I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and friends as much as we did. Both Spencer and Dane came home for the holiday and we are especially happy to be together now that we all live so far apart. Gratitude runs deep in this family with so much to be thankful for. All of the kids had birthdays in the past three weeks: Spencer is officially an adult at age 18, Ruby is now a teen at age 13 and Dane turned 28. Pictured are Spencer and Ruby on Spencer's 18th birthday.
We drove up to USC to see Spencer for his birthday, so I thought I would provide a portrait of Spencer as a college student.
Dorm: Spencer has a ground floor dorm room to himself, with extra space for equipment and an extra bed in the event he needs some assistance. His room has internet and cable, so he has both computer and television available. Outside the room is an accessible bathroom with a roll in shower. Spencer has a laundry service for clean clothes. Three other young men share the same suite in the event he needs something. It is working well for Spencer and he is largely living independently. Those who have followed Spencer's story since the beginning can appreciate the accomplishment.
Academics: Spencer has declared Chemical Engineering as his major, an academically rigorous pursuit. He is currently taking 18.0 units and he will complete his first semester three weeks from now. Spencer does well in his classes and he excels at math and science, so his major is in the right area. Student notetakers provide Spencer with notes from his classes through Disability Services. Spencer then writes his exams. Thus far, his biggest opportunity for improvement is writing term papers. Spencer types with one finger, so lengthy assignments are a challenge. He is planning on again trying voice recognition software, which he tried in the past without good results. Reportedly the software has improved, so it is worth another try.
Rehabilitation: Spencer is fortunate that for the first year ever the Swim With Mike (SWM) program arranged for rehabilitation training at a gym on campus. This saves Spencer and other SWM scholarship recipients a huge amount of time that they would typically spend leaving campus and driving to a rehab facility. His trainers are experienced in spinal cord injury rehabilitation, which is great. The equipment presents limited gait training opportunities, but hopefully as the program grows the gym will allow more specialized equipment. His rehab costs are less than with Project Walk, running $1200 to $1400 a month as opposed to $2000, but that is partly because he simply doesn't have as many hours. Spencer does not currently have any hand therapy available, which is a concern because he already has limited hand mobility and he must stretch and strengthen his hands to reduce pain and maximize dexterity.
Mobility: Fortunately, USC is a very flat school, making it a great college for Spencer. He uses his wheelchair to get around the campus, but it is probably not the best solution. Once Spencer ventures out for a day of classes in his wheelchair, he stays in his chair, which is not optimal, as he would prefer to use his chair over long distances and walk short distances. Wheelchairs can be very hard on the shoulders. Because Spencer has a choice, it would be great if he could minimize repetitive use of his shoulders and maximize short distance walking. Ideally he would have a motorized device to get from building to building and then walk into each classroom. Spencer tried an electric scooter, but it was not stable enough for him to use safely. We are continuing to explore options and new mobility devices are coming on the market all the time, ranging from Seqway type scooters to powered devices that hook on to the front of his wheelchair. Likewise, the options range in price and insurance does not cover most of them. Meanwhile, for long distances Spencer does have his car at school with him, which allows the freedom to get things he needs off campus.
In sum, I never cease to marvel at the miracle of Spencer's story. I remember daily the grim prognosis and I think about what could have been, yet here he is on the front end of a great education and on the path to living totally independently. What magic recipe created this feast for which we are so grateful? Spencer gets the credit for tenacity and effort, but it wouldn't have happened without all of you. Thank you. Again.
December 2 is Giving Tuesday
. Giving Tuesday is part of a nationwide effort to dedicate a day to giving. It is a day to highlight philanthropic efforts and charities big and small. It is a day to emphasize helping your community. HelpHOPELive will be waiving the credit card fees on all on-line donations for Giving Tuesday. For those interested and able, please consider supporting Spencer's medical equipment and rehabilitation costs through a tax deductible donation to HelpHOPELive in honor of Spencer Fox: https://m.helphopelive.org/campaign/1248