Injured mom returns to made-over home

In seeming disregard for the gray skies above, a small crowd of people moved busily in and out of Rachelle Hardie's Liberty Street home on Sunday, preparing for her return the following day.

The career trauma room nurse and mother of two Petaluma teens had been gone since Oct. 11, when a disc in her upper back unexpectedly ruptured and left her paralyzed from the waist down.

Hardie is doing well, according to friends and family, but will require a wheelchair to get around. Despite the massive change in lifestyle that she's facing, insurance dictated that she return home by mid-November.

Hearing this, the active, well-loved woman's friends, neighbors, and colleagues — aided by community members who didn't even know her — raced to complete a renovation that would enable her to be independent.

Many likened it to a homespun version of the television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

"I've always watched that show and called it BS," said Daria Pavliger, a close friend of Hardie and a whirlwind of energy on Sunday. "What, you can get all that done in a week? Maybe with a crew of a thousand."

But as she looked around on Sunday, she acknowledged that it just might be possible with enough willing volunteers and a good director.

So it was that as volunteers busily painted doors, laid bricks and moved items about the house on Sunday, a car pulled up beside the piles of mulch and debris lining the sidewalk.

A young woman stepped out, looking a bit overwhelmed by the flurry of activity. Hardie's ex-husband, Andrew Thomas, walked over to say hello. She told him that she worked with Hardie in San Francisco and she'd come to help out.

Almost before Thomas had a chance to respond, another volunteer called out from the front steps, "I've got a job for you!"

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