Like Mary Tyler Moore, she “Lights the world up with her smile”! She’s a Doris Day look-alike with a Doris Day personality.
Her name is Mary Carol Jackson. Friends call her Carol. She resides in Peoria, Arizona.
I had the privilege of meeting Carol when I was scheduled to drive her to her doctor’s appointment one warm and sunny Arizona morning. Warm and sunny are also adjectives anyone would use to describe Carol.
Here is her story……
Carol had a stroke on January 1, 2010. She remembers that day well. She was in Good Samaritan Hospital, the Kronos Longevity Institute, where she worked as an Administrative Assistant. She wasn’t feeling well that day. The doctor did an EKG, which he said was abnormal. He ran a second EKG and found an accumulation of fluid around her lungs and heart. An abnormal heartbeat was what sent Carol to the hospital in the first place. While in that hospital she had a stroke. Her left side had been affected the most. She couldn’t walk or speak and had to use a feeding tube. Her doctor thought the stroke was due to a virus. She remembers on New Year’s Eve she was sitting on the side of her bed and her family was called to come immediately.
She was in this hospital for 2 months, being treated for problems resulting from her stroke. She learned much later that her doctor didn’t expect her to live! They didn’t tell her that.
She went full speed into her Physical Therapy sessions. These, and her Occupational Therapy, helped to strengthen her muscles. Her left side had been affected the most. She couldn’t walk or speak and had to use a feeding tube.
Carol remembers her therapists promising her Pepperoni pizza as a reward for trying extra hard during her therapy. Strange memory, I thought, when going through all that pain.
From this hospital she was transferred to Lifecare Nursing Home and Rehab Center where she continued to work on learning to walk all over again. She re-learned how to dress herself, improve her balance, and immersed herself into electro-shock therapy given to stimulate the nerves in her leg. She continues this therapy today.
All her hard work and determination finally resulted in considerable improvement. She was finally allowed to return home. Soon after her husband passed away.
When Carol told me this I asked her how could she continue? How could she overcome this latest devastating change in her life? How could she not be angry and want to just give up? How does someone go on after all this?
Carol said she was tired of being weak and wanted to be strong. She said living as she was wasn’t good enough for her, she wanted to be better and just knew she could be if she tried.
Her family found Palos Verdes Senior Living. She resides in their Assisted Living section. After going to Mountainside Fitness where she hired a personal trainer, Carol started back to work on her strength. Her medial prescriptions had caused her to lose weight. Weakness was her main challenge. She kept remembering what she overheard her doctor telling her family, “she will probably never walk again”.
She worked hard at Mountainside, her trainer worked her harder than she imagined he could. Mountainside even featured her story in their newsletter. Strangers read her story and came over to meet her at the center. They encouraged her! Eventually she moved from Assisted Living to Independent Living at Palos Verdes.
Carol said all the staff at Palos Verdes has been so welcoming and so helpful. They supported her and have been there when she needed them.
Carol feels she still has more progress to make. She knows she would be in that nursing home today if she hadn’t made the decision to push herself to be better. She refused the strong pain medications one doctor suggested would help. She didn’t want to become addicted to pain meds.
Today Carol takes care of herself in her apartment. She dresses herself, cooks her meals, and takes showers. She swims and socializes.
As I talked to Carol I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone who has gone through so much could ever find within herself the determination to keep going. I was wondering what I would have done in that situation.
Carol said, “everyone has a journey, every journey is different, and its how you deal with your journey that determines your quality of life”.
She also said she didn’t want anyone to pity her, or judge her for refusing pain medications and for not accepting her fate. It’s what she chose to do. She told me she was motivated by her faith in God and is much more religious now than she ever was before her stroke.
When I asked her what she could tell someone else with a similar condition she said, “it’s ok to ask for help”, but you can still be independent. Don’t be too proud to accept help, it’s for your own safety. But never, ever give up. You never know what your potential is until you are tested like Carol was.
Now Carol loves to talk about her journey. She said staying social is so very, very important. She is a greeter at Palos Verdes and tries to meet all the new residents as soon as they arrive. Carol swims and water-walks in the pool, even though she must swim using just her one good arm. When I talked to her about this story she had weights in her livingroom, and a stationary bike. She continues to train to get stronger and refuses to believe that this is as good as she can be.
Just when I thought I had heard her entire story she smiled and told me she wanted to show me something. Several years ago she did something she always wanted to do and she’s so proud of it. She showed me her belly ring! She said don’t judge me! I smiled and showed her my tattoo! We both had a good laugh and a great big hug!
Carol told me she would love to talk to anyone who was going through a similar challenge. She would like to offer support and hope to others.
I can only say she made me smile that day. A really big, big smile! She made me really think about determination and being unwilling to accept limitations. Carol taught me you are only limited by your attitude.
Carol, with the Mary Tyler Moore smile and personality of Doris Day, you are truly one of a kind! I am so glad I met you!