CSI and Diane met in 1989. Previously, she had lived most of her life in a state institution. Her history noted she was a person with profound intellectual disabilities, spastic quadriplegia, and serious behavioral issues.
Diane’s Cerebral Palsy had left her unable to control any part of her body other than her eyes, which she could consistently and voluntarily control. She and CSI staff quickly learned to communicate with each other as follows: up meant yes, down meant no, and Diane’s gaze upon objects and pictures communicated to staff what she was thinking about. Her new means of communication erased her “behavior” problems and gave her a sense she could control her new life. One questions whether Diane, in fact, was a person with intellectual disabilities.
Not long thereafter, Di (or Lady Di as she became known by those who knew and loved her) heard staff talking about traveling to Montreal on their personal vacations and, suddenly, Di wanted to go, too. Key staff believed it was possible, but CSI’s Executive Director in Massachusetts understandably had concerns about the feasibility and safety of the venture. Detailed planning ensued, and soon the van was being packed with Ensure, Depends, Chux, hot/cold coolers, medications, nebulizer machine, shower chair, PT mat, braces, blender, special feeding equipment, clothes, wheelchair, two staff, and, happily, Di.
They stayed in bed and breakfasts along the way, several of which were not accessible. Often Di slept on her PT mat on the floor for safety. Sometimes she was carried room to room by her staff if her chair could not be accommodated, all the while laughing infectiously. Once in Montreal, Di heard the raucous music coming from the Hard Rock Café and decided a visit was a must. Would the hefty, male bouncers carry her large, modified wheelchair up the stairs if staff would carry her? Not necessary; instead, the men carried Di in her chair to the second floor Cafe. Di was in heaven for the rest of the evening – loud music, great food, and good looking men giving her attention. Staff supplied a portable blender from the van and Café staff made Di’s food the necessary consistency.
In following years, Di took many vacations. While each required extensive planning, no issue seemed insurmountable following the introductory trip to Montreal. Di’s love of life touched many people in the several years she was supported by CSI, not only staff, but many persons in her community. In 2003, Di passed away in her own home, surrounded by those who loved her.