NPR Story Shows Family Strength


When 21-year-old Army Sgt. Erik Schei was about to deploy to Iraq, he told his father that “if anything happened” to him, “pull the plug.” As with many people heading off to war, Schei was concerned, and the young man was not interested in living life in a vegetative state.

Sadly, in October 2005, during his second tour of duty, Sgt. Schei was struck in the head with a sniper’s bullet, which shattered the top of his skull.

Recalling his wishes, his parents, Christine and Gordon Schei, met with doctors. But Christine needed proof that her son was brain dead. When the doctors couldn’t prove there was no brain activity, she became determined to care for him—for the rest of his life. “You know what?,” she said to the doctor, “there’s no more talk about unplugging.”

Instead, the Schei’s took their son home, and have been his primary caregivers ever since. “I was scared out of my mind,” Christine says. Learning to measure Erik’s myriad medications is now second nature for his parents, but at first it was daunting.

The DirectCourse/College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving has been designed specifically to provide parents, family members, and paid caregivers with the skills necessary to make home care less of a challenge, and more of an option that is enriching and empowering.

Courses such as Personal Care and Healthy Lives Parts One and Two can help family members handle the essentials of distributing medications, reacting to illness, and the varieties of home care.

Today, Erik smiles and laughs every day, and judging from family photos, the family joins him in their happiness. Sometimes, though, the stress mounts. Erik apologizes to his parents, who also worry about his care as they age.

Above all, the Schei family is together. When asked by his father if they made the right decision, Erik said, “I’m alive. And I’m glad to be alive.”

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