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West Michigan man proves positivity is key to recovery

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“I was raised to believe my handicap wasn’t a limitation. I have spina bifida, but it’s never held me back.”
Ed flying 1974 Breezy as a child

Ed flying 1974 Breezy as a child /Metro Health

Metro Health's Assisted Breathing Program

The Metro Health Assisted Breathing Program is one of the leading vent units in Michigan, and is located within Metro Health Hospital in Wyoming. Program staff care for people who are ventilator dependent due to disease, injury or other conditions.

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Ed still remembers the moment he took hold of the cockpit controls and flew the small, open-air 1974 Breezy for the first time. He was just 15-years-old, and now, 40 years later, he still recalls his excitement. “People are surprised to hear that I can fly an airplane with spina bifida, but I was always an active and fearless kid,” Ed explains. Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when the bones of the spine don’t form properly around the spinal cord early in development.

Since the glory days of his youth, Ed has fallen on difficult times. His health took a turn for the worse, and he woke one day to find himself in the hospital with a breathing tube. “I shouldn’t be alive,” Ed describes. “I stopped breathing more times than I can count, but somehow, doctors always brought me back. I feel like a cat with nine lives.”

Ed was diagnosed with respiratory failure and was in and out of the hospital and nursing homes for months. Depression set in, and he wondered if he would ever fully recover. Because of the severity of his condition, Ed was transferred to the Assisted Breathing Center in August of 2018.

Unfortunately, Ed’s struggles had only begun. Because he was spending so much time in hospitals, he lost his apartment and shortly after that, his mother passed away. The heartache left him in a dark place emotionally, at a time when he was still struggling physically. “That was a very hard time for Ed,” recalls Ed’s social worker, Kristie. “He and I spent a lot of time talking about his fears and worries. It was important to acknowledge how he was feeling, but not let those feelings define him and his potential to progress.”

Slowly the fog lifted, and Ed’s health started improving. The physicians, nurses and staff at Metro gave him the hope he needed to recover. “I don’t know where I’d be without Kristie,” he relates. “If it weren’t for her, I’d still be in that deep dark place with no way out.”

“Ed really did all the work,” Kristie points out. “My role at Metro is to guide him and stand alongside him, but he rose to the challenge.”

At the Assisted Breathing Center, Ed attends physical and speech therapy, along with art classes, and he is slowly weaning himself off breathing assistance. He still has a feeding tube—he struggles to swallow—but he hopes to bite into a juicy steak very soon. “I want to regain my strength,” he says. “I want to get back on my own two feet, get off oxygen and become self-sufficient again.”

Ed believes Metro is the best place he could possibly be right now. “The people here are wonderful. Everyone is so good at their jobs, they’re kind and they have great attitudes.” Ed thinks the staff’s sense of humor is what he loves most. They’ve set him up with an iPad and audiobooks to pass the time, and they’re even helping him find a place to live once he’s released.

“When I think about where Ed was when he first came to Metro and where he is now, I’m amazed,” Kristie notes. “Ed has reminded us to never give up hope. He chose to engage and push forward, and because of that, he beat the odds.” Kristie adds that Ed’s friendly personality and positive outlook have endeared him to Assisted Breathing Center staff.  

“It would be easy to complain about the cards I’ve been dealt,” Ed concludes. “But there are people here in the Assisted Breathing Center who struggle more than me. There’s no reason to complain, it doesn’t do any good. I’m just going to keep living instead.”


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