Oct. 31 marked the one-year anniversary of Pierre-area business leader Chris Maxwell’s return home from nine months in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, where he was recovering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder in which one’s immune system attacks one’s nerves.
Chris’ wife, Molly Weisgram, is working on a book about the experience. It is projected to be published early next year. Jennifer Fleming, a close friend of the family, said, “Chris is unendingly proud of Molly. He is grateful that she wrote the book. He told me, ‘The message and story of the caregiver is so often not told enough, and it’s an important story to tell.’”
“When I started writing the book, I was mostly interested in exploring second chances,” Molly said. “Our family had been torn apart for the better part of a year, only to find ourselves suddenly back at home — essentially intact. We had a second chance. I wanted to give the deepest consideration to how we use the opportunity to the fullest.”
“But, in the process of writing, I found that I still had a lot of healing to do,” Molly said. “Writing helped me examine my trauma safely on a computer screen, a safe distance from my heart. It helped me untangle the tense moments and knotted feelings. Writing was a catharsis, especially because Chris took the time to listen to every one of my thoughts and feelings as I recounted the events from my vantage point. He saw the experience from my perspective.
“I also wrote the book as a gift to our to-be adult children,” Molly said. “Our four kids were between the ages of eight years and eight months when Chris was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. I want them to have the opportunity to review the experience from another angle when they are older. I want them to see the power of family, community, and healthy thinking. I want to show them how they might consider managing challenges, as they are an inevitable part of life. I want them to be resilient.”
When is the book to be published, and what type of book is it?“My book will be published in early 2021. We’ll be sharing updates and information on the book on my Instagram @mollyweisgram and at www.mollyweisgram.com soon. The book is a memoir written in the first-person, but it incorporates entries from my Avera ICU journal as well as some of the Caring Bridge entries from that time. There’s also a poem that weaves the story together.”
“The book will be published through an Independent Publisher. It will be available through Amazon. We are also looking at local bookstore opportunities.
“Chris and I have committed to donating 30% of all book profits to the three institutions that were instrumental in Chris’s recovery: Avera Health, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals, and Quality Living Incorporated (QLI). We have deep gratitude for the incredible caregivers at each institution. What they do every day makes a difference in the lives of so many.”
What activities, if any, still elude Chris?“Chris, who is now 44, can drive, swim, and function much like he did before. We are so grateful. That said, he continues to experience residual effects of his Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). While his hands and wrists have decreased strength and range of motion since GBS, Chris’s residual issues are largely in his feet. He experiences numbness in his mid-calf to feet, which causes loss of balance at times. He also describes ‘buzzing’ in his feet, something he copes with by adding pressure to them or moving them constantly. While his feet are largely numb, he has painful and unexpected ‘zingers,’ especially when he steps on hard surfaces. So he always wears shoes to avoid the uncomfortable sensation. Last, he has tracheal stenosis — a narrowing of his windpipe — due to scar tissue caused from being ventilated for such a long time (15 weeks). This can make it difficult to catch his breath.”
“While Chris continues to experience peripheral neuropathy (numbness and strange sensations in his hands and feet), you wouldn’t know it as he seems to have more energy and focus for life than even before his illness. He loves his family and work, and he has been training for a new goal of competing in a half iron man. A Half-Ironman is a long distance triathlon totaling a distance of 70.3 miles; a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike, and a 13.1-mile run. It’s truly a miracle considering the severity of his case. We had legitimate fear that he wouldn’t walk again.”
“The book, ‘The Other Side of Us,’ has a word count of roughly 55,000 words, which equates to roughly 200 pages,” Molly said. “The book is a very intimate portrait. It does not focus on every medical detail related to Chris’s Guillain-Barre Syndrome and recovery. Rather, it focuses more on the emotional aspects of a difficult health journey from the perspective of the caregiver. There was nothing intentionally left out.”