Fifteen years ago, Heather Purdy's life was turned upside down. At 23, she was left a quadriplegic after crashing her car on Beaver Dam Road, an event doctors eventually said had been precipitated by a brain aneurysm.
“They told me I would never walk, talk or do anything,” she said. “They said I would be a vegetable.”
But the 38-year-old has proved them wrong.
She no longer communicates by blinking her big, blue eyes, but her voice is still thin and raspy as she talks about her life struggles. She said she now has feeling from head to toe.
“I've touched so many people's hearts that they can't believe that I can smile and be happy with everything that I've gone through,” she said, her face lighting up when she talks.
An author of two autobiographical books and three books of poems, Purdy said she has mastered the keyboard although her hands are still too weak for many routine tasks. She gives thanks to God and Jesus for her strength and shares two stories that helped solidify her faith. While incapacitated in the hospital, Purdy said, she had a dream that Jesus came to her and told her not to give up. Years later, she said, help again came to her in a time of need. Left alone in a home for hours by someone she thought she could trust, she said, she prayed to God for help. The front door opened, and some passersby came to her rescue, she said.
For 15 years, Purdy said, her living accommodations have been in transition, shuffling between various relatives and friends. At one time, she was living in a nursing home.
“She's been through so much stuff, it's almost unreal,” said Iris Brown, one of Purdy's caretakers who has been helping Purdy for four years.
Finding a safe place of her own has been a priority for the past three years, Purdy said. In November, her dream came true, giving her a Thanksgiving to remember.
She moved into her new apartment in Millsboro the Monday before Thanksgiving, and since then, she has settled in famously. Her church family at Conley's Chapel furnished the two-bedroom apartment for her, and she has been adding her own touches to it ever since. Her collection of bears is the focal point of a cozy living room that opens to a kitchen in the first-floor apartment.
“I love it, and I'm so happy,” she said. “Now I have a place of my own that no one can kick me out of.”
Her caregivers are in the subsidized apartment 24/7 to give Purdy the help she needs. “The apartment has made a whole difference. She can relax,” said Jackie Moyer, another of Purdy's caregivers.
Although Purdy's main mode of transportation remains a wheelchair, she said she is determined to walk again. She goes to physical therapy three times a week, and in between, her caregivers keep her moving.
“I do believe in a year, she'll be walking around this place,” Moyer said.
Her fine motor skills are also improving. Purdy brushes her own teeth, and is working on bathing herself. She also does her own makeup, applying eyeshadow and eyeliner with professional precision. “She's actually living a life now,” Brown said.
Purdy's smile is from ear to ear as she looks forward to 2020. “I'm so thankful for this apartment,” Purdy said.
Purdy’s two-part autobiography is titled “Where A Broken Road Led Me.” Her poem books are “The Heart Won’t Lie,” “These Are The Moments,” and “Open Eyes, Open Heart.” All the books are available on Amazon. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.