Regaining mobility biggest battle for veteran

Staff writer

Ivanlee Timm has stared into a fire armed with a hose. He has chased down a fleeing suspects as a police officer in Herington. He spend his 21st birthday on the frontlines, part of the infantry in Germany.

“Where the lead flies,” he said.

To him, these experiences are ordinary. He was just doing his job, his duty.

“I don’t think he’s ever expected accolades for anything he’s ever done,” St. Luke Living Center nurse aid Sue Gutsch said.

It was a recent battle that impresses Gutsch the most. She said it is an inspiration for other residents at St. Luke, although Timm would never see himself as inspirational.

Fighting fires, crime, and a war could not prepare Timm to fight to move his limbs again.

One night, nearly a decade ago, Timm rolled out of bed and struck the floor with enough force to injure his spine. He was partially paralyzed from the neck down. He was moved from his home at Hilltop apartments to the living center because he could not perform simple tasks like feeding himself. Timm prized his independence — this was the motivation to begin grueling segments of physical therapy.

Movement came back slowly. He started by strengthening his grip, he then worked to move his arms, and eventually he began walking with assistance. He’s still confined to a wheel chair, but he can shuffle his feet and use his arms for mobility.

At his side through years of physical therapy was his wife, Maryann. Gutsch marveled at the comfort the couple confide in one another. They often share Ivanlee’s room in silence, him working on puzzles and Maryann working on her writing.

They have been married 22 years. They met on a blind date in Herington and found out they were very different. Timm was reserved. Maryann has always been a firecracker, Gutsch said.

Maryann remarked after their first date that Ivanlee was too quiet, but it was Ivanlee who boldly invited Maryann to dinner less than a week later. They were married about a year later.

Comfort can be attained through shared experiences. Ivanlee and Maryann lost spouses in 1988. Ivanlee was married twice before. His first wife Florabell died of Leukemia. They had been married over 20 years, hitched when he came back from World War II. Ivanlee was married to his second wife Mabelle four years before she died during a colon operation when they were living in Arkansas. The doctors could never explain what went wrong.

Maryann lost her husband Monty Avery, to pancreatic cancer. The couple have an understanding of the pain of losing a loved one, they understand that those first loves, both high school sweet hearts, were special.

They continue to be yin and yang, compatible opposites. Maryann said Ivanlee never gets angry, he has never cursed. His resistance to boiling over just makes her anger steam forth.

Throughout his therapy sessions, Gutsch said Ivanlee always kept a positive attitude. He said this was born from bullying he received in his youth. With the help of Maryann, Ivanlee never got too depressed even when suffering setbacks.

Ivanlee has gone from not being able to use his arms to being the living center’s top artist. A string picture of a sailboat hangs above his bed — the yellow wires of the sail stretch over a three-dimensional boom. String art requires patience and attention to detail. An elaborate puzzle commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster resides on the hallway wall near Ivanlee’s room.

Sometimes ordinary things, like a puzzle that living center residents pass every day, can be a symbol of an extraordinary effort.

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