Blast from the Past
Having only been in in this chair a short while myself, I can't imagine being told that I'd have to use this thing for the rest of my life. I think that if that were to happen to me, I might just loose my mind and harm people. You know them.... the rude jackasses that are too busy texting to look where they're walking... The bratty children that want TO run you over WITH the shopping cart.... The self absorbed douchebag clerk that doesn't want to look at you because 1) you're NOT AT eye LEVEL AND 2) if he doesn't look, then he might not have to wait on you because he's secretly hoping he can claim TO ANY possible observers that he didn't see you waiting. If I spend too much time in this thing, I can see my big pink skillet being put to good use as I single handedly attempt to smack some sense back into some folks. For those who are wheel chair bound on a more permanent basis, I have no idea how you do it. I'm counting my blessings that ALL I have IS a temporary stint IN a wheel chair. I have had friends who were IN them permanently. The MORE I deal WITH this, the MORE I appreciate those friends. I think the FIRST person that I knew really well was Steve. Steve rushed home FROM school TO WORK ON the truck his Dad got him FOR his birthday. While Steve was under the truck, it came off the jack-stands AND landed ON him IN a very awkward POSITION. WHEN Steve's Dad got home from work 4 hours later, Steve was nearly dead. Months later, Steve was out of the hospital. But instead of going to football practice, he was busy learning to drive his chair with a straw because he was paralyzed from the neck (roughly the ear lobes) down. Steve passed away a few years ago thanks to the complications of his injuries. But one thing that stuck with me was his courage and determination in facing up to life from a chair. Rather than turn into a "woe is me", he redirected his energies and taught himself to program computers. He learned to type with a stick in his teeth. He wanted to be able to have a job and support himself. He wanted to be as independent as possible. I remember when Steve got his van. He couldn't drive it himself but his van had a lift AND he could GET his chair IN AND out by himself. Before that, it was hard TO take Steve anywhere. It took a few people TO GET him out OF his chair AND INTO a car. THEN the people had TO GO WITH you because they had TO GET him out OF the car AND back INTO his chair. THEN those people had TO stay WITH you the whole TIME because WHEN it was TIME TO leave they'd have to reverse the process until he was back home and back in his chair. He was so excited when his van came. It meant that all he had to do was get someone to drive. It was a whole new level of freedom for him. I never really understood what that van meant to him until all this happened. While DHB did a fantastic job of building something that would let me get into and out of our pickup, it was difficult at best and downright scary a couple of times. And it was VERY hard on DHB. So I didn't GET TO GO much OF anywhere OR TO do very much. Getting the car was whole new lease ON things FOR me. I still can't drive but I can get in and out of it by myself. DHB's duties IN that regard ARE relegated TO folding up my wheelchair AND putting IN the trunk OF the car. Much much easier than lugging around two big lumber AND plywood thingys - a ramp AND a platform. My friend Amalie was, ironically an architect WHEN she was diagnosed WITH MS. Over TIME the disease took its toll ON her AND she, too ended up IN a chair. Amalie was so incensed by the crappy accessibility OF many PUBLIC buildings that she re-oriented her architecture practice TO vet designs by other architects FOR TRUE, REAL world accessibility. She stayed WITH that until her disease progressed TO the point that she wasn't able to work any more. We did some crazy hacking to keep her working as long as she could. There were all kinds of new and creative ways to control her computer but finally her MS got the better of her. She remained hopeful that there would be a cure for MS right up to the bitter end. Another friend of mine from my younger days was Cav. Cav was partially paralyzed from birth. He had spina bifida - a birth defect caused by the mother's diet being deficient IN folic acid. Spina bifida IS a condition IN which the bones IN the spinal COLUMN don't grow all the way around the spinal cord and leave part of it exposed. Since the exposed part is easy to damage, it gets damaged and stops working. For Cav, this meant that from the middle of his shins down he had no feeling, no sensation, and no control over his feet and ankles. Since he couldn't feel pain OR hot OR cold, he usually used a chair TO protect himself. It kept him FROM stepping ON things OR getting his feet caught IN things AND hurting himself. He also had a need FOR speed AND liked TO ride drag bikes. He had his custom fitted WITH hand controls so that he could pursue his dream. I WORK WITH a woman named Ellen. I see Ellen quite a BIT. She's a very remarkable person. Like Amalie, she has MS and she's IN a chair because OF it. FOR Ellen, it's not a choice. Its one of those things you have to do every day - like get up and go pee in the morning. And like Amalie, she refuses to wallow in self pity or to let her disease run her life.