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This article is part of our Fall 2022 issue of Breaking Barriers. This installment focuses acquired disability. Most people with disabilities were not born with their disability, but acquired it through stroke, accident, illness, aging, etc. In this issue, people describe how their acquired disability has affected them, what they’ve lost, and what they’ve gained. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers.

In my "pre-stroke" life, I was a professional musician, playing and teaching flute and piccolo. All of that changed for me in the middle of the night on February 15, 2010. I suffered a major stroke, losing function on the left side of my body. I was transported by ambulance to the area's Level 1 trauma hospital in Seattle, 100 miles away from our Whidbey Island home. As I spent the next six weeks in the hospital receiving treatment and all kinds of therapy, I discovered that flute playing, along with many other activities, would no longer be possible. I would need to learn to do many things in a new way. I would have to retire.

photo courtesy of author

When I was able to return home, my husband became my full-time caregiver. He was, and still is, the sole driver, getting me to all my doctor and therapy appointments, to church, to concerts (which are essential to my well-being), doing all the shopping and cooking, and many other things. Not wanting to be any more of a burden to my family than necessary, I tried to do as much as I could for myself. I can shower and dress on my own. I am still able to do laundry, water house plants, and a few other household chores, but it is hard for me not to be able to contribute more. I realized that I had to trust God because I know he has a plan for me.

Several years later, one of my therapists asked if there might be such a thing as a one-handed flute. My loving and supportive husband, Charlie, started searching the Internet and found Maarten Visser in Amsterdam, who specializes in modifying instruments for people with disabilities. Maarten agreed to convert my flute so I could play it with one hand. Eight months later, after much emailing and shipping a mock-up instrument back and forth, I received my “new” flute. I began learning to play this instrument which had a completely different fingering system and playing position. I had to start from the beginning, but to me, being able to play again satisfied a deep longing in my heart. It was my little miracle!

My church family was wonderful, too. From Pastor Jon Brown—who made the 200-mile round trip to visit me in the hospital—to the prayer shawl made by church members, to the many cards sent by church friends, I felt supported and surrounded by God's love.

That was more than 12 years ago and God is still with me, giving me good physical therapists and loving, encouraging people in my life. I can play my flute and participate in ensembles on a limited basis. I feel blessed beyond measure.

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