Angels on Earth

By Sandra Zunino

When Betsy Childs suffered a catastrophic accident last March, she learned that angels really do exist.

While home alone, Betsy tripped on a rug causing her to fall and hit her head. Laying unconscious for hours, her body reacted to the lack of movement, releasing myoglobin and other chemicals into her bloodstream resulting in Rhabdomyolysis, a rare debilitating condition.

Betsy awoke paralyzed from the waist down and literally dragged herself to a phone to call 911. Without health insurance, transport to the hospital and medical bills from six weeks of hospitalization quickly amassed to a landslide of debt. On top of that, the paralysis remained, leaving her barely able to get around without the use of a walker.

Even after undergoing the rigorous filing process for medical assistance, her financial future is dim. Unable to work or even live unassisted, Betsy had to forfeit her car and townhouse. While these overwhelming obstacles would discourage many, Betsy remains hopeful, counting on angels in her life.

Her friend Ann insisted that Betsy come live with her, offering a ground-level bedroom and full bath. “That was a godsend,” says Betsy, “as I could barely get in the house, more or less negotiate stairs.”

While Ann was talking with David Brown, owner of Bayside Physical Therapy & Sport Rehabilitation in Stevensville, she relayed Betsy’s story. Dave insisted Betsy call and make an appointment. “The only thing he said to me was, ‘Don’t worry about it. Let’s get you started and we’ll figure something out,” says Betsy. “He’s just been wonderful.”

In May, Betsy started physical therapy three times a week, working with Heather Read, D.P.T at Bayside. Because Rhabdomyolysis is so rare, Heather had to research the treatment options. So far, Betsy is amazed with her progress.

Before therapy, Betsy could barely balance herself on the walker. Now she is able to get around the house with just a cane and the use of special leg braces. Working on strengthening exercises, she has regained nearly 20 lbs in muscle mass. Although she still has no feeling below the knees, she has recovered some sensations in her upper legs.

Betsy’s prognosis for the future is uncertain. Because every case of Rhabdomyolysis is different, medical professionals cannot tell her whether she will eventually make a full recovery. “They told me that after a year, there probably won’t be any more improvement,” she says. “Looking at the progress I’ve made in the past six months, I have to believe that I can accomplish more.”

Betsy’s goal is to one-day swim again, as long distance swimming has always been a passion of hers. “I don’t know if I will be able to swim long distances, but I’ve got to find some way to swim again with my legs as they are.”

Even though Betsy sometimes gets frustrated, as activities like simply taking a shower present a challenge, she remains hopeful, saying the incident has strengthened her faith in herself and God. “I feel that this experience is teaching me a lot,” she says. “A lot of it already makes sense, but I am sure I have more lessons to learn along the spiritual line.”

Betsy says she can’t begin to describe her gratitude to these earthly angels, from the therapists at Bayside, to Betsy’s new doctor who took her on without health insurance, to her friend who opened her home. “It is amazing how many people have done so much,” she says. “I have found that the number of angels walking on the earth is very great.”