Taking care of Rick, Part I

This is my friend Rick. Well, Rick and his dad, Dick Hoyt. They are a team. They call themselves Team Hoyt. I'm blogging about him because I was thinking about him tonight. I was thinking about all of the other 4th of July's I've ever had, and I was reminded of a particularly interesting 4th I spent working for Rick. Then I thought, "Hey, I haven't introduced everybody to Rick, yet!" See, the thing about Rick is that he's the type of person who blesses other people, just by meeting them. Yep, that's right. If you meet Rick, and/or his dad, you are automatically blessed. So, consider yourselves getting a freebie today. The first time I saw Rick, I didn't know his name, or his story, or anything about him, actually. Surprisingly, I had never even heard of him, which is unusual, living in Boston. He is, without question, a local celebrity. Anyway, the first time I saw him, I was in Kenmore Square with my friend Jessi, watching the Boston Marathon. Kenmore Square is right where Fenway Park is, and it is mile 25 of the Boston Marathon. It is also right in the middle of BU campus (such as it is), so that's where most of us students would come out to watch the race. My friend and I stood there, two Utah girls watching a phenomenon we had never experienced, and there he was, right in front of me. Rick, in his racing chair, being pushed by his dad through mile 25. The crowd was going crazy, and even I started screaming for them, not having any clue what or who I was screaming for, I was just completely caught up in the moment. Then I saw them as they passed me, and tears came to my eyes. Here was a dad, pushing his son, doing something for his son that he clearly could not for himself. Pretty awesome, if you ask me. Fast forward two years. I was a senior, about to graduate from a program in "allied health professions", looking at grad schools, and I felt my resume needed to be beefed up in terms of professional experience. "Waitress at Pizzerio Uno" just didn't seem all that impressive. So I was perusing the BU job board, and I noticed a post for a PCA, a Personal Care Attendant for a young man with cerebral palsy. Duties: Bathing, dressing, feeding, light housekeeping. Competitive pay, flexible hours. Therapy majors preferred. Contact Rick Hoyt. Sounded perfect. I called, and set up a time with the woman who answered the phone to meet Rick. I thought Rick just hadn't answered the phone because he was unavailable, or something. I dunno, maybe he had an issue with the phone. It never occurred to me that Rick didn't answer his phone because he couldn't talk. Or actually pick up a phone, for that matter. Thus, I was totally unprepared for what met me when I went to the interview. The same woman I talked to on the phone answered the door, and Rick was sitting in his wheelchair by the table. He was smiling at me in a goofy way, laughing sort of with a snorting sound, and moving all of his limbs at once. I have since learned that's how he acts when he sees a woman he thinks is cute, and that he prefers blondes. At the time, I only saw a spastic, nonverbal quadriplegic making some seriously funky sounds. I felt like bolting for the door, right then and there. But I took a deep breath and I stayed, and learned about what it takes to take care of Rick. Quite a lot, actually, and initially I felt overwhelmed, underqualified, and simply not strong enough. I felt I wasn't strong enough both to emotionally handle dealing with somebody with a disability on such close terms, and also not physically strong enough to lift him from his chair, into the bathtub, out of the bathtub, carry him to his bed, dress him, back to the chair, etc, etc. He doesn't weigh much, but for a wimpy girl like me, it took a while before it was easy to swing him around. But I have to say, it took far longer for my arm and back muscles to get used to it than it did for my heart. I found out pretty quickly that Rick is easy to love, and lives to bless the life of others. Some of the most powerful moments of my life have come from taking care of Rick. And, to be honest, some of the most horrible moments have come from taking care of him too, mostly because in some way or another, I failed him, and failed him terribly. I'd like to take some time to share some of those moments with all of you. Not today, of course--this post is too long as it is. But Rick has told me that he feels he was put on the earth to show people that being disabled is not the worst thing that can happen to you, and to educate everybody, both disabled and mobile, what a person who can't walk, talk, or even do anything more than nod his head consistently (even that can sometimes be iffy!) can accomplish. So, in the next little while, I'd like to share with you some of his accomplishments, and some of my experiences with him and his extraordinary family. Like I said, prepare to be blessed.


Blogger Tracy M said...

Heather- I read about Rick a few months ago in Sports Illustrated- and was so moved by the peice on him I went to their website to see the photo-essay they did on him and his father. I cried the whole way through the article.

I can't wait to read about your experiences with him. What a small world it is, huh?

7/05/2006 12:30:00 AM  
Blogger miggy said...

I have also seen quite a bit of this duo lately--they were on Oprah this past year, a article in a running mag, etc. I too was very amazed by their story and found my self fighting back tears everytime I saw something on them. . . that's pretty incredible that you know him so well and so personally. . . I look forward to more stories.

7/05/2006 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa M. said...

Maren introduced me to the Hoyt team.

Just the other day.

I am looking forward to hearing more about your experiences.

Thank you for being willing to share them with us.

7/05/2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

I read about them somewhere, as well. I'm thinking Reader's Digest, but maybe not. How fortunate to have people like that in your life.

7/05/2006 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger marian said...

I saw the HBO Sports profile they did on Rick and his dad, and just cried the whole way through. So did my husband and my mother. What an amazing man and an amazing duo. I'm so excited to "know" someone who knows them personally, I can't wait to hear more about your experiences with Rick. Thank you for sharing!

7/05/2006 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Maralise said...

Heather--Thank you for sharing this story. I am not as familiar with Rick and his dad as the other commenters. However, I am excited to learn more.

In reading this post and looking at the picture, I couldn't help but think of my oldest son. It's not because he has a disabling handicap or because he runs marathons, it's because he comes with his own set of genes and heart that make him unique and challenging. I hope that I am willing to support, help grow, and learn to love my son "as he is." Not just accept him, but exude the type of devotion that I feel is coming from this father.

Thanks for sending the blessings along.....I think I've already received some of them.

7/05/2006 06:39:00 PM  

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