I often struggle with the idea of why this happened to me when my sickness has no known explanation...
Grace Fisher was born November 20, 1997 in Thousand Oaks, California to parents Bill & Debbie Fisher. She currently resides in Santa Barbara, California where she has an interest in bringing music and art alive to people with disabilities.
As a youth, Gracie had a keen interest in music. She started with piano lessons at age six and developed an interest in cello, guitar and voice as she continued through her high school years. She has played with numerous organizations in the community including Santa Barbara Strings, Santa Barbara Youth Orchestra and Santa Barbara High School Jazz Band and Madrigals. Her dream was to enroll at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and pursue a Guitar Performance and Music Business Degree. She was accepted to Berklee College of Music during her senior year.
These pursuits were interrupted in December of 2014. During a party to celebrate her 17th birthday, she suddenly was overcome by pain in her neck and tingling in her hands. Upon arrival at the hospital minutes later, she had lost the use of her legs. The weakness progressed over the next several hours and by nightfall Gracie was intubated and required mechanical ventilator support to breathe and had total loss of her ability to move. She was later diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis.
After five weeks in the ICU, she was transferred to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado. She was accompanied by her mother, father and younger sister Emily. Her prognosis was grim and her future uncertain. She spent the first several weeks in Rehab mourning the loss of her ability to play music again. “If I could only get the use of my hands back. I don’t care if I ever walk again,” she would say.
The rehab process by necessity focused Grace on the now. Her spirit yearned for the past, the way things were prior to her illness. The future was daunting as she came to terms with a new way of life. The team at Craig focused her on what needs to be done today. The team; physicians, nurses, therapists, and specialists of all kinds put a plan together and executed it day by day and minute by minute. It was a grind and tapped into a form of Grace’s self that she never knew existed.
One of the most transformative elements of the program was the day Grace started music therapy with Sara. This had the potential to be a major confrontation. Grace was a highly skilled musician and could not use her hands or arms. Could this be a cruel joke? Maybe it would be better to avoid music all together because the pain of confronting this loss would be too much to bear.
What happened next when Gracie and Sara met was remarkable. Like music itself, the process was organic. Things were tried that worked, while other efforts did not. Little by little her neck got stronger and she could play a piano with a mouth stick. She also learned she had the capacity to compose. Though she still cannot use her hands, she continues to be a talented
musician and has taken up painting as well. The arts proved to be a powerful force, providing a continuum of who Grace was, who she is now, and who she will always be.
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