I Need a Little Help from My Friends

Actually, I am asking for help for one of MY friends. She may be one of your friends, too, either in person or you may know her from social media, or her radio show, or the book she’s recently written. Her name is Shawnda Strongfaith Kettles.

I met Shawnda several years ago, when she won a mentoring contest I was holding. I had received many entries for the contest. If memory serves, I chose the ten that spoke the loudest to me, blacked out all the identifying information, and gave them to my staff members to vote on the final selection. She won unanimously. She had been homeless for a while. She had three daughters to take care of. She had gone to massage school, became a licensed therapist, and picked herself up from a bad situation. Her positive attitude in the face of all this just struck me as amazing. Champ and I went down to GA to meet her in person. 415918_347384488608777_1108678625_oShawnda has been working full-time as a massage therapist for the past couple of years, and keeping herself very busy. She is a great writer…she writes poetry, and short stories. She has been hosting poetry slams, making radio appearances, encouraging other poets and writers to share their stuff, taking care of her very accomplished daughters, all three of whom are at the top of their classes in school, being active in her church, and then one recent day, her life changed in an instant. I will cut and paste from her FB page, posted April 29:

April 10, I went blind for 5 days…completely. On April 14, the day my book was released, I became extremely lethargic and my body felt heavy. I walked myself to my bed at 3:30 p.m. and haven’t taken a step since then. On April 15, I woke up paralyzed from my right arm down, my left arm being the only extremity that was moving. Two days later, I got the use of my right arm back, but haven’t gotten my use of my legs. Thursday, April 24, I was admitted in the hospital and was diagnosed with NMO (Neuromyelitis Optica)…an uncommon disease in the MS family. It primarily affects the spinal cord up to the optic nerve. I have infection in my spine that may leave me permanently paralyzed from the waist down. As of right now, I have NO feeling in my legs and can’t feel touch. Day by day, I can feel changes in my body in terms of touch and sensation. I am slowly losing control of my bladder and bowel functions. In case you don’t know what that means, I can’t tell at times if I have to go to the bathroom or even take myself to the bathroom. I am 36 years old and I have to have someone to take me to the bathroom and at times clean me up. There are days that my jaw muscles aren’t strong enough to chew my own food, or my body doesn’t have enough energy to feed myself, so I have to be fed. Do you know how humbling that is? Do you know what kind of perspective that puts your life in?

Shawnda spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, and then was released home with a wheelchair and home visits from the physical therapist. She has been able to slightly move her right toes. She still has no feeling at all on the left side. Due to a very strong course of steroids, the infection in her spine did subside. However, the doctors have warned her that this form of MS is rare and that her paralysis may last for the rest of her life.

966183_851470814866806_6718987686827674630_oIn spite of that, her spirit and positive attitude is just humbling to me. She laughs every day. She encourages other people every day. She shares her testimony every day. She is a testimony every day. I can’t imagine I would have half the sense of humor and grace that she has if this happened to me.

Georgia Regents University/Medical College of GA is a teaching hospital and they covered the cost of Shawnda’s initial treatment because this is such a rare case, they wanted to study it. She will be receiving disability payments from Social Security. However, with three teenage daughters in school, I don’t know how far that will go.

A fund has been set up for Shawnda. If you feel led to help someone, you can click on this link to donate. Or buy a copy of her book. Every little bit helps. There may come a day when your life may change in the blink of an eye, and you’ll need someone’s help. Just pay it forward. Share this post if you will. Thank you very much.