Heroes come in and out of our lives, often unrecognized and frequently under appreciated. On Monday, it struck me just how important heroes are and the amazing power that comes in looking up to a higher standard. Heroes make us better people. They give us something to aspire to and to be. Heroes inspire us to be more and to achieve more than we might, without them.
I was so struck with shock and sadness to learn of the death of Marvel Comics’ founder and genius, Stan Lee. His biography is almost as amazing as the prolific cadre of characters that he brought to life. There is no repaying the numerous gifts that he has given us, as well as the hours and hours of pleasure, excitement, and joy. As a lover of anything and everything Spider-Man, I would religiously watch those cartoons every weekday at 3: 00.PM, after school.
Spider-Man didn’t ask to be given his special abilities, they were thrust upon him and he made the most of what he could do with his unique gifts. Those of us who have Parkinson’s are in a not so different place, in that having this illness makes one hone, uncover, and expand our own powers. We didn’t ask for Parkinson’s disease to come in to our world, but just like Peter Parker, we incorporate those dramatic alterations and deal with them to the best of our abilities.
I have seen Parkinson’s bring out the best in many people. This illness, as awful as it is, can reveal sides of people that you’ve never seen before. From creativity, to artistic ability, to writing or other revealing abilities, sometimes, out of hardship comes new talents and new strengths.
I didn’t know early in my life that I was going to write books and blogs on Parkinson’s disease. It was Parkinson’s disease that caused me to share my journey of over thirty years with those who may be wondering how to navigate the terrain that I have already walked on. Like, Peter Parker, I have learned and adapted.
Heroes keep us upright and moving forward. They remind us that there is still good in the world, when we need it most. Stan Lee’s iconic heroes will most likely never be duplicated, but thankfully, his gifts of brilliance will live on and on.
Jane H. Davis is the Author of the new book, First Aid For Heroes. The book is the compelling story of the challenges Jane experienced as a nurse at New York’s Ground Zero on 9-11, as a wife, a patriot, and as a care-partner. Gary, Jane’s husband, has Parkinson’s Disease and battled Cancer as well. I am fortunate to know them. They are true inspirations. I was able to ask Jane a few questions, and here are some insights from Jane. Thank you, Jane!
If you are looking for a book to inspire, might I suggest First Aid For Heroes by Jane H. Davis?
You volunteered to leave your home in North Carolina, as a nurse, to go to work in New York City right after the 9-11 tragedy. What compelled you to put yourself in this situation and how did your family react to this decision? I was literally compelled to do more. It was something deep within me, a deep seeded feeling that I needed to help out on a much larger level. To watch the devastating news on the television all day or to answer phones at the local Red Cross Station, was just not enough for me. My family was incredibly supportive and very proud of me for choosing to do this. Gary, my husband, was incredibly busy at Fort Bragg (where we were living) as he was commanding the post hospital, Womack Army Medical Center. He understood my pull, as he had seen it many times before with my volunteering at every military post we had been stationed. It was a hard decision though, as I knew the assignment would be for at least three weeks. My life on the military post was a very busy one as I was involved with many organizations and they were counting on me. Everyone gave me their blessing. I ended up working/volunteering at Ground Zero for six and a half weeks.
For those of us who never visited the massive devastation of the World Trade Center but saw it on television can you describe what your first impressions of the sights and smells that you experienced? It was if I had gone from color to black and white, similar to the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ but in reverse. The noise of Midtown Manhattan was what I remember when I entered the subway, but it was a totally different city once I exited in Lower Manhattan. The hustle and bustle of the big city seemed to be hundreds of miles away, it could have been in another state, another country, and it was only a short subway ride away. The first thing I noticed is that people were talking in hushed voices and quietly sobbing. There was a stillness in the air, a quietness, not like the cacophonous sound of Midtown Manhattan. I had to force myself to observe the devastation of Ground Zero, I knew that I could not start my volunteer job until I made myself look. The vastness of the devastation was so powerful, it looked as if I was in the middle of a war zone. I realized that the television could not capture the enormity of it, as it was 360 degrees of tragedy. Then the overpowering stench assaulted my nostrils. It was a smell like no other, and one that is hard to describe. I can still smell it and did when I recently returned to Ground Zero to pay my respects after 9/11/11. I know it was only in my mind, but I am amazed that the smell has lingered inside me.
Your book, First Aid For Heroes, is a true and very personal account of many of the struggles that you have experienced from 9-11, the death of your mother, feeling threatened by a stalker, being sexually harassed by a boss, moving your family across the world 18 times, dealing with your husband’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and Cancer, and you continue to move forward and thrive. Where do you find the strength to overcome the hurdles that you encountered? I joke and say I have no choice, as my blood type is B positive! But on a serious note, life its a challenge, we all have hurdles we have to overcome. It is how we chose to do it, how we chose to make our way in the world. I want my children and grandchildren to know me as a strong individual that can overcome anything that comes her way. I want my husband to know that I am there for him through thick and thin and no matter what illness he may have that I will be by his side to help fight the fight with him. Where does my strength come from? That is a good question and the best way to answer it is probably from all of my life experiences and growing up and learning what works and what doesn’t. I just saw this quote on Facebook and it is so appropriate: “Every person from your past lives as a shadow in your mind. Good or bad, they all helped you write the story of your life, and shaped the person you are today.” Doe Zantamata. I have made my share of mistakes, but I have learned by them and haven’t wallowed in the negative aspects…that gets me nowhere. My goal is to keep growing, keep learning and to stay strong and healthy. How can I be an effective care-partner, wife, mother, grandmother if I choose otherwise?
What advice do you have for others facing challenges in their lives? Get involved. Be proactive. Know that there are others out there that are also facing challenges…you are not alone. There are many organizations to get involved with in the care-giving arena. Find a local support group in your area. I found a local Parkinson support group for my husband and myself and from that some amazing friendships have blossomed. I have also became involved in the Well Spouse Association, a nation-wide group that supports spousal care-givers in staying physically and emotionally strong. I urge people to connect, learn and grow from others. I urge those facing challenging times to please take care of themselves, whether it is physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Caregivers face so many challenges and many end up facing their own illnesses. One study shows that 11% of caregivers report that care giving has caused their physical health to deteriorate. I believe that number is much higher. I reiterate, take care of yourself… do not become a care-giver statistic.
To learn more about Jane and her book, go to:www.janehdavis.com.