Becky Felton reads this column in the Ord Quiz, of Ord, Nebraska. In 2001, her experience with a disability began when she injured a shoulder after tripping over her dog. Though the soft-tissue injury seemed to fully heal after four months, her doctor nonetheless proceeded with corrective surgery. The relatively simple operation didn’t go as expected, and would negatively affect her for life.
‘I graduated from nursing school in 1995,’ said 52-year-old Felton in a telephone interview. ‘I had driven every day 140 miles round-trip to attend nursing school because I wanted to be a nurse that badly. Then I was a registered nurse for seven years, and was even ‘nurse of the year’ one year. Immediately after the operation (in 2002) I realized I couldn’t be a nurse anymore because I couldn’t move my arm at all.’
After the operation she learned she suddenly had permanent nerve damage in her left arm along with considerable shoulder pain that exists even today. As for the nerve damage, she says doctors can ‘stick needles on the outside of the arm up to the shoulder’ and she can barely feel a thing. Like many people would have, she was asking the question, Why me?
Felton traveled the U.S. searching for a doctor to fix her shoulder and resurrect her beloved nursing career. At one clinic, which Felton considered the nation’s best, doctors said they could do nothing other than offer pain pills and physical therapy. ‘It was a long car ride home from there,’ she said. ‘I cried the whole way. I went out there thinking they could fix it.’
Besides being a nurse, she can’t water ski or play golf with her husband anymore. Her left shoulder dislocates regularly, and many nights to control pain she sleeps in a reclining chair. She depends on her husband to comb her hair, tie her shoes, and put on her clothes.
In order to keep her nursing license, which she greatly values, she took on a part-time position as a certified parish nurse for her Catholic church. In that position, she now prays with parishioners, reviews medical tests, does informal counseling, and prepares people for surgery. Though nothing like her former occupation, being a volunteer nurse has been fairly satisfying.
She added, ‘I get through it all because of strong family relationships, friends, and faith.’