Every year, 40,000 Americans suffer spinal cord injuries. Lee Goldstein is one of them.
Lee has been living with his injury for 66+ years, making him unofficially the longest living quadriplegic in history. The story of his injury and the reasons for his survival are chronicled in this stunning book. Lee tells of his terrible injury, his fight for life, and the amazing life he has led ever since.
He was rescued from drowning by a famous singer. He hob-nobbed with celebrities during his hospitalization, and afterwards. Behind his success, as a young man and an adult, was a loving, caring and supportive family. Lee Goldstein and his late wife Marilyn raised five adopted children, including Tim, who suffers from autism, and whom they raised to successful adulthood. Lee’s present wife Ellen is a rock and has made Lee’s later years close to divine.
No punches are pulled in this very honest and sometimes graphic account of what para/quads and their caretakers must be prepared to deal with every day, from the use of wheelchairs, to bathroom needs, to the sometimes life-threatening, embarrassing, or hilarious moments in the para/quad’s life.
Everyone who reads this book will be inspired and will come to better understand the real lives of para/quads, how they must live in order to keep living, and knowing that a good attitude has much to do with how good life, even in a chair, can be.
The next days were blurred. One night, probably the first night in this new hospital, Dad came into the room to say goodnight to me. He leaned over my head and almost whispered, “Try not to go to sleep tonight.”
Evidently, a doctor had told him that if I slept, or slept too long, I might never again wake up. Perhaps it was the day that they told him the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae of my neck were broken, and that death often usually resulted from an injury so high in the spinal column.
I understood the weight of what he said, and suddenly realized the torment that he must be going through. I tried to tell him not to worry, that I would be all right, but words didn’t form in my blurry mind. This I did know: that I would be all right that night, and every other night thereafter. In my innocence, I somehow believed it without any doubt. But I couldn’t form the proper words to tell him. I wished I could. I’m sure he needed comforting that night, and for the many nights in the years that followed.
My sister Irene spent her every waking hour with me. She hovered by my bed night and day. She often refused to leave my side when doctors or staff asked her to temporarily leave the room. And they must have sensed her resolve to protect me, because they stopped asking her. I was in and out of consciousness those first few days, and my mind raged with nightmarish terrors and questions. On one of my first nights, Irene, who realized my loss of understanding of the events, tried to gently and quietly answer the many feverish, desperate questions I asked.
“You were injured a few days ago on the beach. There is temporary damage to your neck. Dad received a phone call at his business from someone who knew you and who had witnessed the incident at the beach. Mom and I knew nothing of the events, and were driving home along the lake on Sheridan Road. We had been shopping in Chicago. Suddenly we saw Dad in his car crazily overtake us and zoom past our car, weaving in and out of traffic and quickly disappearing ahead. We knew something was wrong, and so I sped the car the next few miles to home. A crowd of friends stood outside the house, and in a tumultuous few moments, they told us what happened. Dad rushed us into his car, and we sped to that first hospital in Evanston where we were told you had been taken.”
I later realized that Irene had softened the story as much as she could, in her quiet, comforting voice. Looking back in the years that followed, I can’t imagine the state of mind of my family that day. Of course, there were no cell phones then, so all communications were person to person between friends and relatives in frantic efforts to reach out and comfort and understand the sequence of events, and to explain what they knew to family and to each other. The corridor outside my hospital room immediately became a communications center for a myriad of friends and family. I can still vaguely remember that hushed buzz of voices into each night.
My father, in his usual take-charge fashion, had already begun his quest for excellence in medical care for me. The day I was injured, he called one of his dearest friends, Dr. Theodore Stone, seeking a recommendation for a primary doctor for my case. Ted Stone was a distant cousin of my mother’s. When we were growing up, we had spent uncountable weekends on Dr. Stone’s enormous farm in Woodstock, Illinois. It was one of our favorite places to go. It had a small stream, hundreds of acres to explore, a cemetery, animals, and a giant old barn and loft in which we spent hours roughhousing in the hay with our cousins, Dr. Stone’s adopted children.
Ted Stone was a leading neurologist in Chicago. Earlier, he had been a neurosurgeon, but an auto accident and the resulting shaky hands caused him to give up surgery. He became a consulting neurologist and psychologist, referring his most important and difficult surgical cases to Dr. Loyal Davis. He told my father that Loyal Davis was the most knowledgeable and renowned neurosurgeon in the Midwest, and perhaps all of the United States.
Dad contacted Davis that first day of my injury. The surgeon agreed over the phone to take the case.