Reader alert: This post is a mother's paean to her son's courage. Don't say I didn't warn you. :)
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Yesterday was the Big Day! Eight months and sixteen days after his surgery last July, K. rolled into his classroom.
No, he is not completely recovered; and yes, he still has to have a nurse come to the house each day to dress his wound. But it is 95% healed and he persuaded the doctors to give him a "conditional" release to go back to work.
The conditions are that he must be evaluated weekly, and if the wound begins to breakdown (due to the fact that he must sit on it 10-12 hours a day while working) he will have to have another surgery and be down again for several more months.
Nevertheless, he felt it was worth taking a shot at it, because if he could not return by April 17th, he would lose the position he has held for the past ten years. No tenure in the county where he works.
Back in the day, I managed a workforce of over a thousand people; and when I think of all the times an employee with the "two-day sniffles" stretched that into a five day absence - when I think of all the times an employee worked two or three doctors from different angles to be able to declare a temporary disability in order take several months off work - well, it is hard.
In the past nine years on the job, K. took nine sick days - total.
I have watched him struggle to get back into the workplace, while still on three or four medications, still carrying a wound that could have killed him, still unable to move his left arm with full range of motion due to eight months of enforced bed rest, yet still saying, "Let me go. Let me try. I want to do this if I can. We won't know until I try."
Yesterday students ran across the quad when they saw his car pull into the handicapped spot, shouting "Mr. R., Mr. R. You're back!"
Office staff shook his hand, some with tears in their eyes, saying "Welcome back."
Fellow teachers in various classrooms, hallways, and the cafeteria stopped by to shake his hand and say, "We missed you."
Of course, I am his mother, and I am biased. But I am telling you, Mr. Chips had nothing on this kid. He is indomitable.
This is the guy who went down to the DMV office two weeks after both legs were amputated and had them change his license from six feet one inch tall to four feet eight inches. It was his idea of humor.
He teaches the most difficult students in an economically deprived school district in a portable classroom. He attitude is "bring it on." These kids have no one to read to them at home, their parents may be incarcerated, and often English is not their first language. Still there has been one dependable person in their world: Mr. R. shows up. And he cares.
Despite everything, despite all obstacles and all hardships, he shows up. Daily he shows them that if he can do it, they can too.
Role models come in all sizes and shapes. Some come riding in wheelchairs.
We do not know what next week holds. But today we are wearing big BIG smiles.
Hope you are smiling, too. Until next time .... Marsha