Jake and me in the past has been our tendency to be social hermits. Like a lot of couples, early in our marriage we got so comfortable and used to spending time at home together that we rarely went out and socialized. Afterall, we would see our families often, and we both would get social interactions at our jobs, but aside from that, we were straight up home-bodies.
When Jake was in the hospital, we received so much love and support from the healthcare workers, on social media, and visits from family and friends, we were overwhelmed by it all. There was always a new “stranger” that we were dealing with, whether it was the new nurse starting their shift or the custodian who came in to clean his room. There were numerous doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other hospital staff that we had to interact with. It was so nice and everyone was wildly helpful. But then, Jake got released and I finally got to have him home again after almost a month in various hospitals. And it was a big change.
There was mostly just Jake and I (and our fur-babies). For me at least, I would go off to work and have my normal amount of social interactions, but Jake was often at home for 8-10 hours by himself. Before he went back to work (remotely from our home), there were days that I could tell he was bored out of his mind and needed some social release! The only problem was that he was not mobile. Jake did a great job trying to keep connected to folks through text messaging and phone calls, but it was tough on him.
So once Jake got his prosthesis, and I knew he was getting the hang of it, I devised a plan to surprise Jake with a party in his honor where he could be re-introduced into the world. Not just a party, but a gathering he could proudly walk in on his own two legs, and show everyone how far he had come!
This past weekend we got social.
Really social. After months of not really seeing anyone or doing anything, Jake was jumping back into the world. Aside from the surprise party, Jake signed up to go to a Table Tennis clinic. It was being sponsored by his rehab hospital and there would be physical therapists there as well as Paralympic-level ping pong (sorry I know it’s not the preferred term) players to help instruct and advise!
Jake had an amazing time, and the people were so supportive and friendly. I got to see him laugh and smile and hustle around on his two legs for nearly 2 hours playing surprisingly well! (who knew?) Getting to see him like that was so amazing and inspiring. He can’t see it as much as I can, but he glows when he is in situations like this where he is not intimidated, he is free and loose, and confident.
When the last ping pong ball was hit, he was tired and sweaty and smiling! So now came the real trick for me… getting him to his surprise party!
Forty-six minute, twelve-mile drive.
Ping pong was done at Noon, and the party was 12 miles away at 1:00 pm. So after a few weeks of being super sneaky, I figured why not really play it up. So I got “lost” and had to backtrack a few times through downtown Indianapolis. Jake is not downtown often, so it was pretty easy to fool him. Turning east, then “oh no, this isn’t where I thought it was…”
I managed to stretch the drive time and we arrived at 1:02 pm. I was so excited knowing that 20 or more of Jake’s favorite people were inside waiting to see him after these long few months of having to skip events, missing dinners, and postponing plans.
As we walked in, I saw our group, they were covering their faces with the large menus and I instantly started to tear up. I hadn’t thought about what I would tell Jake once we were inside, or even how we would “reveal” the surprise. Luckily the group must have collaborated on a plan. As we approached the tables, they started a slow clap! The clap grew and Jake’s stunned face whipped around at all the people who had driven from near and far.
He was stunned, and I was crying for the first few minutes, but it quickly became clear how much love there was in the restaurant for Jake and I. Nearly everyone was shocked to see him walk in on his prosthesis without a walker or even a cane! Aside from our parents and my siblings–most people had not seen Jake since his amputation. Those who had seen him, saw him using a walker.
It was simply the best day. We have the best people in our life!
“We are amazed by how far you have already come and so excited to see where you will go. It takes a special person to lose a limb and come out better than ever. To say we are inspired by you is an understatement. We are proud to call you and Jewls our friends who have become family.”
-The Vester Family
“Please never let go of your increible positivity, outlook on life and commitment to being an inspiration to others. You are rare and this world needs all you have to offer.”
-The Carmichael Family
“You have inspired us so much these last few months. Keep writing this new chapter with the same determination, courage, and humor that you have shown so far!”
-The Nolan Family