Determination at Home

Last Friday, we visited the Davidsons at home to capture their normal routine. Instead, we witnessed a milestone in Shelly’s recovery.

And like completing Pat’s Run each year, each milestone comes after a long road of challenges.

Almost a year ago, Shelly’s already difficult recovery became further complicated when doctors determined that to avoid contracting pneumonia from aspirating food, Shelly would have to eat through a feeding tube. Recently, a problem with the amount of water he was receiving brought him back to the hospital with a frightening, accidental drug overdose. In spite of it all, as we prepared to capture the process on camera, Shelly presented his ability to laugh even in the worst circumstances: “soup du jour!” he exclaimed as he pulled a can of his nutritional shake from among countless other identical cans in the cabinet.

While Shelly has had to mostly forgo the enjoyment of chewing and swallowing food (he does get an occasional

For nearly a year, Shelly has had to be tube fed. Shelly’s wife, Jeffree, must help him get nutrition seven times a day.

banana shake as a treat), tube feeding has become a special challenge for his family. He has to eat seven times a day, so his wife, Jeffree, spends a lot of time going through the feeding process. Maybe harder, though, is missing Shelly at mealtimes. “It just doesn’t feel right eating in front of him,” said Jeffree.

As we’ve discovered to be the norm, though, Shelly makes remarkable progress in spite of setbacks. Wanting to capture the process of loading Shelly into the car to get to the race, we had practiced shooting someone who was disabled getting into an SUV. In our practices, we carefully loaded an actor who stood in for Shelly, supporting him into the car, and lifting his legs into the wheel well. The real Shelly, however, was much faster, needing almost no help into the car whatsoever. Once in and buckled, he added in a friendly wave for good measure. Then, when we wanted to capture a new angle, he was ready to do it again.

But the breakthrough came during Shelly’s practice walk. Although he was told he would never walk again, Shelly regularly practices walking in the park behind his house. Jenn holds a strap that circles Shelly’s waist and helps him as he walks with his arm in walking sticks. It’s a painstaking process, and Jenn keeps the wheelchair close at hand in case Shelly needs to sit down. Through the wireless microphone we had attached to Jenn to hear the words they exchanged during the process, I could hear Jenn’s words of encouragement and then amazement as Shelly didn’t take his usual breaks. With our cameras following him, Shelly marched ahead, until Jenn could hardly believe what she was seeing. As Shelly rounded a curve on the sidewalk, he remarked that the curve was difficult for him to navigate. What we didn’t realize until afterwards was that the curve in the sidewalk was difficult because it was not a normal part of Shelly’s practice course. Last Friday, in spite of months of not eating regular food and his recent hospital stay, Shelly walked further than he ever had before.