A Special Relationship

By Thomas Jakobs April 16, 2013

A Special Relationship

By: Thomas Jakobs

I have a great job. It is also – at least for me – a hard job. I spend a lot of time with people who have lost much. My friend and colleague Susan Fager from the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital recently asked me to help with a wonderful lady that lives near Kansas City. Alison had a brainstem stroke a year ago and has lost a lot of her physical abilities. She has some thumb movement and some left foot and leg movement. She is sharp as a tack mentally, but she can’t talk. Needless to say, it has been a long, hard year for her and her husband Chris.

Barret, Erik, and I packed up the van and visited Alison and Chris. Alison’s goal is to connect to the world through social media and to communicate better. Her body is complicated but we have some ideas, and with the help of Chris, we’re trying out some special gyroscopic mice that Alison might be able to control with her left foot. We’ve also created some scanning software that allows her to spell using her thumb – but it has a lot of limitations. Our first task is to find a way for Alison to control the computer, and while this will take some time, I think our chances are good. Barret has already visited again (with Shawn Adair) to try out some prototypes.

Throughout the back-and-forth communication required to make a long-distance tech development project possible, I’ve been struck by Alison’s and Chris’ relationship. They adore each other. I know that sounds old fashioned, but I can’t come up with another word. Alison is constantly smiling at Chris. And Chris is constantly gazing intently into Alison’s eyes. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Our society calls a lot of things “love”. We love sports, we love pizza, we love our pets, we love our spouses. But I have to say that Chris and Alison really know what love is. We asked Chris to talk about love and he focused on commitment (without ever using this word) – and in particular – his commitment to Alison. And as he talked, Alison beamed at him with her spectacular smile, and he gazed into her eyes, and Shawn caught it on video. 

Like I said, I have a great job. And we will have a new video of Chris and Alison soon.