More MS news articles for Feb 2002

City Clerk's story tells how love conquers all

February 14
By Wendy Townley
Papillion Times

PAPILLION - There was a time when doctors told Lynn Sorensen sheíd never walk again.

There was also a time when Papillionís city clerk said sheíd never get married again.

Looking at Sorensenís life today, however, one would discover that the 53-year-old has been proven wrong in both cases.

"Life is good," Sorensen said.

Her story starts not in Papillion or even Sarpy County, but hundreds of miles west in Colorado.

In February 1986, during her morning drive to work as finance director for Teller County in Colorado, another driver traveling at 60 mph on the wrong side of the road struck Sorensenís car. He slammed into Sorensenís vehicle nearly 12 feet over the center line.

"I didnít realize how severely injured I was," Sorensen said.

But her doctors certainly did.

Sorensen suffered from a separated shoulder, broken wrist, broken kneecap and injuries to her back and neck.

She required two surgeries on her lower vertebrae the following year.

As the uphill battle of recovery began for Sorensen, neurological problems surfaced within weeks of the accident.

"The doctors couldnít pin down what was going on."

They sent Sorensen to a local neurologist who conducted a scan of her brain.

The news wasnít good.

"When I went in to get the results, they said they were 85 percent certain that I had multiple sclerosis."

How could this be possible?, Sorensen asked. She had no previous symptoms of this muscular disease. But Sorensenís doctors were fairly sure the diseaseís onset was from her recent accident.

"It was a total, devastating shock to me."

Not long after the diagnosis, Sorensen was placed in a wheelchair. She also developed high blood pressure and heart problems.

"Combine those injuries with dealing with MS, you can see where it was kind of a downhill slide," she said.

Unfortunately, Sorensen faced yet another bump on her road to recovery: Her 16-year marriage began to fall apart.

"He left me when I was still in a wheelchair."

The additional care Sorensen required following the accident was too much for her ex-husband to handle.

"He had been used to his way and of me taking care of him, and he didnít appreciate the fact that he had to take care of me."

Slowly but surely, Sorensen underwent physical therapy. She met with therapists as much as three times a day in her home.

In January 1988, she faced yet another setback when doctors suggested Sorensen should be placed in a nursing home.

Sorensen never moved to a nursing home and through physical therapy and determination, she eventually was able to quit using the wheelchair three years later.

"Itís a tough climb back, but you do it."

In 1989, as a once-again single woman, Sorensen returned to work in Colorado.

"I still have bad days, days that [the MS] acts up. There are days when I canít walk," Sorensen said. "In the meantime, Iíve been fortunate that there have been some good days in between."

Among those "good days" include one that visited Sorensen in 1991, when she met her current husband, Bill.

Bill was visiting Colorado for work and happened to cross paths with Sorensen.

After the two met, they went on their first date two weeks later to a Chinese restaurant.

The first thing Sorensen told Bill was the state of her health.

"His comment was, ĎI donít care. I want to be with you, whatever I have to do.í"

Sorensen explained to Bill that her condition could get worse, going so far as saying she could become bedridden some day.

"He said he didnít care," she said. "That was in 1991, and weíve been together ever since."

But even this picture-perfect relationship wasnít without hardships. Within weeks of meeting, Bill was transferred to Virginia and away from his new love.

The long-distance relationship continued for the new couple over the next six months. Bill sent Sorensen a letter every day.

They talked over the phone every night during the six months.

"We had humongous phone bills, but we didnít lose touch at all."

After about six months, while Bill was on a business trip in Alabama, he made a phone call that changed his life.

"We decided that this wasnít working, being apart," she said. "We wanted to be together."

So leaving behind 22 years of a life in Colorado, Sorensen packed her things and moved to Virginia.

"It was a hard move," she said. "I lived in the mountains in Colorado, had a good job working civil service for the government. If it hadnít been for the fact that I loved him as much as I did and knew he loved me, it would have been a much tougher decision."

The two were married (both were married two times before), but bad news revisited.

Billís mother became terminally ill, so the couple moved to Harlan, Iowa, to be with her in May 1992.

Billís father fell into depression after his wifeís death, so the two decided to stay.

After working in Harlan for about five years and finding that their schedules continually conflicted, the two found jobs in the area: Sorensen as city clerk for Papillion, and Bill as the logistics manager and food service coordinator for the Child and Family Development Corporation in Omaha.

But they continue to live 70 miles away.

The coupleís 1996 Plymouth Voyager has racked up more than 209,000 in the past five years from the twice-daily commutes they make together. Bill drives to work, and Sorensen drives home.

When the Papillion City Council meets twice a month, the couple stays overnight at a Bellevue hotel.

Sorensen still requires help now and then with household chores and grocery shopping, but she said her husband of more than 10 years never complains.

"He is as good to me now as he was then," she said. "He makes me feel like he puts me before anything and anyone. I never had that before, ever."

Bill calls his sweetheart several times throughout the day to check in and say he loves her.

"I thought I knew what love was, but I didnít until 1991. Now I know."

Though it may be hard to see at the time, Sorensen is a firm believer that good things result from every bad event in life.

"If it wasnít for the accident, I wouldnít have the happy life that I have," she said. "I have so many things to be grateful for. Was it so bad that it did happen? I donít think so. Itís well worth what I went through to reach the point I am at now."