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Journey Back to Joy

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The Intro
Hello, my name is Joy Thomas. I can humbly say that I never thought I’d find myself in such a needy, vulnerable position, but here I am. For many years in my department, I was the first to clock in and the last to clock out, unbothered by working on the weekends, or adding a part-time job to the mix in order to make ends meet - that is, until recently. Unfortunately, I just don’t have that kind of stamina any longer, plus the world seems bigger and scarier to me from the seat of a wheelchair. I have spent every cent of my emergency and health savings accounts to try and keep things afloat, but have finally depleted those reserves due to illness and the rising cost of living. I can’t keep up! Most days I feel like I’m stuck in the middle - making too much to qualify for government aid but also making too little to ever get ahead.

The Expectation
I am single and I thought that the new year would bring about exciting job opportunities, and fun travel adventures; however, so far, it’s brought nothing but unexpected trips to the emergency room, months out of work, a collapsed cervical spine(neck), and a pup that I can no longer care for.

The Door
On the morning of March 28, 2023, I remember hugging my dog, Jagger, before heading out the door for what I thought would be an hour-long consultation with a neurosurgeon. At the request of my primary care doctor, I scheduled to meet with a specialist about the range of symptoms I’d been experiencing. What I can only describe to you as electricity rippling through my body, insomnia, and numbness of face and limbs - these conditions had brought my life to a screeching halt; not to mention, frequent falls had made it nearly impossible to live safely.

The Fear
I was scared. Within a few months I had gone from walking unassisted to needing a cane and a wheelchair as symptoms progressed. Thankfully, the medical team at Inova wasted no time, and rushed me to the emergency room from the office for an MRI and full workup. I had very little sensation on the left side of my body and though initially thought to be a stroke, the MRI revealed severe cord compression at the C4-5 level, secondary to a large herniated disc causing spinal cord changes. I wouldn’t be going home that night but rather, I ended up spending another 20 nights away from Jagger - away from home. Titanium plates and screws, over a dozen medications, scripts for aggressive therapy and round the clock care - surgical intervention was my only chance to feel and walk again, and it set me on my journey back to joy.

The Limitations
I have degenerative disc disease, or DDD, in my neck and lower back, as well as a spinal cord injury (SCI) that has left me with impairments and limitations in body structure and function. These conditions have caused impaired balance, pain, quadriplegia (paralysis of the arms and legs), coordination deficits and a host of other problems that I can’t list without bursting into tears. Therapy is helping to gradually build up my strength, but self-care is still a challenge. For example, having to switch to small detergent pods because my arms are too weak to lift a 5 lb container of Tide can be frustrating - until I remember that weakness is better than no strength at all.

The Technology Need
Bioness L300 Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Technology - Replaces natural electrical brain signals, helping reanimate weak or paralyzed limbs

The Source of Medical Bills
Inova Hospital & Outpatient Rehab (Physical/Occupational therapy)

If you’d like to give in support of my healing journey, I would be forever grateful. If nothing else, please remember me in your prayers today and I will do the same.


Joy Thomas
Leesburg, VA

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