Positively Pat

Posted on July 28, 2015 under Storytelling with 5 comments

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” Sunny side up!”

 

 

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative,

Latch on to the affirmative …”

Accentuate the Positive – Sam Cooke

Some people have everything and want more. Others appear to want little, having found joy and contentment in its purist form.

Pat Evans had it all. She was a successful teacher, admired by her peers.  She was fiercely independent and was athletic, participating in several sports. She had just acquired a new English Springer dog and was about to take possession of a new home the very day her world was turned upside down. In the early hours of a late September morning thirteen years ago, Pat’s car was struck by a moose and, in an instant, she became a quadriplegic.

The house deal never did go through.

She was rushed to the nearest hospital in Baddeck. She already realized that she was in very bad shape. As she lay in her hospital bed, immobilized, she stared up at the ceiling and mused to herself: “Well missy, this could go either way. You can be sad and angry the rest of your life or you can just suck it up and get on with it.” Luckily for every person that knows Pat, she chose the latter. But this was no surprise to her friends. She had always been a “cup half full” kind of person.

Prior to the accident Pat had never been hospitalized. Once there, however, she became fascinated by all the technology, and by the way the medical fraternity was able to help patients in their darkest hours. She spent about six months in the provincial rehab centre before moving back to her beloved Cape Breton. She arrived to her new home on the lake, designed specifically for her physical challenges. There had been no compromising on one feature: she had to be able to see the water.

Not many people would see it this way but Pat claims that “If I were going to have an accident, I couldn’t have picked a better time.” First of all, there was the stroke of luck that someone was following close behind her when her car left the road, enabling first responders to find her quickly after she hurtled down an embankment and into some trees. She had insurance at the time that allowed her to build the home she needed along with all of the specialized equipment. She requires assistance 24 hours a day and has been blessed with wonderful caregivers.

And, speaking of caregivers, sometimes things are just meant to be. Pat’s first caregiver was Debbie Hibbs, who was aching from the loss of her son in a tragic plane accident. During their very first face to face meeting, they talked about many things. Pat mentioned that, by necessity, she would be using the internet a great deal to communicate with the outside world. And like many people do, Pat had a name for her computer: Melvin. I’m sure there was an audible gasp when Debbie disclosed that this was the name of her beloved son. Debbie had silently prayed to Melvin to find her a job. He knew where to send her.

Debbie says that in the six and a half years that she spent with Pat, she never heard her complain. Not even once.

Throughout my conversation with Pat she repeated the refrain “I am so lucky. There are other people who are worse off than me.” I’m sure that most able bodied people wouldn’t see it this way. “I didn’t change as a result of the accident.” she maintains. “I am who I am.”

And who is Pat Evans? Simply put, she is one of most uplifting people that you could meet anywhere. She has always surrounded herself with like-minded, positive people. “I have no time for negativity!” she declares.   Pat points to family and friends who never deserted her. And who would probably tell me that they receive much more than they give, thanks to this inspiring woman.

“My family are all nuts,” Pat claims. Even when she was in hospital and on a ventilator, they teased her unmercifully because they could get away with it. As in most large families, good natured ribbing is a given. Her legendary verbosity was compromised for a time but soon she was able to come right back at them.

Pat’s former colleagues come in a group several times a year including Christmas, when they roll up their sleeves and decorate the house. One of them commented that Pat was the embodiment of the expression from Epictetus: It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

And what has been the hardest part of this life-changing journey? “It took me a long time to accept that I wouldn’t be able to return to teaching. It was the only time during this whole ordeal that I cried.”

But one would argue that Pat never stopped teaching. She has inspired children when she has visited schools to give talks and she has a profound impact on young people who have disabilities. On a recent trip to the Mayflower Mall, she noticed a young boy in a wheelchair who looked to be about seven. He was marvelling at Pat’s ride, which she activates by head movements through a neck device called a Peachtree. After explaining how it worked, she asked him if he wanted to race. One can only imagine the stares from the mall patrons as Pat and the young boy spent a few joyous moments of exuberance together.

Pat has had the travel bug her whole life. Prior to the accident she had visited Australia and New Zealand on a number of occasions. She was and is a firm believer in “not putting off tomorrow what you can do today”. That spirit of wanderlust continues as she travels south in the spring of each year.

Getting from A to Z is not easy for Pat. Nothing is easy, but her indefatigable and unwavering spirit and zeal for life outstrip the many barriers she faces on a daily basis. During our conversation, Pat mentioned that she had to wear a halo for a long period of time during her recovery. I suggested that she still had one! We had a good laugh over that; one of many chuckles shared throughout the afternoon.

Her dog, Abbey, has been her constant companion. Abbey knows Pat’s routine every bit as well as do her caregivers. She lays low in the morning, but once the wheelchair swings into action, Abbey does likewise and is there by Pat’s side. In the early, dark hours after the accident, Abbey discovered Pat’s lap. They’ve been inseparable since then.

And when asked what is her greatest joy (besides family, friends, caregivers and Abbey!), Pat is quick to reply; “I love to be outside in the sunshine.”

I’m not sure if Pat can sing (I bet she can!) but I suspect that she knows the lyrics to this song:

”Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, Keep on the sunny side of life. It will help us every day; it will brighten all the way If we’ll keep on the sunny side of life.”*

Next time I’ll bring my guitar.

* Keep on the Sunny Side of Life – Ada Blenkhorn/Howard Entwisle

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