Ever since I made the decision to apply to law school in 1982 in order to become a public interest attorney, many have asked me why I chose to pursue such a non-lucrative career. While I usually respond by stating that I have always believed that my role on this planet is to help make it a better place, when I examine my personal history and strongest influences, there can be no doubt that my mother, Rachel Siegel, strongly influenced who I am and my desire to advocate for those who get the short end of the stick.
I recently returned from visiting my mother in Detroit, where she is recovering from a horrible fall down her basement stairs 4 weeks ago, when she broke her femur as well as 3 vertebrae in her neck. After going through 2 surgeries and spending 10 days in the hospital, she was transferred to a rehab center to receive physical and occupational therapy to recover and regain her ability to walk and live independently.
Just before I arrived, she had a follow up visit with her doctor during which he made clear that she would not be able to travel to Israel to spend the winter there with her husband, as she had planned. Although this was disappointing, she remained undaunted and continued to focus on her recovery.
One day, while I was visiting her at the rehab center, it was time for her to receive physical and occupational therapy. The therapists, with my mother’s permission, invited me to watch. Given her advanced age, her inability to bear weight on her broken leg, and her very uncomfortable neck brace, I was absolutely amazed at my mother’s strength, fortitude and determination, to put as much energy as she could muster into her therapy.
Here she is working on strengthening her arms and good leg.
Next, she worked on her balance and coordination.
Unfortunately, the next day, she developed sepsis and had to be rushed by ambulance to the hospital, where she was treated with IV antibiotics. She is now sufficiently recovered from that setback and is preparing to return to the rehab center today.
Over the 6 days I spent with my mother in the rehab center and the hospital, I had a lot of time to think about the many challenges my mother has faced throughout her life, dating back to being born to immigrants during the depression, suffering from an abusive mother, losing a 3 year old son (my younger brother) due to complications from a pertussis vaccine, battling Multiple Sclerosis, surviving an unfaithful husband who failed to support her and my younger sister after he left her, as well as many other challenges. At 80 years old, this current struggle to recover from her massive injuries, compounded by a return trip to the hospital for sepsis, could have caused her to give up. But my mother is not a quitter. She has heroically battled her whole life to maintain her dignity, raise her children with strong values, and to fight for what is right for those who need help. When I spoke to her this morning, after all she has been through, she asked me what was new and I was pleased to let her know that I had a good legislative meeting yesterday with fellow Autism Society advocates.
I know that my passion for advocacy and to bounce back from my own personal struggles are both rooted in the many lessons my mother has taught me and as I recently discovered, she continues to teach me. Many friends and family are sending her well wishes to encourage her recovery. I look forward to seeing her return to live independently with her loving husband, Peter. Given my mother’s heroic inner strength, I am confident she will do so.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.