Day by Day With Pastor Bob

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By Liz Premo Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, September 21, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

Pastor Bob preaching to Congregation.
[Atlantic News photo by Liz Premo]

HAMPTON -- Most everyone has experienced a morning or two where it's tough getting out of bed and ready for the day. There may be some movement-related aches and pains that impede one's progress, or the impulse to lay supine all warm and cozy can be just too to impossible to resist.

But then there are folks like Bob Lovejoy of Hampton, for whom getting up to start the day is not a matter of merely rolling out from under the covers and hitting the shower.

One of two co-pastors at Faith Community Church on High Street, Bob, 56, is a quadriplegic, the result of a traffic accident at age 17. Two of his fellow party-goers died in the accident; Bob suffered a life-changing spinal cord injury that left him confined to a wheelchair.

As such, Bob has had to make many adjustments to his daily routine, modifying everything from the way he manages his personal hygiene and getting dressed, to his dietary and exercise habits and, yes, to how he gets out of bed in the morning.

And he does it all in partnership with his wife, Paula. Devoted Christians (Bob accepted Jesus as his Savior a couple of years after the accident), the couple rely upon their strong faith in God to help them through any struggles or health concerns related to Bob's paralysis.

That's not to say that Bob is completely helpless, however. Unlike many of his fellow quadriplegics, Bob has some range of motion in his upper body. He does daily exercises with assistance. He has the ability to raise his arms and gesture with his hands. The right hand is in a permanent open-palmed position, while the fingers on his left hand are curled inward.

Paula & Pastor Bob Lovejoy
[Atlantic News photo by Liz Premo]

In spite of a lack of tactile strength, Bob can use his hands to grip a mug of coffee and hold silverware to eat (but not to cut) his meals. He writes with pen, pencil and marker, uses a hunt-and-peck method on the home computer, and he can maneuver his wheelchair. A licensed motorist, he also drives a car which has been modified with hand controls positioned near the steering wheel.

Bob's day typically begins with Paula helping him get out of bed, which they have mastered after many years of daily practice. Then there's his morning constitutional, getting showered, shaved and dressed, a process that can take up to three hours.

"Some things (like brushing his teeth) he does on his own; I just have to be there to help him," she explains, adding that "he needs me to get him dressed" and tie on his sneakers or shoes.

As far as other personal care habits are concerned, Bob "is really disciplined," says Paula. "If he knows something is wrong he takes care of it."

Once he's ready, Bob spends a daily "quiet time" in his home office, reading his Bible and devoting himself to prayer. Afterwards it's meal time (no dairy), with plenty of water to drink throughout the day, a practice that needs to be continues through the night as well. This helps to keep his kidneys flushed; an external catheter system aids in urinary elimination.

Depending upon their schedule throughout the week, the Lovejoys set aside blocks of time for various activities, including group Bible studies, meeting with parishioners or Co-Pastor Brian Abasciano, and preparing for their responsibilities at church (sermons for Bob, children's classes for Paula).

There's also on-the-road time. "We try to go out one day a week," says Paula. On those days they run errands, go grocery shopping and make stops wherever needed.

Getting Bob behind the steering wheel can be an exercise in itself: He positions his wheelchair next to the car, then with Paula's assistance uses "slick board" to slide into the driver's seat while pulling himself into the vehicle. She slips the board out, and he swings his feet all the way in.

Utilizing the hand brakes and controls (and using a knob rather than holding the wheel), Bob can drive pretty much everywhere, including to their home state of Pennsylvania.

"He's a very good driver," says Paula, adding that the new EZ-Pass toll system on the highway is a blessing: No more dropped coins, and no more leaning over him from the passenger seat to get a toll ticket.

When they're not on the move in their car, Bob and Paula go for walks together around their Hampton neighborhood. Every other day Bob will take mile-long "prayer walks" in his wheelchair around the cemetery that's near their home.

When the sun goes down on their day and it's bedtime, Paula assists Bob with his regular evening exercise session. Modified sit-ups, stretches and a "bicycle"-style leg exercise all done on the bed protect his muscles from further atrophy. Lying down or seated, Bob is also careful to regularly shift his body the best he can to avoid bedsores.

"By the grace of God," says Paula, Bob's efforts have not been in vain. "He's only had one bedsore, on his ankle."

There are other various health concerns that the Lovejoys need to keep an eye on with regard to Bob's condition. Some of his activities need to be limited due to the potential for him to develop phlebitis. Because Bob cannot feel pain or sense an infection is present, his body reacts to it by sweating so they need to keep aware of when that particular response arises.

Conversely, Bob doesn't sweat from the heat and needs to keep "from getting really hot and over-excited," explains Paula. Truth be told, though, anyone who knows Bob knows that he prefers a warm summer's day over winter's chill.

Throughout the years of their marriage, Bob and Paula have made the adjustments necessary to live with his physical disability. Day by day, says Paula, "our lives are both dependent on each other." They also acknowledge their dependence on God and willingly put their trust in Him for all their needs.

As Bob said on the occasion of a milestone birthday celebration a few years back, his Christian faith "is really about a relationship with Jesus. It's the best relationship you can ever have, no matter one's age or circumstances" — even if it isn't always easy to get out of bed in the morning.

The community is invited to meet Bob and Paula Lovejoy and the rest of the Faith Community Church family by attending weekly Sunday services at 10 a.m. For more information call Pastor Bob at (603) 929-0448 or Pastor Brian at (603) 926-7034.

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