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When I first read about The Long Blink, I became really interested because I thought this book would illustrate what I, as many other family members and advocates for families of individuals with disabilities, have always been saying: That a “disability” can be acquired by anyone, at any time, and can change a life in a moment. The Long Blink surpassed my expectations. This is the story of a family, the Slattery family, and for Ed Slattery and his family, it only took a blink of an eye, a long blink that would change his and his children’s lives forever.
Ed Slattery could not have imagined that a phone call in August of 2010 would turn his life upside down. The voice on the other line was telling him to get there immediately: His family had been in an accident. He would later learn that while both his children had been severely injured by this accident, it was his younger son’s prognosis that was very worrisome. He would also learn that his wife, the love of his life, Susan Slattery, had died in this accident.
I wish I had enough space to talk about the many reasons why I think this book should be read by the entire world, but since this is not possible, I will try to illustrate in just a few points why I think this book is an absolute must-have for anyone who wishes to understand our community:
- Life can change in an instant: Anything can happen to anyone, at any time. For the Slattery family, it was Matthew who from one moment to the next, went from a normally-developing young boy, to battling for his life, to making heart-wrenching efforts to be able to hold objects with his right hand.
- Special Needs need Special Attention: Even though well-meaning people may have the best intentions at heart, and may think they can define what our community needs, it is only our community that can and should be an active participant in decision making. For Ed Slattery, it was building a new home so that Matthew can fully participate in daily living. For me, it was being able to get a gate pass to accompany my brother to the gate when he flies. I can’t say enough how frustrating and depressing it was for me to have to work in places where I was told what “script” to follow when dealing with families in our community. Once, I was reprimanded for giving a parent options. This practice is humiliating, demoralizing, and just plainly wrong. In his journey, Ed Slattery discovers how important it is to adapt to his son’s new life and how much growth can result from this adaptation.
- Our Community is Inspiring: Matthew not only inspired and moved his father, Ed, to a whole-new life, but he also changed the lives of so many people around him. It is easy to see how learning about Matthew and the Slattery family was a transforming experience for Brian Kuebler, the journalist and author of this book. He was sent to report on this accident first but never lost sight of this family’s experience. The result was this brilliantly written book and the message of hope and solidarity that it inspires.
- Change is Difficult: As members of this community, we tend to understand firsthand how we got here and what changes need to be made so that others do not have to suffer. The community at-large, however, may have a much more difficult time absorbing this knowledge. Since the accident that changed his son’s life, Ed Slattery has been a tireless advocate for trucking safety regulations, as it was a truck driver who dozed off on the road and killed his wife. As frustrating as this has been for him, he has yet to see the full results of his arduous work.
Reading this book was a very personal journey for me. It often reminded me of my family, growing up, the challenges and obstacles that we faced. I’m thankful that because of our advocacy over the years, life has become a bit more manageable for families today. Reading about the Slattery family leaves me full of admiration not only for Ed and his family, but also for the incredible families out there whom I’ve worked with, and who deal with these issues, day in and day out.
It also deepens my already gigantic admiration for my parents, because it is only through their love that I learned to love our very special village.
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