My brother Joe Wozniak was an incredibly inspiring person. He was recognized as such by many people, TV shows, magazines, and newspapers. While I could probably spend WAY too much time on this first of many blog posts about him, I am going to start with a simple story.
This is the story of "Why Not?"
After having 911 called to his apartment three times within about a week, the fire department stepped in to force my brother into the hospital. Thank goodness, since his Muscular Dystrophy and what we later found out to be liver failure had caught up with him quickly, and living alone was no longer safe.
I remember the look of joy in his eyes when my sister and I first arrived at the hospital. He was alert and happy to talk with us, especially about how he was "hoodwinked" into going to the hospital. However, the time of alertness was short lived. I remember going back to our hotel a couple of days later wondering if he would be alive the next morning when we returned. He was, but barely.
I learned a lot about liver failure that week. I learned that when your liver fails, toxins (mainly ammonia) build up in your blood which causes confusion and extreme tiredness. In fact, the doctor explained that unless the paramedic had not forced him into the hospital, Joe would likely forget to drink water, would slip into a coma, and die.
Anyway, not only was my brother drifting in and out of consciousness but he didn't have the upper body strength to even turn himself over in the bed. Imagine how debilitating it must feel to have to ring the nurse's call button every few hours just to adjust yourself to be somewhat comfortable.
I remember an entire Saturday went by without a single alert moment from Joe. My sister and I spent that day talking to his medical staff. They told us that only IF he showed some signs of improvement, could they release him to a skilled nursing rehab facility. The facility staff's job would be to give him daily physical therapy to see how his muscles responded. We knew he would never return to his apartment, yet we had no idea what would be next for him after this.
An eternal optimist
I also remember spending time with Joe's friend Margie that same day. She described Joe as an "eternal optimist." I felt that these were the most absolutely perfect words to describe my brother. As I reflected upon all of the communications over the years, I could not think of a single time where he did not have an optimistic attitude.
What a surprise it was on Sunday when Joe was incredibly alert, probably from the "belly tap" procedure to remove the ammonia and fluid from his body. I had a moment alone with Joe during which I was inspired to be somewhat direct with him. I said to him:
"Joe, the doctors are recommending that you go to a skilled nursing rehab facility to see if they can get your strength back. I want to be honest with you, though. I don't think they are going to get you up and dancing again."
I used the dancing analogy with Joe because he LOVED dancing when he was younger. My brother's response:
Blown away by two words!
I was blown away from these two words, especially because I could tell from the serious look in his eyes that Joe meant it AND believed it to be true.
You don't understand. I show you the picture of my brother in the hospital bed to help paint a picture. He has NO upper body strength. This picture is actually a frame of a video I took where he is explaining to us a pulley system that he wanted us to design in his apartment so he could lift his body weight and transfer to his wheelchair. Seriously, Joe?
This moment changed my life forever. It made me ask how the hell a person who can't turn themselves in bed could still maintain an optimistic attitude.
Delusional? Maybe. But all his life, it kept him alive (and happy) longer than anyone else I've heard of with Muscular Dystrophy.
The Why Not? Challenge
Every time I think about that day alone with Joe in his hospital room, I start to tear up. It reminds me of just how small the inconveniences of my life really are.
If my brother can think about dancing again while on his literal death bed, and ask "why not?" - I challenge you to ask this same question just once today. Just once is all I ask! I would love to see a comment below on your results.
I have seen magic unfold for me this year with these two simple words. I may have started with just once a day but now I'm at least considering every inspirational thought that pops into my head. Do you have any idea how many inspirational thoughts go through my head in any given day? I can't keep up with them. You are going to see the magic unfold as I continue to document this journey.
So, how about it? Are you ALL IN? Use any of the options to the left to share what's up with you and the "Why Not" mindset with your friends! Why not, right?