December 13, 2022
It is time again to look back at the year that has passed and consider the blessings God has provided. It has been an interesting 12 months with an active schedule and juggling care providers.
Last year ended with Joy, my primary daytime caregiver, gone for two months on medical leave. As January started, it didn’t look like she would be able to return for several months. I contacted four area colleges that have nursing programs to try to find any help. One student responded that she would be interested.
Abby trained in late January and picked up on my cares very quickly. Procedures she had never seen before were demonstrated only once before she was able to do them. The 19-year-old Sophomore from Central was able to take 1.5 of the three open days each week and has been an answer to prayer. She even delayed going home to Arizona in May so that my parents could go on vacation.
Joy was able to return in April, but needed plenty of rest and start with one day a week. Her first day back included driving to West Des Moines to pickup doctor’s orders before going to a class of RT students in Ankeny and returning home just in time to start my afternoon medical cares. It was one of the busiest days that month and didn’t qualify as slow.
Now, Joy covers around 2.5 days with Abby working as her class schedule allows. The remaining week days are covered by my other long-term caregiver. She officially retired over six years ago, but still comes faithfully. However, she says she will gladly take fewer hours if anyone can be found. If anyone knows somebody, please pass them along.
I started visiting schools again in spring, with my first class scheduled before Joy returned. Therefore, dad went with me to visit with second-graders at Pella Christian. For his first school visit, he did very well.
From April through June, I visited with nine classes, either grade schools or college. It was nice getting to have most of them in person again, but not all. My friend Tom’s oldest son was a third grader in Rochester, MN. With Tom’s help, I had my first virtual visit with an elementary school. Looking through a cell phone, I watched as kids wrote with their mouth, then feet, and I taught about different abilities. It was fun, but I’m not sure how well it would work for other schools.
With caregiver availability uncertain, I didn’t know if I would be able to do my regular outreach events. Thankfully, I was able to go out all three days of Tulip Time and also two mornings at the Iowa State Fair. As the world, and country, becomes more intolerant of Christians, I never know what to expect when doing street evangelism. Thankfully, everything went well and I had opportunity to speak with several people.
In 2021, I had a record of preaching 11 times during the year. Between March and October this year, I increased that number to 12. With visiting different congregations, I utilized sermon recycling as well as making new messages. I think it is about the most I want to do in a year, but I don’t like saying no to churches when asked.
All summer, I had trouble with my trach button draining junk around it. I started with a new ENT in 2021 and visited him several times over this spring and summer. He tried multiple attempts to solve the problem, but nothing worked. In October, seven years after originally getting the button, I had it changed for the first time. Thankfully, it went well and wasn’t as hard as I anticipated. The change also solved the problem and everything went well, for a month.
On my 41st birthday, we noticed the button was sinking into my throat. With fear of it blocking off my airway, I returned to my doctor on December 1. In order to allow healing and prevent more issues, I went back to using a regular trach again. It has taken time to adjust, but I’m thankful to not have external problems any more. I’m hoping to go back to another button style again sometime in spring.
Two visitors made the trip to Pella this year. In spring, Tom’s sister Ruth and her boys stopped in for a few hours. In October, Tom and his sons made a quick, impromptu, 23-hour visit. It was fun getting caught up with everyone and having kids around. I also finally had a reason to check out a new accessible playground that opened near my house. With Tom’s children in tow, and a warm Saturday, I made sure they had fun while the adults explored the park’s features. Five of us got onto an accessible swing, but I quickly concluded sideways motion is best for younger persons!
Thankfully, two of my three pressure sores have now healed, but I continue to be careful how much I sit. However, I have slightly increased my time upright from 45 minutes to an hour. After several years of having the same schedule, adding just 15 minutes feels like an entirely new world.
I also continue to work with websites, but it is very little work most months. The biggest work project in 2022 was redesigning a new site for the city of Sully, IA. It was fun getting to be busier for a few weeks and flex my programming skills.
During down time, I continued to work on my autobiography. It is now to the point that I have contacted self-publishing companies to gauge price and opinions. I’m not sure if many people would be interested in it, but I’m thankful I have been able to record most of the life God has given me.
What He has in store for 2023, I will wait and see. My parents are past retirement age, but dad still works at least full-time and mom spends many hours a week on paperwork. I pray that they can decrease work and stress, but I still use medical insurance through dad. I’m thankful for the family God has given me and continue to trust Him in everything.
Have a very Merry Christmas as we celebrate Christ’s birth and a blessed year ahead!
Joel Vander Molen