Stanger's Permission to Shine - The Gift, by Ian M
Meriel Stanger has told of her terrible injuries and
of how her free spirit and determination enabled her
to cope with her disabilities. It is told in such
a simple and moving way that it is a classic story
of the highest human courage.
was born Meriel Parker in Perth on 12/4/1959. The
seeds of her independent outlook were planted at a
tiny two-teacher school near her home at Piawaning,
via Wongan Hills in the northern wheat-belt. She has
two brothers, older than her by five and twelve years,
so she was raised virtually as an only child. For
her secondary education she was sent off to Penrhos
boarding school in Perth. In 1977, at 18, she won
a Rotary scholarship to West Virginia for a year.
This led to her starting an interior design business
in Perth in 1981, which she ran for 10 years. Her
first daughter Brittany Parker was born in January
1983 and her second daughter Serena Stanger in November
1987. In July 1992, she moved with her husband and
daughters to Queensland and April 1994 she became
a single mum.
5 March 1995, at age 35, she suffered severe head
and brain injuries when a horse named Bridget, owned
by her de facto partner James, rolled on her. She
was in a coma for three and a half months and in a
hospital in Brisbane for a year. She was not expected
to live. From the time she emerged gradually from
her coma she worked methodically, deliberately and
heroically to achieve the best possible physical outcome
that relentless positive thinking could produce. She
is now in a wheelchair and classified as a "spastic"
quadriplegic and is partially blind in one eye. She
has the effective use of only one finger which she
used to tap out her story in this book.
Kubler-Ross is famous for describing the five stages
of dying. Meriel should now be famous for describing
the four stages of returning to living. She describes
with remarkable self-insight her recovery in four
stages which she describes under the headings: Dependence,
Co-dependence, Independence and Interdependence. Others
similarly disabled are sure to recognize and relate
to these stages. Notably free of self-pity, her story
is a mix of accurate objective reporting of her incremental
progress, and occasional heart-wrenching references
to her emotions and challenges. Her concern for Brittany
and Serena, then aged 12 and 7, and her gratitude
to James for his reliable constant and warm attentions,
make parts of the book hard to read through that liquefaction
of the eyes which truly selfless and noble actions
however, mostly sticks steadily to the practical theme
of how she met all the relentless physical and psychological
challenges with an exemplary positive attitude. She
illustrates the truth of the popular saying that if
misfortune does not kill you, it will make you a better
person. It takes an extraordinarily self-assured woman
to describe her disabilities as a gift which gave
her permission to live fully. The sub-title of the
book A Journey of Recovery and Discovery is also revealing.
She has thoughtfully and unostentatiously articulated
how she coped, and still keeps coping. She has set
a shining example of coping with huge disabilities.
suffering can be either extremely life-enlarging,
reforming and clarifying, as it was for Meriel, or
it can be extremely destructive and depressing for
those who cannot or do not turn it to advantage. She
drew inspiration from Richard Bach's Illusions (1977)
and quotes him on the back cover and on p192: "You
seek problems because you need their gifts".
page162 she writes "I am a creature of habit."
Her journey illustrates that she has a strong habit
of making effective exertion in a wide range of activities.
On p179 she writes "God doesn't give you anything
you can't handle". The arch optimist, R.W. Emerson,
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, "Thou must",
The Youth replies "I can".
p185 she observes "You can wake up and decide
it is going to be a bad day or a good day. The choice
is yours." H.D. Thoreau would have agreed with
her. He wrote in Walden in 1854: "I know of no
more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability
of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour".
is still learning to do more for herself. In spite
of gloomy medical prognostications she has, with the
utmost self-discipline, with dieting and no exercise,
lost 35kg in weight. She has learnt how to shower,
dress and toilet herself, and to get in and out of
bed and cars on her own. Each of these achievements
is a triumph of her tenacity. Even washing the dishes
is an achievement!!
now lives with her two daughters and has a lot of
community involvement. She is on the Management Committee
of Queensland Advocacy Inc, which lobbies for the
needs of the disabled in Queensland. She is on the
Board of Management of Qualtime Association Inc, a
day respite centre for physically and intellectually
disabled young people. She is the Event Director for
The Horseland Crosby Queensland Dressage Championships
to be held at Maroochy Showground at Nambour 8-10/10/2004
with 30 events spread over three days. She has been
back on a horse. She has, with help from a naturopath,
ceased her reliance on the drug Baclofen, in defiance
of medical advice that she couldn't come off it.
plans to visit New York for her 50th birthday on 12/4/2009.
is refreshing and satisfying to read such confiding
personal experiences of about the most traumatic accident
ordeal you can imagine, imparted in an admirably dispassionate
tone of offering practical help to others faced with
similar hurdles. She will inspire anyone fortunate
enough to read her book
by Ian M Johnstone
Meriel Stanger @ email@example.com