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Words by Julie - Living Life With Paralysis

Thankful 1

This is a guest post from my friend Selena Hazlitt. Selena was the glue behind the communications and the fundraising after my collision. I am thankful to her for all of that and her love.

This October, a memory was made that I will hold onto forever.  Something I never want to let go of, and only did because I know it will happen again.  This is a post about how that memory was created.
I think everyone who reads this blog realizes that Thursdays are dedicated to physio at Parkwood for Julie.  This is the day of the week where she is greeted by those who are closest to understanding what she experiences daily in her life and is supported by an amazing team of professionals who guide Julie towards her goals.  We realized that Thursday was my first time at Parkwood in a year.  The last time I was there was for one of our regular “girls night in” visits before Julie moved home.
On Thursday, we arrived at Parkwood early (note to other drivers, I set the bar high for arrival time) so that gave Julie a little time to connect with friends. While she was touring around physio to chat, I was mesmerized by her team putting together the Exoskeleton.  Of course I had heard about the Exo from Julie and I saw one encased in a museum display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry last year, but to touch it and see it come together was so interesting.  
The process of strapping Julie in doesn’t take too long.  A binder, some straps and lots of velcro, adjustments and more fine tuning, all done meticulously by Barry.  I was sitting beside her and she reached out, I thought she wanted to hold my hand but she was really just gesturing for water.  We had a laugh and then it was time for her to stand-up.  The unfolding from sitting to standing is the biggest challenge.  Barry guides her from behind as she folds and unfolds into a standing position.
Then she reached out for my hand again so I went to hand her water but instead she suggested I stand up and come towards her.  Then I realized, we were going to share  A HUG!!!  (I am tearing up right now as I type)  I hugged my friend, a full body hug and I would have wrapped my legs around her if I could.  
We cried.  Yup, standing there hugging Julie and $230,000 worth of bionic equipment, starting into Barry’s eyes (remember he is behind Julie, for balance) and I was a puddle.  Nearby, a man commented that we were making him cry too.  I wondered what Barry thought and figured these types of moments must contribute to his passion for helping people.
That HUG was the most surreal hug I have experienced and it was one of the best hugs ever!  There was no way I was letting Julie get out of the Exo after her hour long, 2038 step walk without another big hug.  I am addicted to that hug.  I want more and I know that there will be more!
Thank you Parkwood for purchasing the Exo, thank you to the three people who are trained to operate the Exo and thank you science for being so damn amazing!
I’ll continue to hug my friends and especially Julie whenever we see each other.  With Julie, it will be that half body hug, bent over, twisting my body around the chair to get as close to her as possible.  Hugs with Julie always make me happy because I am still caught up in the emotion that she is alive and with us today so embracing her feels extra special.
Touch is so important for all of us and often those who use a chair are most vulnerable for a lack of hugs.  Julie isn’t going to break and a hug can never hurt her.  

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