Local family works around disabilities, refuses to give up
Seventeen years ago, Mark and Laura Day’s wedding didn’t go as planned.
Instead of getting married in a pink dress by Manitou Lake near Colorado Springs, Laura said her vows in a hospital gown with a metal halo cradling her broken neck.
“I didn’t mind taking care of her because I loved her,” Day said. “But it was so hard watching her go through that.”
A car wreck the day of their wedding didn’t stop the Days then, and continuing bouts with disabilities hasn’t hindered the family from continuing on with their lives.
Hardships still linger from the nightmare of that crash.
Laura has issues with short-term memory and writing, but she now works for Enterprise Rent-a-Car.
Meanwhile, Mark has a back condition that has confined him to being a stay-at-home dad and homeschool teacher for his children Caitlyn, 13, and Ian, 11.
In 1985, he slipped and fell at his job in Colorado Springs, and his vertebrae slowly have been degenerating since.
He hasn’t been able to reach his feet in a long time, he said, and his children or his wife have to tie his shoes for him.
The family moved to Craig almost a year ago when they found the “perfect” house already decked out with a handicap accessible ramp and railings along all the hallways.
Despite being forced to stay home, he sees it as an opportunity for his family.
“I hate having to stay home,” he said. “But I have a ball with the kids. It’s a learning experience for me. I always thought I’d be a good teacher, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job.”
His children are budding scientists and avid readers.
Caitlyn said she doesn’t get grounded if she gets in trouble; she gets her reading privileges taken away.
She said she wants to be an astronomer, and the family has a telescope they’ve hooked up to a camera to take pictures of Jupiter and the moon.
Ian wants to be a chocolatier.
For the most part, Mark has found himself able to do the things he loves. He is an artist, with several paintings hanging around the house, and an inventor.
“I’d call myself a Renaissance man,” he said, laughing.
The family spends their days immersing themselves in books, science and art; things still accessible to Mark despite his disability.
Don’t give up
Mark said his back has good and bad days.
“Sometimes I can cook a meal for my family, and sometimes I can’t,” he said “Sometimes we go shopping and I can carry the groceries, but some days I can’t. When I was working, even if I lifted just a few things, I’d have to miss a day because of the migraines.”
Since his injury, Day has suffered crushing migraines, something he describes as the worst pain he’s ever known.
“Anyone who’s had migraines knows, it’s unbearable,” he said.
Still, he refuses to take the painkillers or muscle relaxants he is given by doctors.
He doesn’t drive, but he often goes for walks with his wife or his children.
He said some days he’s limited on how far he can walk.
“It varies a lot with the weather,” he said. “On days that storm fronts come through, I can barely get out of bed.”
He said he sometimes is defensive about his disability to others because of the way he is seen.
“I look normal, I look healthy,” he said. “People wonder, ‘Why is a big, strapping guy like that sitting on his behind? Why isn’t he working?’ With some people, I have to explain myself.”
As living proof that disabilities might not be obvious to the general public, Day had a piece of advice for anyone with a disability.
“Don’t give up,” he said. “Don’t let it handicap you.”
He said he liked the term “handicapable” that was displayed on the Disability Awareness Day T-shirts.
“You have to take your capabilities into your own hands, so that makes more sense.,” he said. “Your handicap is what you make it.”
His son, Ian, chimed in, quoting a bumper sticker.
“‘Your only handicap is your attitude,'” he said.
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