Back in Chicago, happiness in her new home is short lived when Christine's girlfriend leaves her and she must rebuild her life. While Cajun dancing she meets Cathy, the woman of her dreams, joins a church and sings in the choir.
They bridge the gap by working secretly over a period of 16 months with audiotaped Feldenkrais Movement lessons designed to get Eileen rolling, crawling and sitting. In order to prove she can live on the outside she must be able to "sit up" in a wheelchair. With steel and fervor, Eileen performs the lessons twice a day. They e-mail back and forth 1 to 5 times a day with progress reports, questions and general life sharing and caring messages, filling their emptiness with a deep bond of friendship. Eileen encourages Christine to form a band and record her music.
A PRIVATE WAR the true story
Tragically, all hard won progress is lost after bladder surgery leaves Eileen only able to control her right arm/hand. Eileen burns with the desire to live free in the community but the Mother Superior blocks her every attempt toward freedom believing Eileen to be a "lifer" in her family flock. She refuses to help her get an electric trolley and refuses to let her have an assistance dog. After a volunteer group gives Eileen a taste of freedom taking her on pilgrimages around the world, she begins to awaken spiritually and hungers for more.
On fire, Eileen wages a private war to reclaim her body and freedom as Mother Superior continues to block her attempts to leave the nursing home. Christine and Cathy's romance hits a bump when Cathy's mother realizes the nature of their relationship and wants to move out.
Following a personal blessing from Pope John Paul, Eileen's feet begin to "wake up." She reaches out again to Christine, though now separated by continents. Disillusioned by the "business" of the home therapy world Christine jumps at the chance to use her new Feldenkrais skills to help Eileen.
Moira has been at her little sister's side throughout the 5-year medical nightmare, but is at her wit's end when local physical therapists cannot help Eileen. She enlists the innovative skills of Christine, an American physical therapist and Alexander Technique student studying in London. After a year of miraculous improvement, Christine must return home to the United States.
At about the age of 30, blurred vision, balance problems and clumsiness in her feet begin to cripple Eileen. The arrogant military doctor Colonel Gardner mistakenly treats her for MS. Jolting spasms of her legs, back and neck seize control of Eileen, contorting her into the shape of a banana; making it difficult for her to breathe. In order to subdue the spasms she spends 3 years drugged beyond the capacity of mere mortals; with 25 different medications that would have knocked out as many men. Horrific measures were attempted and failed, leaving her wasting away on a ventilator where she is beckoned to heaven through a white light tunnel. Her spirit counterattacks with "Bugger off, I'm not ready"! To everyone's surprise Eileen survives. Discharged from the army she ends up in a convent run nursing home slowly weaning herself off all drugs.
Eileen progresses to the point of being ready to "sit up". Christine travels to England to help her do just that. Freedom comes when Eileen is finally granted a handicap accessible apartment in the community. The Mother Superior has proven to be a "doubting Thomas," but gives Eileen her blessing. Eileen not only reclaims her body and freedom but is able to express the depths of her humanity in the process. Christine and Cathy reunite and get married. Eileen gets her own assistance dog and carries the Olympic torch in London!
Eileen is from a small north England mining town. At the age of 17, she enlists in the Women's Royal Army Corps and becomes an officer specializing in telegraphy, the encrypted communications of the army in the 70's and 80's. She thrives in the military: in lockstep with the discipline; reveling in the freedom of world travel and craving the adrenaline rush of outdoor sports.