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No more secrets

For the last few years, Superior Mayor Dave Ross' wife, Lynn, started regaining mobility lost after adverse reactions to anesthetic drugs. The family suspected she was regaining some of that mobility. But it's only been two weeks since the family...

For the last few years, Superior Mayor Dave Ross' wife, Lynn, started regaining mobility lost after adverse reactions to anesthetic drugs.

The family suspected she was regaining some of that mobility. But it's only been two weeks since the family confronted her about it.

Lynn Ross was left wheelchair bound in the mid-1990s after therapy to recover her mobility reached a plateau. At the time, she said, she was able to propel herself forward using her hips, but her legs didn't move and her feet hit the floor with a thud. When therapy to improve the condition didn't appear to achieve its goals "the chair was ordered," Ross said during a tear-filled early morning interview today.

The idea of going from teaching aerobics to being a wheelchair user was devastating, Ross said, but she tried to make the best of it.

Today, Ross walks, but it's not an easy stride. She moves slowly and her right foot drags behind and lands with a thud. She isn't sure how long therapy to improve her ability will take to restore a normal stride.

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However, she admits she has been able to walk for a few years -- she doesn't remember exactly when she was able to get out of the chair and move independently.

Initially, when she was standing -- something she never hid -- she would bend over and propel herself forward by grabbing the back of her calves and lifting her feet to move them. Eventually, she was able to do the same independent of the furniture.

"It's not how I pictured myself moving around in public," Ross said.

Two weeks ago, the mayor confronted his wife after learning she could walk. Then the entire family confronted her. Initially, Dave Ross said he was angry, but he has since come to the realization that he is going to stand by his wife and continue to love her as he has for almost 34 years to help her get through the ongoing trauma.

Ross admitted herself to Miller Dwan's psychiatric care ward two weeks ago after her husband and daughters confronted her about her ability to walk.

"I had a plan," Lynn Ross said, admitting she had suicidal thoughts because of the pain she has caused her family. She asked a friend to take her to Miller Dwan, where she admitted herself as a patient for psychiatric help.

"I'm going through therapy, and that's real difficult," Ross said. "When I look back, therapy is finding out why you do the things you do."

Currently, she's going through intensive therapy on a partial admission basis, spending several hours each day at the hospital going through group and individual therapy as she struggles with depression and trying to understand why she didn't share the news of her recovery a few years ago.

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After all, Lynn Ross didn't suffer a spinal cord injury, although she deals with chronic pain in her lower spine.

Dave Ross said her disability was brought on by adverse reactions to anesthetic-type drugs administered by a dentist. The drugs left her in a coma for days and gave her partial paralysis prior to the dental visit that resulted in her being rushed to a hospital in respiratory arrest. That incident resulted in doctors attempting five different types of drugs to treat her condition. It was then that doctors chose to put her in a chair after her recovery stalled.

Lynn Ross grew up in a home with an abusive, alcoholic father. She found herself pregnant with a child born out of wedlock and placed for adoption. She still doesn't know all the factors that played into her decision to hide her newfound mobility from her family a few years ago. Part of it, she said, was a fear of "what's happening right now," she said.

After confessing to leaders at Lakeview Covenant Church that she could walk, Pastor Jeff Burton said the leadership decided to send the letter to the congregation to provide members with information that Lynn Ross could walk. The decision, he said, was based on light attendance during the summer months and because the largest gathering each week, Sunday, is primarily for worship.

"I think they're going through a lot," Burton said.

Dave Ross said he is disappointed in the church leaders' decision because his wife has been confessing to friends and people in the community that she hid her improving condition and has been making amends.

"I'm so ashamed," Lynn Ross said.

Judie Strandberg, who served on the Mayor's Commission of Disabilities with Ross, was among the friends Lynn went to.

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"I was happy for her," Strandberg said. "I was ecstatic for her. I was thrilled."

Strandberg, a wheelchair user herself, said she hopes Lynn gets through the ordeal feeling very good about herself.

"She is such a good person," Strandberg said. "She is so worthy of so many things. She has done so many things for so many people."

While Lynn Ross has been living the last few years in a wheelchair, she relied on family -- her husband primarily -- for financial support. She never received any kind of disability benefit.

Rather, she used the disability to help others. She served on the Mayor's commission and headed Wheels for the World, collecting hundreds of wheelchairs for people with disabilities in Vietnam.

Lynn said she has resigned from those organizations and others to focus on her recovery.

Strandberg said she believes Lynn will get through it.

"I looked up to her; she was an inspiration," Strandberg said. "I don't care that she's not in a wheelchair anymore. That doesn't matter. It's friendship that's important. She is so important to me, and our friendship is important to me."

Shelley Nelson can be reached at (715) 395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com .

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