Chris and I were scheduled to meet at 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. I arrived at his dorm on the second floor a few moments early and one of the case managers gave him a ring on his cell phone to let him know that I had arrived for our interview. I sat in the Recuperative Care unit, admiring the health facts and client artwork hanging on the walls for a few moments until Chris came rushing in the door.
“I’m so sorry I am late- I ran here from the library…I guess you can tell since I am sweating!” Chris apologized. I, of course, was not offended in the least bit at his tardiness. I would soon find out that running back to Gateway from the local library was no small feat, and, had I met Chris a few months ago, running would not have been an option.
In 2011, Chris was diagnosed with a severe neuromuscular disorder called Myasthenia Gravis, an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to produce antibodies that block the muscle cells from receiving messages from the nerve cell…in other words, movement and muscle control are difficult if not impossible. When Chris was diagnosed a few years ago, he was living independently. Not too long after his diagnosis Chris was notified that his landlord had not been making proper payments, and that the house where he was renting a room was being foreclosed. Chris moved in with his uncle, but his health prevented him from work and it soon became evident that he needed medical intervention.
After a stint in the Grady emergency room, Chris was discharged onto the street with no housing options that would suit his physical state. After a few months of living in shelters and hopping from relative to relative, he knew he needed a long term solution so that he could gain control over his diagnosis and live a functional life.
In the late fall of 2012, after having exhausted all of his family connections and options for short term shelter, Chris was finally referred to the Gateway Center Recuperative Care program. Thanks to the caring and extensively talented staff from Saint Joseph’s Mercy Care, Chris is now more mobile than ever, and no longer worries about where he will eat or sleep each day. Chris has been with us at Gateway now for four months, and can’t contain his joy when he talks about how far he has come.
“I was at the library looking at apartment applications all morning, and time just slipped away from me!” he exclaimed, still apologizing for being late. I just couldn’t stop smiling as Chris told me about his apartment search. Just four months ago, he could hardly walk, and now he is running all around town, preparing to move into self-sufficiency with the support of a whole community of social and medical workers.
Chris is the physical manifestation of so many client stories at the Gateway Center. When folks walk through our doors for the first time, they are hurting, some can hardly walk upright. We strive to be a place of healing and empowerment; and not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. My hope for all of our clients is that they can not only get back on their feet with the help of our programs, but that they can all get to the point where they can hit the ground running!