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Donna Flood
Finding Heart
Finding Heart with Physical Therapy

Finding Heart with Physical TherapyLeft to right: Mrs. Hailey, Director, Devin Waggoner, Rhonda Flood, four years, Thelma Peterson, Physical Therapist.

Devon's Mother and I carried the two, literally, back and forth to therapy every day.

At first we had to walk a distance to get into the therapy facilities over and through the grounds of the very large hospital. One day I talked Glenda into letting me park in one of the parking spots reserved for doctors just long enough for us to run the children into their session. As I was coming out of the building, the parking guard caught me and informed me not to park in the doctor's place anymore.

"Fine." "That is fine." "Tomorrow I'll take the time while the children are at therapy to go sit in the governor's office." "Maybe he will be interested to know there are empty spaces reserved for someone who is not there, while Mother's wagging children with heavy braces cannot park for just minutes in order to take them into their therapy."

The next day when we drove through the lot right in front of the therapy door was an empty parking spot marked "Handicapped." This was in 1963 and I often wonder if this is how the practice was begun in just such a way.

We did all the things the doctors told us to do and we can't complain if they didn't know what they were doing because neither did we. If you look at the picture closely past the sweetness of the little girl, you can see she is actually leaning to one side. This is because she had no balance. She never could stand alone. She is holding to the parallel bars with her right hand only because her left hand would not work for her. The therapist is holding her arm behind her back to support Rhonda and this is the only way she could stand even though the rigid braces were holding her legs. Without balance and with partial paralysis of both hands there was no way she could support herself on crutches as Devon is doing. He was paralyzed but his hands and arms were not. We went on with this for many years until Rhonda fought the braces with so much determination there wasn't anyone with an ounce of common sense who would have continued with this hopeless therapy.

Devon's parents were finally divorced and I lost track of them. They were lovely people and we had many good times together. Once they came from Oklahoma City to visit us in Dallas and it was a wonderful time we had.

I, at a distance, saw Devon's father some years later. He was with a different lady, different children. It was in a crowd and we were in traffic. It was something of a happened stance I should have seen him at all.

While we lived at Oklahoma City Devon and Rhonda played together for endless hours. I had shiny wooden floors and they would scoot about on them without their braces. Devon would be hoisting himself along with his arms and shoulders, Rhonda scooting about on her hands and knees. They played tag while they laughed and took turns chasing each other. In spite of their disability they were happy precious children who were much loved.

These were the days before parents were keeping their handicap children. They were matter of fact committed to a type of an orphanage rather called an institution. Rhonda was a beautiful child and although I had great pressure brought on me by my husband's family I would not bend to their demands. It was in the library of some of his family where I read about all the problems brought onto children who were deprived of their parents. These were behavioral problems to live with them for a life time. These gentle learned men who wrote of their great knowledge in books made me feel I had a closeness to them. It was something akin to having their acquaintance. This was even though I certainly did not actually know them at all.

There is no way I can speak for how anyone else lived through their heartache. Everyone is different, facing their problems in whatever way they could. For me I must say my life was totally changed. Gone was any desire to compete for position or career. I don't know what it was in me. There was just a total reversal in my thinking. If I had been impetuous now, I was plodding. My impatient person became one of determined self-control with Rhonda. I worked at what had to be done but with no need to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

If there was a passion it was for my art. Strength and youth allowed me to work into the nights with that. If I had felt a communion with the medical doctors in their writings I now too felt a strange kinship with the old masters as I laborious copied their work in order to learn from it.

When I look back I am so sorry for the hardships of a disability on my beautiful daughter, but on the other hand, out of the sorrow came an opportunity to associate with truly beautiful people who were strong enough to face up to a disability. This has given me some very wonderful friendships and family for this I am so very grateful.

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