November 2021 Touch of Hope Scholarship Winners
Thank you to all who submitted applications in November. After many hours of reading and deliberation, we’re thrilled to announce the winners of our November 2021 Touch of Hope.
Elise Shafer (Left)
Two of Elise's children are struggling with a lot of anxiety right now. One was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and has problems with sensory overload. The other struggles to go to school almost every day because of his anxiety. As a mother, Elise doesn't go to bed until after her kids are in bed, and she wakes up early to get them up and ready for school. It doesn't help that she has insomnia and has passed it on to her kids. In the last two weeks, Elise has only slept more than 7 hours one time, and under 6 hours on ten nights. She's exhausted which makes it very difficult to be sympathetic to her kids' anxieties. She thinks the TouchPoints could help her to be more patient and less stressed, and to sleep better. She also believes they could help her kids get to sleep quicker, and help reduce their anxieties regarding daily life and school. We are truly happy to be able to gift them a set.
Melissa Neumann (Middle)
Melissa has been fighting with severe chronic pain for 25 years and has had over 80 surgeries. She was a 13 year competitive swimmer growing up, never knowing she had a problem, until she started having shoulder pain and dislocations her first year of college. Melissa was sent from one doctor to another, an orthopedic surgeon sat in front of (while her shoulder was dislocated) and said “it’s all in your head!” That was in September of 1996, and she still has severe anxiety every time she sees a new doctor…wondering if they’re actually going to listen to what she's saying and feeling.
During Melissa's 4 years at Concordia University Chicago, she had 6 failed left shoulder surgeries (and one successful right shoulder surgery). How the right is still stable, no one knows...Melissa graduated in May of 2000, but shortly before that, she lost her father to multiple myeloma and a heart attack. He was her hero and her best friend, and on December 8th, it will be 23 years he’s been gone. Melissa's mom has traveled the country with her to find doctors who could help her…In her words "Mayo was worthless; Charlie Rockwood and Mike Wirth in San Antonio were phenomenal, but it wasn’t the right time to proceed with a glenohumeral fusion. Many Chicago docs were ok, some terrible, etc. Same with Indianapolis, Champagne, I love my many docs in Denver…but first I was sent to Vail. Finally, someone agreed with me! There must be an underlying issue causing all these surgeries to fail, right?" Melissa was sent to a geneticist and eventually diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rare connective tissue disorder that is deteriorating all of her joints/tissue. Unfortunately, 19 additional surgeries were done in Vail, CO that we later learned probably should not have been done on an EDS patient. Most needed revisions, hardware had to be removed, or the surgeries themselves had to be taken down. During her last surgery in Vail, almost all of the bone in her upper arm was removed. When she got to the Denver limb preservation specialists…there really wasn’t much left for them to work with. So, by this time her arm was in a sling the majority of the time…and for just under 10 years, these surgeons did absolutely everything imaginable to try to salvage what was left. During this time she also severely injured her already unstable right ankle…so she underwent massive limb salvage surgery for her left arm, and the fusion of her right ankle on the same day. Of course there were complications and revisions were needed…x6. Fast forward, Melissa never got her arm out of a sling again. She still wanted to work full time although her docs encouraged Disability. The pain of my arm and hand slowly dying was absolutely excruciating, as is the daily pain with with EDS in all her joints. She kept her arm because her family was not accepting of amputation yet…until the day came when her hand and arm were purple and curled in a fist. Melissa's incredible plastic surgeon had a way of talking to her mom that helped her understand…and eased ALL of her anxiety. She was ready. She was even calm the day of her surgery! Then the hard part came…it wasn’t seeing herself in the mirror for the first time after surgery, it wasn’t even her family’s reactions!
The absolute hardest part for Melissa, which has caused so much anxiety, and countless sleepless nights is the pain! She felt great after her amputation, and was so excited to have her life back…but at a month and a half after surgery, Melissa started feeling her left hand again (24 hours a day) as if it is literally on fire! The burning gets so incredibly severe that it makes her physically sick. On top of that, she get these super strong “electrical shock” type pains that sometimes come in groups (like flashes) or she can get one unbelievably strong one that lingers on for 10-15 minutes…and those completely stop her in her tracks or if for once she does actually happen to fall asleep, it’ll instantly wake her up. Either way, the pain is excruciating. Melissa can’t eat much at all and she very rarely sleeps. She did have to go onto Disability going on 2 years ago now because her right arm is deteriorating as well. She has to try to salvage everything she has left. It absolutely terrifies her thinking about what could be next. We commend her for her strength and hope the TouchPoints will be a huge help along her journey.
Amanda Mutschler (Right)Amanda is a single mother of 3 young children who suffers from anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, and insomnia. She's also been battling stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and has been looking for anything and everything to reduce the effects of stress on her body. We are happy she has found TouchPoints and feel blessed to be able to gift her a set.
We are currently accepting applications for the Touch of Hope Scholarship Program. The deadline to apply is the last day of every month and awards are chosen at the beginning of the following month. Applicants seeking assistance with the Touch of Hope Scholarship form should reach out to the TouchPoints Customer Service team at (877)-778-6824. For all other inquiries, including questions about the program and eligibility requirements, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.