Guest Poem: Ballad of the Caregiver by Colin Heffern

Post Comment
(Colin Heffern is a landscape architect and C4 quadriplegic from Colorado injured in a fall in 2004)

Preface from the author: When somebody is paralyzed, most of our thoughts and prayers are for the individual in the bed. They receive the attention, affection, words of appreciation, and accolades at the time of injury, through rehab, and well into later stages of their lives. But what about the others affected, the loved ones at the bedside managing their own grief, pain, and hope while reorganizing and reprioritizing their own lives and homes and struggling to assist their injured loved one? Tragedy affects many we hold dear, and it’s these heroes that often take up new roles and deserve praise. This is for these inspirational guardians.


Ballad of the Caregiver

A primal scream escapes the room

The wail from a woman wide-eyed

“I regret to inform you the seed of your womb,

Your son…he’s paralyzed.”


A protective howl, a defeated gasp

A whimpering snivel and soft plea

“He was a wild horse, we were kindred spirits.

It cannot be. Not to him. Not to me.”


She cannot think nor cry, just act

Though a hole’s torn open inside

With no thought but him she dashes out

Her sole aim a boy and a bedside


She arrives in haste, eyes pained and fried

“Where is he? Where is my son?”

With nothing to hold onto but faith and hope

She finally reaches her loved one


Lashed to a bed, teary eyes shut tight

As a tube breathes oxygen to his lungs

A wild horse tied up and fighting

To hold on to a life so young


“God, why him? Take me instead!”

A paralysis of grief, disbelief, and fear

The pain she felt, his heart did melt

For tragedy touches many you hold dear


She hopes and prays for days and days

As he grapples a body weak and drear

But with prayers unanswered, duty calls

“He’s not dead, get your ass in gear.”


“But I am no caregiver, no aide, no nurse.

How can I be there for my son?”

A million questions run through her mind

And though he didn’t ask, she’s in it for the long run


In rehab, her new role becomes clear

A caregiver, though experience she lacks

She knows a child in need is a thing to heed

“I can learn. Just keep the emotions intact.”


Few days are easy, feelings are hurt

Modesty a luxury they can’t afford

But accept they must for those they trust

Embarrassment is a double edged sword


It’s a struggle at first, a true compromise

But soon they make an unspoken pact

I’m there for you in the thick and thin

And damn it, you’ll still make an impact


Days then weeks and months fly by

And as her comfort as a caregiver grows

She watches a wild horse re-emerge

To escape from the highs and the lows


Too soon he leaves for new pastures

With renewed hope and autonomy

“We’ve done it. I did it. He’s capable.

And I need a vacation, probably.”


As years go by, he comes and goes

His need for help unending

Her devotion unceasing, she plays the part

When new caregivers leave him venting


A caregiver is a revealed identity

In truth, she’d always played that role

For giving a child the tools to succeed

In parenting, that should be the goal


She smiles with pride to see him now

And he smiles right back with joy

The caregiver, a guardian, his mother

That wild horse, a man, her boy


Follow Colin on IG

Colin and his family (mom center)


Leave a Reply


Spinal Cord Injury
8315 N Brook Ln Apt 906,
Bethesda MD  20814
Phone Number: +1 703-795-5711