It is about Jim Post, a paraplegic who through faith and determination overcame insurmountable odds to accomplish his dream of living a full-life and to become a Doctor, a healer to others.
Jim is a loving husband and father and despite having little use of his arms and no use of his legs he became a top kidney specialist, in practice at the Bronx [NY] Veteran’s Hospital and he is also a faculty member at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Our story begins with how Jim became a paraplegic.
As a boy, Jim was an athlete. He played baseball, rode bikes and he was an Eagle Scout. But in July of 1985, 14-year-old Jim attended Boy Scout Camp and to earn a merit badge, took a class to master long-distance swimming, water rescue and shallow water diving.
“On the morning of the shallow water dive, I carefully observed my counselors’ demonstrations and proceeded with confidence to perform the dive myself,” Jim said. “[But] within a second of entering the water, I felt my head hit bottom and instantly I was unable to move from the neck down.
“During the next 60-seconds I slowly floated back to the surface facedown and prayed that someone would see me. The camp counselor noticed I was in trouble and quickly came to my rescue.
“Over the next three months, I underwent two cervical spine surgeries,” but Jim didn’t recover his mobility. He was now a quadriplegic, a frightening fate for anyone, let alone for a boy of 14.
“I can bend my arms at the elbows and can move my shoulders. I am not able to open or close my hands…” [Nor can he move his fingers]. “…I have no sensation from the nipple line down.”
His mother stood vigil for the next year Jim spent in the hospital and in rehabilitation, often living on a cot in his room. Her parents and his father took care of Jim’s brother and his sister.
For Jim, one trauma led to the next. Unable to stand-up, calcium leaked from his bones into his bloodstream, sickening him and costing him half his body weight. To solve this, his Doctors had his bed stood upright and to feed him, his mother used a ladder.
When Jim was able to return home, “My parents took care of me. But after 10 pm, an aide would come in and help,” said Jim. Young Jim was just 15 and determined to have a productive life.
That fall, he would have begun the 10th grade but “I never went back to high school. The teachers would come to my home and give me the same curriculum and I took the same tests.” And Jim did well, graduating with his class, “even with a year in the hospital.”
You might think with his severe limitations, Jim would be terribly lonely. But his friends came to his home and they were joined by a 25-year-old nurse’s aide Frank, who also became his friend. And it was through Frank that Jim met the love of his life.
“One day, [Frank] went through the local [news] paper and saw a picture of a girl graduating from high school,” said Jim. “He saw Saretha and [thinking she was beautiful, he] called her and struck up a conversation with her. He said I know this guy who wants to meet you.
“He asked me to talk with her on the phone,” Jim said. But Jim was embarrassed and it took a lot of nagging from Frank to get him on the phone with Saretha. “We liked each other and talked for over an hour,” Jim said. “[Frank] kept in contact with her and got me on the phone again. I did not let Saretha know I was in a wheel chair because I didn’t expect this to go anywhere.
“I gave her a false name. But when I graduated from high school, [the local newspaper] had me pictured with my friend pushing me in a wheel chair.” Saretha saw the picture and said, “It didn’t bother her at all that I was in a wheel chair. I would like to meet him.
“I saw my friends have girl friends, go out to proms, get cars – I said [to myself], ‘Jim, you love medicine, you don’t need these things.’ I was really scared because I was afraid I would be rejected. I didn’t want [her] to see how I feed myself or brush my teeth [or that] someone has to lift me into bed at night.
“She said to her friend, ‘Do you know this Jimmy Post?’ She [Saretha] had gotten to know me over the phone over 4 or 5 calls. After she found out I was in the chair, she asked to meet me. I was self-conscious. [Frank] would have to lift me into the car [because I’m] paralyzed pretty much from the neck down.
“I was not optimistic this would go anywhere. She asked to meet me – I was in a sweat but Frank put me in the car and we went over to her house. We sat and talked and she liked me even more. I invited her to my house to watch a movie together.”
After that Saretha took an active role in Jim’s life. “She made me get out and do things. Back then I was 17 and I was uncomfortable – people would stare at me. I was self-conscious. She would say, ‘We’re going out to dinner, we’re going to a movie.’ She insisted we go out and be normal. I’ve had a much better life because she got me back into it.
“I had been limiting myself tremendously,” Jim said. “I really started to live again.
“After a little over a year, we were engaged.” They were engaged for five years and got married “right before I went to medical school.” And they’ve now been happily married for 14-years.
How does Jim feel about Saretha today? “She is everything to me. She gave me all the love and support. She is the best thing that ever happened to me. She truly loves me and saw me beyond the wheel chair – who I really am.
“She went to all the medical school interviews [at each school Jim applied to] and she learned to do all the things the nurse’s aides do [so she could take care of Jim]. In medical school, she went to the classes and the labs for the 1st two years. She even helped me with the cadaver dissection [and all] the extreme demands of the medical school.”
And now this incredible story takes yet another fascinating turn. Jim and Saretha decided to have children. “With my level of injury,” Jim said, “People have a hard time with fertility.
“People usually have to go to fertility doctors but we were able to have our children naturally. ‘The heart has reasons the mind knows not.’ It’s not my quote but it is true.”
Today, Jim and Saretha have Jimmy, 11-years-old and Jessica, 8-years-old. “We play all the time,” Jim said. “They sit on my lap and I drive the [wheel] chair. We watch New York Yankees games together. We play computer games together. We go on vacation. We’ve been to Disney World, the Grand Canyon. I go to Jimmy’s baseball games.”
As a family, they live a happy, loving and fulfilling life together.