Shelly Bushnell

Shelly Bushnell enjoys the Italian serenade ride along the canals of Venice, Italy in 2012.

It has been said that, “Growth is endless and our lives change and change us beyond anticipation.”

No one wants to be sick or suffer discomfort, and particularly when it comes to our children, we hope for optimal health.

Sometimes we may face that unplanned journey when children are born with disabilities.

Yet, for the majority of families, such as the family of Shelly Bushnell, families are able to find the strength within themselves and among their circles of support to live life in what becomes the family’s normal, and with blessings beyond measure.

The two children of Bushnell and her husband, Robert, were born just 14 months apart from one another, each one with a genetic disability that left them requiring 24-hour care.

“Our kids have had the benefit of a loving family,” Bushnell says.

“We are not so different than any other family, though the kids may have physical needs that require more attention.”

She says they really love taking road trips as a family. “We’ve rolled across beaches on electric wheelchairs, have been surfing in the ocean, we’ve enjoyed Sea World and Disneyland, and more locally we enjoy going to the zoo and go-cart racing, swimming, bowling, amusement parks and shopping.”

Bushnell says that the challenges are not with the children, but often times with strangers.

“Some people look down on you when you are disabled and they can be insensitive in public settings,” she says. “But one of the reasons we love Buena Vista is that because we have found so much support here. People have known us for a long time and accept our family with unconditional love.”

Bushnell was born in Gallup, N. M., and raised in Phoenix. She says her family had visited 43 of the states by the time she graduated from high school and her hope was to become an airline flight attendant for this love of travel.

She had studied Spanish for 6 years, French for 2 years and German for a year to prepare for a career that would include traveling abroad.

However, instead, she studied computers for a year and took a job as a marketing support representative for Burroughs Computers that lasted 4 years. During this time she met Robert.

They became engaged in 1982 and Robert enrolled in basic training in the Army. Following the training, they moved to Ft. Knox, Kent., where Robert worked as a medic in the emergency room.

Bushnell received training in the medical field as a medical assistant and dialysis technician during this time as well.

While there, Bushnell became pregnant, but a second assignment moved them to Anchorage, Alaska. They lived there for 18 months where she gave birth to a son, Austin.

Their next move transplanted them in San Antonio, Texas, where daughter Brandi was born. Once Robert finished his assignment there, he left the Army and they moved to Phoenix. Robert turned to construction for work, for the better part of his career.

“Robert is very creative and has also become very talented in his wood furniture making,” Bushnell says.

In 2012, Bushnell had the opportunity to realize her travel dreams.

“I helped my parents celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary on an 18-day European cruise,” she says. “We visited places in Greece, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey. I absolutely loved Sorento, Italy, and would love to go back there someday.”

She says that the European architecture took her breath away, but one of the highlights was the Italian serenade gondola ride through the canals of Venice. “It was so magical.”

Now that the kids are young adults, and living at home, Bushnell has turned to home decorating and decorative painting as a hobby.

“It’s a creative outlet for me, like Robert’s woodworking is for him. I can pick it up any time, and if I have to stop for the kids, I can leave it and return to it later. Watching the HGTV Fixer-Upper shows are always giving me new decorating ideas. The creative flow keeps me wondering what will be next.”

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