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A Chair for Kim

by Kathy Brown.

Kim Radowiecki has lived in Higganum since the early 1980s. She said, “My children prospered in our excellent school system.” Her son, Ken, a 2008 HKHS graduate, now works out of state, and her daughter, Rachel , a 2012 HKHS graduate is attending Princeton University.

Kim R - wheelchairKim suffers from Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM), an autoimmune degenerative muscle disease which is characterized by slowly progressive weakness and wasting of muscles, which is most apparent in the muscles of the arms and legs. It takes Kim longer to do even simple things like cook a meal or answer correspondence and pay bills, and by the end of the day, her energy reserves are gone and she can barely hold her head up. According to Kim’s pastor and friend Judith Cooke (pastor of the Higganum Congregational Church), “A few years ago (when she was managing better), her house was hit by lightening and she had a small fire coming out of every outlet in the house.  She called 911, and they told her to get out immediately.  Because of the IBM, it took her 10 minutes to exit the house.” She has someone take her to physical therapy, and that can physically wipe her out for days. It’s a far cry from her time before the disease, when according to Kim, “I enjoyed figure skating at Wesleyan and Cromwell arenas, kayaking on nearby lakes and the rivers, and swing dancing (Lindy Hop) regionally.”

Doctors say that she needs the motorized wheelchair for safety reasons and to help her conserve energy. People with IBM are at a much greater risk for falls. The chair comes with accessories like a tray, a lifting seat so that she can get in and out, and a headrest, because by the end of the day, she cannot hold her head up. She has caregivers who help her with food and cleaning and she is picked up for things like physical therapy. Kim does have insurance, but the out-of-pocket cost for the $28,000 wheelchair is over $3000. And beyond that, she needs other specialized equipment for her house such as a Hoyer lift, and her dream is to get a wheelchair accessible van so that she can be more independent and “feel like part of the world again.” Kim says the disease is very isolating.

Kim said there is one interesting aspect of this disease, “You have time to plan. In fact, you have to plan every step, literally and figuratively. This fits well with my personality, as I am a problem solver. My friends call me McGyver! Faster than you can order something from eBay, I can adapt everyday items for handicapped use. For instance, I equipped my existing walker with a placemat and cookie sheet to serve as a tray. Perfect fit! With the aid of a hairband and over-the-door- hook, it carries a reacher/grabber device, too!”

Kim’s daughter Rachel says, “Two of my favorite things about my Mom are her sense of humor and her artsy creativity. . . She still retains her sense of humor despite everything that’s happened. Every once in a while she’ll send us a text with some witty comment that makes me chuckle and I think ‘What other mom does this?’.”

Judith started the fundraiser because, “I have watched Kim follow every lead, jump through every hoop, wade through streams of red tape, only to hit dead end after dead end.  She has done everything right, but she just cannot catch a break.  Kim is a loving, caring person.  She is concerned about other people (especially those with myositis), and she reaches out to others to offer support and encouragement.”

Kim’s son, Ken, says, “I can’t begin to thank the community enough for the support they have shown. Growing up I remember my mom was very mobile. She was always walking around town – we would do ‘litter walks’ to clean up the streets. The wheelchair not only helps my mom with becoming mobile again but also gives her the opportunity to continue living in the town that she loves.” If you would like to donate to Kim’s wheelchair (and other medical equipment) fund, here is the link. Kim says that the comments on the fundraising page “have evoked fond memories, and brought great comfort to me.”

Editor’s Note: The GiveForward Team gave $50.00.  “You are an amazing person, Kim! We loved your article in Haddam Now. We’re sending you lots of positive thoughts and hoping you’ll have your wheelchair soon.”


One Response to A Chair for Kim

  1. Dagmar Slaven

    March 29, 2015 at 11:24 am

    What a nice tribute to a wonderful woman! Kim and I had become friends via e-mail and phone since we share the same diagnosis, IBM, a relentlessly progressing muscle wasting disease. She deserves to have to struggle no more for what she needs to assist her in her daily life!