Kindness Steps Up for Broken Back

I love the way people look at me when I mention all the blessings that we experienced during my bout with breast cancer this past summer. The love I felt from friends, strangers and even my own family far surpassed any act of kindness I had ever previously experienced.

I know this is a bold statement — and my husband may disagree — but I’m going to say it anyway: Going through cancer was worth it when I look at all of the kindness it brought into our lives.

I’m not sure if Hugh Culbertson is ready to say the same thing about his wife’s back injury. They are still in the process of healing, but I can tell by the letter he sent me that Hugh and his wife are definitely aware of and grateful for all the kindness surrounding them.

Here’s what he had to say:

“On June 17, 2015, my wife, Charlene, and I were camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In the late evening, Charlene went to our camper to get something. She slipped on the first or second step and fell, breaking the second vertebra in her neck region. A piece of bone put pressure on her spinal cord, leaving her unconscious and without breath for several seconds.

“Thanks to a fine emergency medical team, she was revived. She underwent serious neck surgery two days later. This was followed by six weeks of intensive therapy at a world-class rehabilitation hospital, nine weeks at a skilled nursing facility in our hometown and about three months of home care. The latter process continues.

“During the past eight months or so, we have received many acts of kindness, confirming the idea expressed by some scholars that disaster can bring out the best in people (as well as, sometimes, the worst).

“When he saw her turning blue, our son-in-law, Brad, who was camping with us, applied cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques that he had learned as a volunteer fireman. With coaching by phone from paramedics who were on the way, he brought her back to consciousness and probably saved her life.

“Also, rangers at the state park where we were staying kept our camper in their yard for several days as Charlene underwent surgery and other treatment some 85 miles away in Marquette, Mich.

“Our granddaughter and her husband then helped our daughter and son-in law drive our camper, pulled by a Suburban, the 800 miles or so to our home in Athens, Ohio, where they stored it and continue to do so.

“When we arrived at the hospital, arrangements were made for me to stay with Charlene 24/7, sleeping on a cot in her room. During that time, our son and daughter visited regularly. My daughter often took me out to eat to give a break from the hospital routine, and our son drove me the 70 miles from Athens to Columbus several times so I could make arrangements back home.

“Our pastor visited many times, as did several friends from my workplace in the Ohio University School of Journalism and from our church. They brought gifts. They contributed food regularly to our home for several weeks after we left the hospital. They also offered to help in many other ways, including adorning Charlene’s room with flowers while she was in the hospital and at the nursing home.

“Perhaps most amazingly, our granddaughter signed on to help look after her ‘granny’ at home. Annie is a nursing student, so she was able to get a job with a home-care agency and look after her for five-six hours each weekday. Other home-care aides also come on occasion and show great sensitivity as they realize Charlene loves to chat.

“Certainly the saying ‘There is a silver lining in every cloud’ surely holds true for us.”

Thanks for sharing your story, Hugh. It so difficult sometimes to see the silver lining in the midst of a storm, but looking for the kindness in a situation can help us bring it into view.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

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