June of 2004 was a miserable month. Don was laid up after a ladder kicked out from under him, bursting his L1 vertebrae and breaking a bone in his wrist. On the advice of a friend who was a surgeon, he was opting against surgery and instead wanted to give his back a chance to heal on its own. He was resting in bed (which was in the garage) in a turtle shell, trying not to move too much. The neurologist wanted to do surgery and warned that paralysis could happen without it. We both felt that healing on its own was the best option, but it was a scary option.
To make matters worse, our lender was threatening foreclosure. Don was our builder/contractor and now he was out of the picture. I had started my new real estate career earlier in the year which incensed our loan officer. She wanted me to stick it out at my previous job, not understanding that my position was going away and I would have been laid off if I hadn’t of quit first. When we started this project we owned our 8-1/2 acres and the garage/apartment free and clear. We had over $130,000 in assets that the bank was holding and they were threatening to take it all. The loan officer felt it was better to ruin us rather than risk any repercussions with her job.
Then there was the house. The windows had just been delivered and needed installed. We also needed the roof shingled and a few things done to shore up the house and completely dry it in. We were hoping that Don could recover and continue on but honestly, we didn’t know how things would turn out.
Also, keep in mind that I was only six months into a new real estate career. That in itself is stressful. Our life was a mess. I spent plenty of time in our shell of a house, trying to think of only the coming weeks and what needed to be done. I cleaned up the job site and hung Don’s tool belt on a nail. A sparrow found it and thought it was the perfect place to build a nest and raise her young. I let her have it. We had a long way to go before Don could use it again.
My favorite saying is “don’t be afraid to go out on a limb because that’s where the best fruit is.” Dons favorite saying is “careful thought enhances luck”. Many times Don and I have been willing to put ourselves out on a limb but it was also done with plenty of careful thought. That thought always involves the advice of friends who have provided us with valuable input through the years. One friend that I called was a lender, Kay Taffer who I had started working with. Kay and I spent a lot of time going over our situation and she pulled out a miracle. She got my loan refinanced with a new lender. Another friend who came to our aid was Larry Ohl, who Don had worked with when we had first moved to Asheville. Larry spent several days helping me install the windows. My fellow real estate agents helped track down a roofer. Soon we were dried in.
The neurologist had told Don to expect three months in the turtle shell. At the end of the three months, Don called our laborer and put him to work decking the front porch, with his instruction. Don was feeling much better, his back appeared to be healing and the sparrow had left her nest in his tool belt. It was time to start working again. About that time he received a phone call from the neurologist who asked him what he was doing. He happily replied, “I’m working on my house!” The neurologist was not thrilled with that answer and proceeded to tell Don all the many ways that his spine could still collapse, leaving him paralyzed for life. When I arrived home that day I found Don lying in bed, feeling completely dejected. I reminded him that most likely it was the doctors CYA talk, take it with a grain of salt. It turned out to be the last conversation that he had with his neurologist who pretty much washed his hands of him.
Don eventually went to physical therapy on the advice of his family doctor but his real physical therapy was working on our house. He started laying nearly 3,000 feet of oak hardwood floors while still in the turtle shell. The neurologist had said 3 months and since he was no longer communicating with us, we felt that 4 months was a safer bet. Don started by laying a few boards, then going to our bedroom in the garage and resting his back for a half hour. Then a few more boards and another rest. The boards eventually grew into a bundle a day then several bundles a day. He made hash marks on the kitchen wall to track his progress. By the end, he had worked himself out of the turtle shell and was back to work, albeit cautiously. Our new loan was in place. we were ready to move forward once again!