Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Gift of Opportunity

I know I haven't written here in awhile, but I do hope there are a few who will read this & share in my joy. It's gonna be a long one, but bare with me!

A local radio station does a "Christmas Wish" every year, and this year I decided to submit one for my husband to be the recipient of. I doubted that we'd be selected, but I figured it was worth a shot. This is what I wrote:
My Christmas wish this year is for my husband, Eddie. We met almost three years ago and hit it off immediately. Neither of us were looking to date someone, but when it's meant to be, it just happens. Our first 9 months of dating were seamless. We had fun, we were active, and we were always on the go. Eddie proposed in December 2008 and we began to plan for our August 2009 wedding. About a month into our planning, however, Eddie injured his knee at work. He worked in a highly physical job as a diesel mechanic, working on semi-truck trailers. The injury was very debilitating and didn't get better on its own. He was unable to do his job and was placed on work comp and scheduled for surgery in mid-May 2009.

It was a struggle to plan our dream wedding without him working, but we did the best we could. On top of the added stress of wedding planning, we also had to worry about how his knee was healing. After his surgery, recovery was difficult. He had begun to gain weight due to not having the physical activity that he once had on the job, and this weight gain made healing even harder. He went to physical therapy for months. It was not only tough on him physically, but mentally it was hard on him too, because as a new husband, he had to stay at home while I went to work. It was an untraditional role & was difficult for him to accept it. Finally though, in late October 2009, Eddie was released back to work, which we thought was a great thing... until two weeks later, when his same knee was re-injured.

He was devastated. He had been off work for nearly 10 months before he finally got to go back, and now another injury! This time we were told that if it wasn't better in 12 weeks, his job would no longer carry him on their insurance. So now we had the added pressure of hoping his knee healed before our "deadline" so that he wouldn't be one of the many uninsured Americans who is unable to get insurance on their own due to pre-existing conditions. (During Eddie's time of being off work, he developed high blood pressure, diabetes, and gained nearly 100 pounds). He was not in a good place physically or mentally. Our 12-week deadline came and went, and we had no other choice but to enroll him in a COBRA plan to keep him insured. This giant bill each month made things even more difficult on just my meager income. We made it work though, because we had no other choice.

Eddie's knee didn't get better on its own, and he had to have a second surgery just about one year to the date of his previous one. In May 2010 they operated again, but unfortunately he has once again not healed properly. The doctors told him that he'd likely never return to his field (one that he spent several years learning at a trade school--and we still pay the bill on!) and that short of a knee replacement, there wasn't much they could do for him, especially at his weight. We decided to seek another opinion and went to a specialist who agreed that weight loss would be necessary before another needed surgery.

My husband and I are both very overweight people. We've both tried to lose weight in the past, and had successes, but unfortunately gained the weight back, and then some. Eddie's weight has creeped up since his injury, and I hate to see how physically he's not able to do what he once was, and I also hate to see how that takes a toll on him mentally/emotionally. It's discouraging to be 25 years old and not be able to walk around the block because of extreme pain & needing to use a crutch most of the time. Because he is extremely limited physically, exercise is nearly impossible, unless it works only his upper body. The only other option for weight loss is learning to eat a better, healthier diet, and doing the best he can that way.

I have had success with Weight Watchers in the past, and earlier this year joined again. It was a gift from my parents to pay for a membership for me for a year, because financially we were unable to afford the $40/month for me to attend. I was so thankful for that gift they gave me, and I tried to incorporate what I learned at WW meetings to our home life so that Eddie could benefit as well, even though he wasn't a member. He had a bit of success following along with me, and I would take him to free meetings whenever they were offered so he could see others that were in the same boat he was. We recently attended a meeting where a panel of successful members spoke about their success. After the meeting Eddie spoke up and told about his struggles and thanked them for being so inspiring. Afterwards, a kind stranger approached us & encouraged Eddie to join the program so that he could have success too. We explained that our financial situation simply does not allow for us to spend the money each month on a membership. To our surprise, this member graciously offered to sponsor a 3-month membership for Eddie to at least kick-start his weight loss and get him working toward his goal weight so that he can have another surgery. We were so amazed by this wonderful gift! It's only been a few weeks on the program, but Eddie has lost nearly 10 pounds, and I'm so proud of him! Unfortunately though, a 3-month membership isn't going to get him to his goal weight. Sure, he could still follow the program without the support of meetings, but those meetings are so, so important to a person's success, that I really want him to be able to continue. I've contemplated giving the remainder of my 1-year membership to him because I know that his quality of life will not improve without weight loss. I know we both need the program though, so I hate to have only one of us do it--we need the support of each other so we can reach our goal.

That's why this year, my Christmas wish is for Eddie to have a few more months of Weight Watchers meetings covered so that he can at least lose a little more before having to do it without the support of meetings. I know that he can lose the weight, and I'm going to be right there beside him, supporting him & trying to lose my weight as well. Having the support of each other, as well as other members at the meetings is really going to be the key to our future success. I realize that you can't grant every Christmas wish you receive, but I appreciate you taking the time to read them all and take them all into consideration. I want the best for my husband, and it makes me so sad to see him in excrutiating physical and mental pain day in and day out. The fact that we can't be as active as many newlyweds in their mid-twenties could be is hard, but we try to make the best of it. We try to be thankful for what we do have instead of focusing on what we're limited to due to physical and financial reasons, and we'll continue to do that, even if my wish for him can't be granted. Thank you and have a blessed holiday season.

I got a phone call yesterday.  It was the radio station.  She said that they were moved by my letter & they thought that my wish was really unique & wanted me to tell them my story again on the phone.  After telling a condensed version, she told me that they wanted to help us out and grant my wish, but they wanted to do a little better than what I was asking for.

The radio station and Weight Watchers are paying for BOTH Eddie and I to have 1-year memberships!  Not only that, but they are also paying for he and I BOTH to have 1-year memberships to our local gym, along with 6 weeks with a personal trainer!  I thought that in itself was unbelievable, but there was more.  My WW leader, Jennifer, has offered to go grocery shopping with us to be our personal shopping consultant while we spend a $300 gift card to a local grocery store for healthy food.  I was floored... and she kept talking!  Then after losing some weight, we're going to need new clothes, so they are also providing us with a $300 gift card to our local outlet mall.  I was speechless.  All I was asking was for my husband to get a few more months of support with the program, and they went so far beyond my wildest dreams.  This is truly a gift for both of us and will be such an amazing year thanks to the people at the station and the people that donate to make this kind of thing possible. 

This time last year, Eddie and I asked for half of our Christmas gift from my parents to go to a local family in need to help them provide Christmas gifts for their children.  We felt like it was the right thing to do, to give them a Christmas they could enjoy... and a year later, someone is doing that for us, only it's so much more than just a Christmas gift... they are giving us a gift of opportunity.  We have the opportunity and now we have the means to actually make getting healthy a possibility and a priority.  I couldn't say thank you enough... there just weren't words.