No one in their mid fifties expects to find themselves in what is often referred to as a convalescent center, but that is the situation in which Sandra Wagner found herself. A few months back, she literally woke up paralyzed from the waist down, had a pinched nerve, near failure of her kidneys, and barely beat back the Grim Reaper. She was in Athens-Limestone Hospital for 3 ½ weeks, and then was transferred to Athens Rehab and Senior Care to continue her recovery.

She couldn’t walk, and she was so distressed at first that she didn’t want to leave her room. However, she says with gratitude, “They coaxed me out, and all of that is in now in the past.” Two months have gone by, and she is walking with a walker, laughing, considers the staff and residents her “new family,” and says with confidence, “I am going to throw away this walker someday.” She can’t say enough about the excellent care she has received since arriving in May. “It’s awesome, there are no words for it,” she says. “I now have no regrets about being here, and I am thankful to the staff for getting me back up and walking again.”

She loves the activities, and some of her favorites are Bingo and Wii bowling. It is clear that the staff loves “Miss Sandi,” and the feeling is mutual. We shared several laughs, and talked about her life prior to coming to Athens Rehab and Senior Care. She has two grown children and 4 grandkids. She attended church at New Oakland Baptist and Decatur Christian Fellowship.

What makes Sandi’s story so interesting is that for six years, back in the ‘80s, she actually worked as a caregiver at the very center where she now resides. She became so attached to the residents that she finally had to quit, and she is quick to mention that there are staff workers who will come down on their day off or in the middle of the night to be with a patient in need or who is about to pass, and she both appreciates and understand their dedication.

So, what are her “favorite things,” as the song goes? Favorite movie? Without a moment’s hesitation she told me that it’s “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Her favorite color? Blue. “Mine too, I told her.” Her favorite food is homemade tacos or spaghetti, and if she were President of the United States, she’d “fix health care and the economy.”

She loves all kinds of music, and especially bluegrass gospel. Her favorite place in the whole wide world is Montego Bay, Jamaica, and told us of a memorable trip she took with her children a few years back. “Oh, I would love to live there,” she said.

What advice does she have for young people? “Trust in God, obey your mom and dad, and learn from other peoples’ lives.” I’d say that’s wisdom no matter what your age. There is a chance that Sandra might be at the Center for a very long time, and being able to live without regret if that ends up being the case is a rare gift for which she is continually thankful.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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