I had a hemorrhagic stroke in 1994 when a blood vessel burst in my brain. I was in and out of rehabilitation for seventeen years, trying to get function out of my left arm and learning to walk with purpose. I loved to run whenever I could. When I was driving a truck and parked near a building, I’d run to the building and back. People asked, “Why do you do that?” I said, “Because I can.”
The stroke was the morning of Mother’s Day. If it had
been the next day at work I would have been covered by insurance. Jesica, my nine-year-old daughter, went to live with my sister Margaret. My husband found somebody else during my recovery. He said I wasn’t getting any better and left me. He filed for divorce less than a week later.
I was in a nursing home for two years, lived in apartments and with my mom and stepdad, and then moved into a rental house.
I learn of Habitat
A friend told me about Habitat for Humanity in 2003. I called them, and they said to send a self-addressed stamped envelope for more information. They told me I could pick up an application at the next orientation. At home, I filled it out and then took it to the Habitat office a few weeks later.
In June of 2004, I attended a house warming for a Habitat-finished house of a neighbor. That’s when Habitat told me I was approved for a house. It would be built in August at Highland Springs Country Club, Springfield, Missouri, during the annual Price Cutter Charity Championship Golf Tournament. Thousands of people come to the tournament and my house would be a great demonstration for Habitat’s important work.
Habitat for Humanity requires recipients to put in 350 hours of volunteer work for Habitat. I became a greeter at Habitat’s ReStore in Springfield, a home improvement store and donation center that sells used furniture, appliances, home accessories, and building materials. Many volunteers help build their houses. I had a hard time doing things because of my disability, although for one day I laid on my back and painted baseboards in a Habitat house under construction.
The big build
When volunteers started to build my house, I went to the site and sat in a chair to watch. They started at six in the morning. I arrived about 6:45 and stayed until they finished the next morning around two o’clock. I only got up to get something to eat and go to the bathroom. When the house was finished, I took a tour and was overcome with joy. I couldn’t believe this was my very own house.
Workmanship and skill of the crews were awesome. The house was built on a special platform on a flatbed trailer. The finished house sat at the country club for about two months while officials scheduled the move through town to a subdivision of Habitat houses. The move took around six hours. I found a spot about one-third of the way from the start and sat in my car as the movers went slowly past. Then I drove to the subdivision and waited four hours for my house to arrive.
It took several weeks for workers to hook up wiring and plumbing and build my wheelchair-accessible ramps in front and back. Finally, on October 28, 2004, I moved in with help from my brothers Doug and John, sister Margaret and her husband Dave, and my friend Charles.
Today, I drive to church and throughout the state. I walk with a Hemi walker, slowly and carefully. I’ve learned to be resourceful and never give up. I hope I can inspire others to do the same.
Since 2004, Patty Goss has been vice president of Springfield People First, which teaches people with disabilities their rights and responsibilities and to advocate for themselves and others. She represents the organization on its state board. She was active in Show-Me Careers, which helps people with disabilities find jobs, careers, and realize their dreams.
Photo by Wayne E. Groner