By AMANDA BEAM
Lorrie Stevens’ kids aren’t like other children. When asked what they’d like for Christmas, they don’t rattle off a lengthy list full of toys and electronics. They won’t request clothes or video games or even money. No, Lorrie’s four children only have one thing they want for Christmas: to see their mom walk again.
To say Lorrie and her family have had a rough year would be an understatement. Her world began to fall apart on, of all days, Mother’s Day 2012. After grabbing lunch with a friend, she felt numbness in her feet. Dealing with chronic back problems, Lorrie said the doctors she visited initially thought the sensation wasn’t serious.
Only a week later, when attempting to rise from bed, did she realize the true nature of the pain.
“One night I got up to go to the bathroom and I fell flat on my face. I couldn’t move my legs at all and I noticed that they were ice cold,” Lorrie said.
Instead of back problems, Lorrie actually had suffered from acute necrotic thrombosis in both legs. Blood clots had formed that restricted the blood flow to her lower extremities and the tissue had begun to die. In addition, the condition caused her other organs to begin to fail.
For the next 36 days, Lorrie lay in a deep coma. When she awoke, life as she had known it had changed. Due to the necrosis, the doctors were forced to amputate both her legs. She also found out her oldest sister had died while she was hospitalized.
Lucky to be alive herself, Lorrie entered Frazier Rehab where she relearned how to do basic bodily functions like chew and swallow. While doctors warned rehab might take more than half a year, the Louisville native had other plans. In all, she only spent three months total between the hospital and Frazier.
“They told me I’d be in the hospital for a year and I’d be in rehab for eight months,” she said. “If somebody tells you that you can’t do something, show them you can.”
After arriving back home Aug. 1, Lorrie tried to settle back in to life with her husband and children. All went OK for a few months. Then, she said things started to unravel when she said her husband of 13 years abandoned her and the family.
“Actually I thought I was doing pretty well recuperating, but then we got the rug pulled out from under us. After I was home 60 days, my husband just up and left,” Lorrie said. “It just left us in a bad situation, being on a fixed income and not getting any child support.”
To make matters worse, Lorrie’s house is barely wheelchair accessible. Sometimes she gets stuck in her chair between the door frames. Her bed, a hand-me-down from a neighbor, is without rails, so she falls from it regularly. Showering isn’t much better. When she bathes, she must maneuver herself into the bathroom as best she can.
And then there’s the air. The Jeffersonville resident said the house contains mold which, after having a tracheotomy, causes her to have trouble breathing.
“Really, I just want to be independent again. I want to get in to a better house where I have more room to move. One that’s safe. There’s a lot of mold in here,” she said.
More than anything, Lorrie remains concerned for her children. All four help care for her and do chores around the house. They take turns cooking, each having their own specialty. One’s the grilled cheese master. Another likes to make noodles.
“I think they think they have to take care of me and that’s not case. I want to take care of them. I’m determined to do whatever I have to do,” she said. “I’m going to walk for them for Christmas. That’s what I told them I’d give them and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Although the kids ask for nothing more, Lorrie hopes someone might donate an additional laptop to the family to help with the children’s homework. Their education is important to her. All the children make good grades, she said.
As for other interests, Brendan, 11, and Hailey, 12, enjoy art, while 15-year-old Devin likes acting. Hailey and her twin sister Sydney, 12, are the runners of the group. Three of the four said they hoped to go into law enforcement when they get older.
“My main concern is anything to do with their education because I want them to know how important it is that they stay in school and make good grades and be anything that they want to be,” Lorrie said.
Seeking greater independence, she said she could also use a car. Her physician has given her permission to start driving. Devices are available that would allow her to operate a vehicle with either her prosthetics or only her hands.
Hand weights would also be appreciated to help Lorrie regain her upper body strength so she can better lift herself up. And in time, she’d like to return to college to earn a degree.
“I just want a fresh start. I’ve already gotten a second chance. I know that. I’d just like maybe another one to show what I can do with the second chance I’ve been given and run with it so to speak. And possibly literally run with it,” she said.
At present, Lorrie continues to go to physical therapy where she’s learning to walk again with her artificial legs. So far, she’s able to take more than 30 paces while holding on to bars for support, one step closer to her Christmas promise.
“I’m just grateful for anything. I’m just grateful to be alive. This is a Christmas I didn’t even think I was going to have. Just to wake up on Christmas and see these faces will be enough for me,” she said. “Right here is the reason why I get up every morning. And I’m going to rally for them every day.”
HOW TO HELP WISH BOOK FAMILIES
• The News and Tribune and New Hope Services Inc. are again partnering to help families in need this holiday season.
The easiest way to give is a financial donation; our goal this year is $6,000 to help out a family in the area. Donations of money or items can be dropped off at New Hope, 1302 Wall St., Jeffersonville.
Call Angie Olson at 812-288-4304, extension 342 for more information. Look for two more stories on Wish Book families in the weekend edition.