Quantina Connely Shawnee, GA
“Grandma, grandma, wake up”. That fateful morning I was a nine-year old rushing to be ready for my rural school bus, when in an instant my life changed. In her seventies, grandma Bessie sat down to rest and catch her breath, and never got up again. Her heart gave out.
Born to a young teenage mother not able to care for me, I was taken in by my great-grandparents as a baby. Grandma Bessie had been a pillar of her church, and beloved by everyone in the community. A retired school bus driver, I wasn’t the only child comforted by her words of wisdom. Her good works were so compelling that the TV show Extreme Makeover had just selected us as a finalist for a new home.
Change was in the air, but it wasn’t the change we thought might be coming our way.
A diabetic, her blood pressure had become harder to control. Frequent trips to the doctor, and changes in medicines, didn’t seem to be working. Looking back to that day, I know how vitally important it is to have equal, and accessible, medical care in rural areas. It can often mean the difference between life and death.
Granddaddy Paul was left to raise me alone. We were quite the twosome, an old man and a girl child. Diabetic himself, I learned to give him his daily injections at a young age. He has had numerous hospital stays, and I am always the one by his bedside, night and day. Last count, he has had seven pin strokes.
I’ve had to grow up fast. Heart and vascular conditions are not easy to deal with, especially for a teenager who is the primary caregiver. It changes your lifestyle.
Recently granddaddy said, “I just want to live long enough to see you graduate high school." The day I turned eighteen, I was blessed to learn I had been accepted into a college that offers the degree I want to pursue, nursing. If I accept their offer I will have to move away and live in a dorm. I care about the elderly, and I want to make taking care of sick people my life’s work.
I’m excited, but I’m scared. My great-granddaddy is 83 and hopes to remain in his lifelong home. Follow-up care, and rehabilitation, are so needed for victims of heart attacks and strokes. Putting a cap on stroke therapy doesn’t make sense. I love my granddaddy, and I pray he will always receive the care he deserves. I pray that the legacy of caring that my great-grandparents taught me, I will be able to pass on someday as a nurse.
Dare I go after my dreams? Will my granddaddy be okay without me?
Written by Cynthia Arnsdorff, State Advocacy Committee Member