Tag Archives: husband

How I Cope with My Wife’s Stroke and My Son’s Spinal Cord Injury

At age 27, Sean McGonagle was attacked in a shocking act of violence at a bar just two days before Christmas. Shot in the leg and chest, Sean became paralyzed from the chest down. Two years after injury, Sean underwent surgery to remove an abscess on his spinal cord where the bullet had been lodged.

Just four days after his surgery, his mother, Kass, had a stroke that left her with limited mobility and communication skills. Sean and Kass stayed in the same hospital during recovery and pursued rehabilitation at Magee together.

Kass McGonagle Sean McGonagle HelpHOPELive spinal cord injury stroke boat Spirit Philadelphia

Kass and Sean stayed in the same hospital during their recovery.

Father and husband Dennis McGonagle helped to initiate fundraising campaigns with HelpHOPELive to support both Sean and Kass. Dennis explains how his family is living with the lifelong impact of spinal cord injury and stroke.


How is your relationship with your family? 


My relationship with my family is very strong. I retired early so I could be a caregiver for my wife and son, and I have three daughters and three grandchildren that I spend time with. It is very important to all of us to stay close and help each other.

Kass McGonagle Sean McGonagle HelpHOPELive

Dennis, center, retired so he could care for his wife, left, and son.


Why is fundraising important to you?  


Managing health is a minute-to-minute task. We have therapy three times a week, doctors’ appointments and daily care and companionship needs. As a quadriplegic, Sean suffers from a lot of pain and discomfort. Things will not get easier for him as time goes on; as a matter of fact, they will get progressively worse.

Kass McGonagle Sean McGonagle HelpHOPELive

Sean with Joanne from Magee Rehabilitation Hospital

He tries to keep a positive attitude and holds onto the thought that there may be some life-changing medical advancements in his future.

Kass McGonagle Sean McGonagle HelpHOPELive Magee Rehab physical therapy spinal cord injury

Therapy helps Sean cut down on “pain and discomfort” after injury.

For Sean, our last fundraiser was to help him purchase a new wheelchair. We have a long way to go, but the new chair will enable him to stand upright and increase his blood flow. In the long run, it will keep him from getting pressure sores and improve his overall health.

Sean McGonagle fundraising HelpHOPELive comedy hypnosis

Sean fundraises for a new wheelchair and other post-injury costs.

It has been almost three years since Kass’ stroke, and she is dealing with memory loss, speech problems and paralysis on her left side. She is reliant on a wheelchair for mobility support. Kass needs a stair lift to get up and down the staircase safely. We also need to make some modifications to her bathroom to make it safer and more accessible.

Kass McGonagle HelpHOPELive stroke

Kass fundraises with HelpHOPELive for home modifications, mobility needs and more.


How do you feel about fundraising with HelpHOPELive?


We have been in contact with the nonprofit since 2011. HelpHOPELive is a great nonprofit organization. From digital guidance and customized flyers to general understanding, HelpHOPELive has shown us the path to achieve our fundraising goals. We are also glad to have an avenue to allow our community to understand and support our fundraising goals and events.

Wheelchair van Sean McGonagle

“Picking up my new van! This never would have happened without your donations!”


Is it challenging to support a loved one as a caregiver while being a father?


Being a father and a caregiver is always a challenge, and in my case, I am helping to support both my wife and my son. They have similar needs and yet a lot of different individual needs as well. You can’t be in two places at one time, but somehow we have managed so far. Who better than a husband and father to take care of them? The best part about being a dad is the love of your children. A child is a gift and you get an opportunity to watch kids grow into young adults. My children are also my friends, which is very important to a healthy and honest family relationship.

Kass McGonagle Sean McGonagle HelpHOPELive spinal cord injury stroke boat Spirit Philadelphia

Dennis says his family “is more important than any material things.”

Remember that your family is more important than any material things. Remember to always look after and cherish your children. You never know when they will need you the most.


Learn more about Dennis, Kass and Sean at helphopelive.org. Do you know a family struggling to cover the out-of-pocket expenses associated with a catastrophic injury or illness? Learn how we can help with a tax-deductible fundraising campaign and one-on-one support.

Has Fundraising Helped You? You Can Pay It Forward!

Has fundraising had a positive impact on your life? You have an opportunity to give back to your community and support other families facing a medical crisis. Last week, we featured Danielle Bailey, who has helped several local families kick-start their fundraising efforts with HelpHOPELive. This week, we feature five tried-and-true ways to start making a difference today.

pay it forward


…supporting families who are going through a similar situation.


You can help families navigate through the same challenges you’ve overcome. As heart transplant recipient Rick Brittell explains, “Before I got my heart, I was so tired of being away from home and isolated. Then my social worker reached out and asked if [my wife and I] would be willing to meet with a patient at the hospital who was facing a similar situation. We began to focus on supporting others. We started a support group in the local area that was open to lung and heart transplant candidates and recipients, caregivers and people who were grieving.”

HelpHOPELive Pay It Forward

You can be a vital source of support for another family.

Rick notes that this kind of support can make a tangible difference in someone’s life: “The doctors have said to us, ’You don’t know how much of a difference you have made.’ They even told us that people are being released 3-4 days earlier than average now that we are there to provide support!


…referring families to HelpHOPELive for nonprofit fundraising support.


Do you know someone who needs help fundraising for medical and related expenses? Help him or her understand how HelpHOPELive can help. Point other families in need to helphopelive.org for more information. If you would like additional resources to share with others who may need our help, contact us today.

Diane Maxwell, wife of transplant recipient Mark Maxwell, explains how she helped another family find us: “I met Jude Jamieson through a woman’s retreat, where I learned that she also had a husband with a chronic illness in need of a transplant. I encouraged her to contact HelpHOPELive and start a fundraising campaign since her husband’s transplant hospital required a $5,000 account balance at minimum to list a patient for transplant. They were able to raise the funds through the summer and fall. Her husband went into acute liver failure, but less than a week later, he had a new liver thanks to their fundraising efforts. All I did was be bold enough to suggest she contact HelpHOPELive. You guys did the rest, right on time.”

HelpHOPELive Pay It Forward

Diane referred Kevin and family to HelpHOPELive for fundraising help


…supporting HelpHOPELive’s mission.


Every donation to our nonprofit helps families across the country receive tangible and compassionate fundraising support. You know firsthand how important that support can be when a medical crisis strikes. Become a monthly contributor to HelpHOPELive today and begin paying it forward to families who need our help to combat the high cost of medical and related care.

HelpHOPELive Pay It Forward

Want to see the true impact of your gift? Keep up with stories of hope on our Blog and on our website, or get a handpicked selection of tips and stories in your inbox every month!


…using your next fundraiser to serve the community.


As Heidi Anderson, mother of 2-year-old transplant recipient Deanna, explains, “Deanna lived in the hospital for more than three months before her transplant. We were visited by many people during that time, including volunteers who would bring her toys and gifts. It truly touched my heart. I see so many children at the hospital now who really need a smile.” Heidi knew a fundraiser in honor of Deanna could provide a way to give back, so she “decided to collect toys for kids at the hospital through a toy drive as part of one of Deanna’s Valentine’s Day HelpHOPELive fundraisers.”

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The toy collection was a huge success, says Heidi: “So many people brought toys! It made me incredibly happy! We are still collecting today.


…donating in honor of a particular family.


After getting her own fundraising campaign rolling, LAM fighter and transplant candidate Nicole Seefeldt found a way to pay it forward. “I met Alyssa Mebs while I was getting my transplant evaluation,” says Nicole. “We just started talking one night and we became fast friends. Once I saw that Alyssa was fundraising for a transplant, I thought, what can I do to help her? I knew I was going to meet my first fundraising goal…so I donated what I had to give in her honor.”

HelpHOPELive Pay It Forward

Nicole, left, made a donation to HelpHOPELive in honor of Alyssa

Today, when Nicole asks for donations or donates to a fellow HelpHOPELive client, she keeps this advice in mind: “It’s not the dollar amount you give, it’s that you give at all. Not everybody has a lot of money, but since it’s tax-deductible, every penny is something that they can use that compounds the effect. I never want to put an amount that people have to give. I just encourage them to give what they can.”


You don’t have to have it all to give back.


As Heidi Anderson explains, “Giving back is something we should all consider. Whether you do it with a toy drive or something else, paying it forward is about giving love and kindness to others who need it most.”

Today, consider how you can give back to the community that has given you so much. If you have a great idea for giving back, contact us and we may feature your campaign in an upcoming Blog post!

Learning To Adapt: How A Business Owner Supports His Wife After Injury

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month this November, we’re profiling individuals who play a key role in the care and happiness of their loved ones. In July of 2014, Kirby G. Smith was thrust into one of the most intense experiences of his life. Suria Nordin, then his fiancée, became paralyzed while vacationing with Kirby in Jamaica. By July of 2015, Kirby had founded SunKirb Ideas, a game-changing “smart home” installation and management company.

Kirby hopes to offer ease, efficiency and manageable overhead costs to families coping with a disability or injury. We picked Kirby’s brain to find out how smart home tech could revolutionize daily life for American families.

Kirby Smith and Suria Nordin HelpHOPELive injury spinal cord injury wheelchair SunKirb Ideas

Suria and Kirby in their neighborhood. Source: Wall Street Journal


After your wife’s injury, what modifications were needed to create a supportive home environment?


We had to modify multiple elements of our house, including our home entrances, the heights of our light switches, the bathroom configuration, our flooring and our emergency response options.


How did you begin to discover the benefits of smart home tech?


When Suria was injured, I wasn’t very motivated to seek out adaptive equipment because of the exorbitant prices for purchase and installation. As a result, I started to take a closer look at regular consumer products. It turned out that MANY of these products were already outfitted with adaptive technologies, but those features were not well-advertised.

Kirby Smith Suria Nordin HelpHOPELive home

Kirby found creative ways to make life easier for Suria. Source: Wall Street Journal

When it comes to adapting for disabilities, people tend to just purchase the tech without looking into the value. I realized that instead of asking families to look for expensive adaptive equipment, I could help them to adapt existing equipment for their needs. I realized this was really a gap in the market: services from a company that understands disability and aging directly.


What kind of cost-effective conversions did you discover?


The first four months after Suria was injured were challenging. We had no one to turn to to discuss life after injury when it came down to the nuts and bolts of home modification. In one instance, I searched for a piece of technology that would allow Suria to turn on the television with her voice. A vendor presented me a customized voice-activated device that would cost us $6,000. To me, that price was outrageous. Instead of making that purchase, I picked up a $400 Xbox console, which has built-in audio recognition that can completely control a television set, including sites such as Netflix and cable box or TiVo DVRs.

xbox

An Xbox can be used in place of a $6,000 modification.

The second piece of the puzzle was making physical adaptations without relying on installation services. Every adaptive tech business sold its product aggressively, but no one showed you how to adapt your home without paying a professional to do so. Different vendors handled each piece of the home, from the lights to the doors to the television, with huge service markups attached to each. The vendors pushed their own product and didn’t work on continuity. We would have had to find our own tech-savvy contractor to adapt the house on a physical level. Learning how to do that on my own gave me the experience I needed to help others do the same without paying exorbitant installation fees.


Why don’t businesses advertise adaptive uses for consumer products?


The average person doesn’t even think about these considerations. In Xbox’s case, the company wants to appeal to gamers primarily. Businesses don’t want to lose their core markets, so they tend to shy away from using language like ‘adaptable’ or ‘adaptive’ because they are so afraid of alienating their core consumers.

game marketing Battlefield

Afraid of alienating core consumers, most companies don’t advertise accessibility.


How did your professional background inform your business?


My tech background as a Senior VP of IT helped me to identify what was a good deal and what was an outrageous proposition. We had to design portions of our systems to accommodate persons with disabilities. I’ve been aware of that [need] throughout my career.


How can intelligent tech impact the lives of families coping with an injury?


Smart tech can provide cost savings while improving safety and comfort. A smart house can monitor energy usage and save you money while you’re away from home – for example, the system will adjust the temperature to save energy if it senses that you are away from your home and then, as it learns your schedule, it will bring the temperature back to comfort levels before you arrive. Our home tech learns Suria’s patterns and adapts to them. We have smart smoke detectors that pick up smoke and CO2, but the alarms can identify both the exact location of the issue AND the degree of emergency. If someone burns the toast and there is smoke in the kitchen, the device will inform us of the issue but will also note that it doesn’t pose an immediate threat to our safety. The sensors also detect motion and can alert us if we are away and there is movement in the house. They can also tell the thermostat we’re out, and lower energy levels to save power.

smart home

Smart tech can save users money and improve safety.


Can smart homes help caregivers, too?


As a caregiver, I use our home features as much as Suria does! Technology streamlines and simplifies everything. Caregivers can monitor their homes and their loved ones and keep in constant contact, especially in case of emergencies. When everything is connected, it becomes easier for EVERY member of the family to live a fulfilling life.


Are there benefits to using smart tech beyond physical disability support?


It’s nice to have equipment that assists you but isn’t stigmatizing. There is a ‘cool’ factor to a lot of this technology that supersedes the disabled label – in fact, my first SunKirb Ideas clients are not disabled. That’s what’s so powerful about connected home technology: it transcends traditional labels and limitations. I truly think we’re on the cusp of very affordable technology that can change lives, and I’m proud to be on the forefront of that.

smart house family

Smart tech can transcend the ‘disability’ label to appeal to everyone.


Why not expand your business to the general market?


After what I went through with Suria, serving families who are coping with disabilities is my passion and where my heart lies. I’m not speaking from theory when I address consumers – I’ve lived it, and that gives me a perspective I can share with others. By testing things with Suria, I was able to determine what would work for others with similar situations or even completely different concerns (blindness, for instance). I’m not in this to form a gigantic company – I am looking for fulfillment and the ability to provide a good service. I want to be able to walk away feeling like the money I made is supporting a worthy cause.


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