This small word, inspired, means many things to many people. To me it means my beloved husband, Nyle Brent Smith. When I met him I had no idea the struggles and juggles that he had already faced in his life. He looked like your average, ordinary, every day giant, with your average, ordinary, every day handsome face, and your average, ordinary, every day blue, gray, green, purple, mood eyes. (Our foreign exchange student called them magic eyes, and I would agree).
The first thing that drew me to Nyle was his unique sense of humor. I also felt drawn to him because he laughed at my jokes. I later learned that some of the laughter was "pity laughter," but I'll take what I can get, right? lol (The lol is NOT pity laughing).
After we were married he decided to go back and get his Bachelor's Degree. We were a great team. I was one of the BYU Switchboard Supervisors and he got free tuition. We worked together for that degree. I would read to him from text books. I would quiz him, type or proof his papers. Yup, we were a great team.
Next he went to Law School. Ordinary things to do, right? Except for the extraordinary challenges that he faced in achieving these goals. He had a colostomy, for those who have no idea what that means, it means that his colon ruptured, spewing poison throughout his abdomen and he almost died. When he awakened it was to the knowledge that now his body expelled his feces through a hole in his side. A hole awkwardly positioned just below his belt line. This meant that he had no control over anything having to do with that part of the digestive system. There was paste to hold the bag to his skin. The paste often made his skin incredibly raw and sore. On the other hand if the paste become saturated with perspiration it would collapse, and then he would have raw sewage everywhere to deal with.
That ONE challenge is enough, enough to change a life, and possible turn a person into a recluse. Not Nyle. He always thought creatively. With his creativity he figured out ways and means to maintain his life as "normally" as possible. Including dancing and performing on stage.
He didn't have very long to heal from the colostomy before the next blow to his health happened. Going to visit a friend the apartment complex had let the sprinklers run so long that the water had flowed down concrete steps. It was night, poor lighting, Nyle was in flip flops, and his leg skated out from under him causing him to land with his full weight on his left knee. He described the sound as if a light bulb had shattered. He had surgery to put his kneecap back together, and then he fell down another flight of stairs and they had to remove most of his kneecap. This left the nerves in that knee exposed. A light bump and he would be sent shuddering into excruciating pain.
Oh, did I mention excruciating pain? In the middle of these two health challenges it was discovered that his spinal canal was malformed (birth defect). His lower back was caving in on itself. The sciatic nerve was pinched, and the nerves going into his legs were malformed as well. If you have ever experienced sciatic nerve pain it feels as though lightning is periodically shooting through your lower back, into your hips, into your legs, into your feet. When the pain got bad enough his legs would stop working. There were many times that at the end of a college day his legs would give out. So he would lie down on the ground and drag himself by the arms to his car. When I queried, "Don't people offer to help?" He said, "No, mostly they just give me odd pitying looks."
He was in a reclining wheelchair most of the time to keep him from falling when his legs gave out. You can not push yourself in a reclining wheelchair so he had to walk around campus. We didn't have enough money to purchase a motorized wheelchair (which he needed), or to get a van that had a ramp for him to be able to put his wheelchair in. Yet he produced a movie from our home and in his wheelchair. Even when he was attending college full-time he found jobs to help support our family. He had his own graphic design business, he acted, sang, danced, and wrote.
Each time that he left his wheelchair to perform, walk, do anything physical he paid a high price. Usually he would be in bed for as long as he could to recover. He had to plan for that recovery time. It was rough because often his needs for activity exceeded his bodies ability to perform.
One year after we were married it was discovered that he had diabetes. We both grieved, felt picked on for awhile, and then worked through it and moved on. Moving on involved adding testing his blood sugar before each meal and then administering an insulin injection according to his blood sugars, learning ways and means to help control his blood sugars through diet. Exercise? How do you exercise with all the problems with his back and left knee? He bought a bicycle and rode it, in spite of the pain that caused.
One day he said to me, "My body is not working well but my mind is still sharp," (That was a huge understatement, Nyle was a genius), I need to find a way to support our family with my brain." DRUMROLL....Nyle and I went to Law School.
This involved moving our two children, ourselves, three cats, and a household of furniture, etc. two states away to Portland, Oregon. Fear, trepidation, concern? I was one giant while knuckle. We didn't even know if Nyle could get financial aid because his previous health crisis had left him in the hole for his educational loans.
Nyle told me that his motivation to go to Law School came from a quote he heard at school. It was a class for young men and women studying business. The speaker said, "If you have everything risk nothing. If you have nothing risk everything." Nyle and I were blessed to be a team, and to have our beautiful children. As a bonus we had our adorable kitties!
I got a job and Nyle began Law School. The stress of learning an entirely new way to reason, to write, and to study would cause his blood sugar to rise beyond high, and then randomly drop low, low, low. We didn't know until years later that his uncontrolled pain was also hiking his blood sugar high. He refused to take any type of pain medications because it dulled his great brain.
So far this post has been ridiculously grim. I know there are those that read this that may think that I'm making this all up so that people will feel sorry for him, for me. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes our lives during that time could be extremely grim. Nyle believed that circumstance should not control your ability to find happiness. He believed that happiness was a conscious choice that sometimes had to be made multiple times a day. "Happy not crappy," was his simple mantra. Those three words meant that we all had the power to be happy, IN SPITE OF....whatever life throws in our path.
Nyle set the bar of how to live with challenge impossibly high. While all of this medical stuff was happening we both worked, created two beautiful female human beings, and shared an eternal love. We had friends, family, and goals that we moved towards even in the midst of so much drama and trauma.
A beloved friend said to Nyle one day, "I'm so inspired by you and how you face your health problems." Nyle said, "Thanks. I appreciate that, and please don't take this the wrong way, I would prefer that you were inspired by me for some other reason then because I have miserable health."
Just so you know Nyle we weren't inspired by your crappy health, we were inspired by you. Not many students finish a Doctoral education while facing all of Nyle's challenges. How many people do you know that make you laugh and enjoy life while they are in great quantities of physical pain. No, it wasn't that we were inspired by your miserable health. We ARE inspired by the greatness of your soul which was forever reaching up, up towards light, truth, and knowledge. We ARE inspired by the warming love of your personality. I miss you Nyle. I hope that somebody reading this will take inspiration from our story to improve their lives.