Even before I was officially diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), I could feel my health declining and my enthusiasm to complete yardwork diminishing.
I always took great pride in my meticulously landscaped yard. When I moved into my wife’s house, I immediately tore up the yard, planted new grass, put in a vegetable garden, and installed new landscaping. I cannot take all the credit, as my wife picked out the flowers, small trees, and bushes. We now have a flourishing and vibrant green space in our backyard. Many people comment on how beautiful and peaceful our backyard is.
As an educator, I always had access to workers: my students. When I had big jobs to do in the yard, I would have several boys come over and help out so that I was able to complete other projects. I am a firm believer that kids should be introduced into the workforce at an early age. They need to understand the value of the dollar. Nowadays, you don’t see kids out cutting grass, shoveling snow, or delivering newspapers. There are many reasons why this is the case, but it doesn’t mean it has to be the rule. I can remember doing all of the above jobs, and even skipping school to shovel snow to make several hundred dollars.
In 2013, I could feel myself struggling to walk up steps and experiencing fatigue after periods of walking. Completing strenuous work in the yard was not an option anymore. I knew I had to get some extra help so that I didn’t place this entire burden on my wife.
At this point in my educational career, I was no longer in the classroom and I didn’t know the kids personally. I asked a couple of teachers for the name of a boy who would be interested and trustworthy, and the same name kept popping up: Dashaun. He was a seventh-grader at the time. I spoke with him and then his mother, and he was ready for the challenge. I told him beforehand that I expected him to do an excellent job, but I would show him how to do each task.
On his first day, I had him cut the grass. I like straight lines, but he was all over the place. He told me he’d never done any type of yardwork before. In my calm voice, I told him to just take his time, watch how he turns the lawnmower, and line the wheels up for the next row.
There were some learning curves over the first couple of years. We did get to the point where he comes over and starts work without having to bother me. He is now able to troubleshoot if some machinery will not start and use his critical thinking skills on other projects I give him.
Over the years, I have considered myself a positive mentor and role model for Dashaun. He has grown into a respectful young man. His mother has done an excellent job as a single mother suffering with stage 4 kidney disease. She has dialysis three times a week, and it is exhausting for her to go through. As a young man growing up in the inner city of Cleveland, he has avoided trouble and has done fairly well in his studies. He recently graduated from high school, having earned 45 semester hours for college. He will be attending a local community college next month.
As I look back on the past six years, I see that he truly made our lives a little easier. He did the yardwork I could no longer do after my single lung transplant, and that freed up my wife to complete other tasks. She still plants the garden and annuals every year, but she doesn’t have to worry about cutting the grass or doing the strenuous work in the yard, such as mulching and moving dirt. Dashaun has become part of our small family. Our hope is for him to finish college and start a career he will enjoy.
I encourage anyone who is suffering with a disability to ask for help, if needed. I am fortunate enough to have the means to pay for the extra help, and I’m glad to share it with a youngster like Dashaun.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.