BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Carolyn and Fred Jordan are both bustling in the kitchen. We were shooting our interview around lunch time, and though we didn't ask to be fed, they forced us to eat.
Carolyn poured lemonade using just the palms of her hands and a half a thumb on her left, non-dominant hand.
She lost her fingers and both feet after an infection attacked her immune system. Carolyn had been caring for her terminally ill adult son and figures her own immunity became depressed while concentrating so fully on him.
Carolyn figured 9-News may not have time to eat, so she spooned up the food in to-go Styrofoam, but we all sat down and eat. The chicken salad was delicious.
Carolyn sat next to Fred at their kitchen table and assured us, "No, these amputations didn't stop me from doing everything I wanted to do, except he and I used to dance a lot, square dancing, ballroom dancing."
She and Fred have been married for 56 years, and figured all the dancing would "keep them young." But, when she began rehab and learning how to walk on prosthetics, her physicians were aghast at how quickly she learned to balance.
Carolyn said the dancing is the reason she could balance so readily. The Cajun 2-step, the ballroom, and jitterbug dances all fine-tuned her ability to balance.
As I ate her delicious food, Carolyn said there was a powerful prayer session right there in the hospital when she was in a chemically-induced coma. Her sister had been told by Carolyn's doctors the end was near, and she would probably not survive.
"She said she got the family together and said, 'Well, if she's still breathing, there is still something we can do. We can all pray, so they gathered in a circle and they began to pray for me,'" Carolyn beams.
What would happen after that is a lesson in relentless discipline. Carolyn would decide over time that her own body was easier for her to use, using palms and half a thumb, than the prosthetics for her hands.
"They started me out messin' me up. They put a strap on this hand, (she gestures to her left hand) because I was right-handed, and they hooked a fork onto it."
Carolyn said over the years, Fred's assistance in helping to put on her prosthetic legs faded because of health problems he developed. But, Carolyn said as an answer to her prayers, the third version of legs she received are the first pair she can put on without help.
One big challenge was the trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Her physical therapist wanted her to swing over onto a toilet by the bed, which required cleaning the next day. Carolyn, on the very next therapy session, showed her therapist how she rolled on her tummy and slid off the bed, then walked on her knees to the bathroom, hoisted herself up onto the toilet, and said, "See? I don't need that portable potty chair or legs."
She met a fellow amputee who helped her simplify once again.
"Well, she did teach me though to put knee pads on to walk on my knees at night," Carolyn said. "You know, that's so simple, but I never thought about it."
The knee pads kind of work like a pair of slippers for her at night and when she's only briefly walking somewhere.
Carolyn knew several churches were praying for her in this prosthetic and recovery journey. For months after she got out of the hospital, church members were bringing her meals. People are still coming by the house to help out.
"It's what I call earth angels. These earth angels that God sends to me. Now, an earth angel, like you for instance, that comes in time to do things to help me that I'm not able to do," Carolyn said.
She said an earth angel had just cleaned the house before 9-News arrived, so it would look nice for
Carolyn's story managed to get to Sen. Fred Mills of New Iberia. Last May, she was testifying in the House Health and Welfare Committee. Mills wanted people to be able to see an orthopedist or physical therapist without having to get a referral first from a medical doctor.
Carolyn told the committee how a problem in her back had been misdiagnosed by multiple medical doctors for years. Almost 15 years later, a therapist immediately solved the problem.
Carolyn's testimony helped push a bill to get people to a therapist faster to the governor's desk, and he signed it into law, but Carolyn yearns to do more.
"I think, in my mind, when I'm praying, it's got to be bigger. It's something bigger, and it hasn't ever happened yet. But one day, it's gonna happen, and it's gonna be bigger."
I was shocked. "You didn't think the thing at the capitol was pretty big," I asked.
"Well, that (the capitol testimony) led me to this. This is what I think is the big thing. You see? I really do, I really do," Carolyn replied.
Carolyn would like nothing better than to see you more comfortable with amputees and to see amputees find it easier to accept their new way of doing things.
Her willingness to show us her own journey could be just what was needed.