Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wheelchairs are a pain!

It's raining again!!! Not only does this make me hurt more, but it makes it nearly impossible for me to get out. Everything I do in a wheelchair takes me at least twice as long as it would take if I could walk. Plus, with both hands needed to work the sucker (and steer appropriately - which I don't always do), I can't hold an umbrella. I just get soaked. And the wheels pick up all of the dirty water from the ground, and neatly deposit it onto my pants.

I live in Texas now, but I grew up in NY. I went back for a visit one February without thinking it through first. I was not in the wheelchair until I moved to TX, and we don't get snow down here. The trip to NY in snowy weather was a mistake. The shoveled paths were fine for walking, but they weren't wide enough, nor shoveled cleanly enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Plus, if dirty rain water on your pants is gross, try slush on your wheels, then on your hands and pants. And, once a wheelchair is wet, because it's material/leather/whatever else, it stays wet for hours. It's just miserable.

Don't get me wrong, wheelchairs can be a blast. I pop wheelies, I do donuts, I ride up escalators which always makes people gasp, my feet never get tired after a long day at the mall, my shoes last a lot longer than most, I bring my own seat to "standing room only" events, and the ramps, especially the ones in malls with tile floors, you can really pick up some speed on those babies. Weeeeeee!! And riding around with my nephew in my lap is great. Also, I am certainly grateful for my chair; it allows me more freedom than I would have otherwise. All that being said, the thing really is a giant pain.

I had dinner out tonight with my husband. The rain was hard enough that I was soaking wet and cranky as we came in the door of the restaurant. As we were leaving, it was raining even harder than when we walked in. Here I was about to get a really good "grumpy" on, and a man that I didn't know insisted on going to his car, getting his umbrella, coming back to the front door, allowing John and me to borrow the umbrella to get to our car, then waiting at the front door of the restaurant for John and me to drive around and give his umbrella back. As I said a few posts ago ("When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!), I get to see people behaving at their best. It sucks to be in the chair, but it's nice to see people behaving so kindly towards me. I get my faith in human kindness restored on a weekly basis.

Also, wheelchairs make you short. I can't reach the top 2 shelves in stores, I don't do well in crowds because I can't see and I can't be heard from way down there (although, I suppose I could just bowl everybody down, but that wouldn't be nice), and, although places have gotten much more handicapped accessible, there are still a lot of places I can't go. Take one day and notice the steps, the non-paved terrain, the stores crowded with merchandise; it's just a pain.

But, I think beyond all that, I hate my wheelchair for emotional reasons. I just hate the way I look in it. Sure, it's better than the alternative - being stuck in bed simply because I can't get around - and I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but somehow I feel more crippled in the chair. I'm nutty about having to push it myself; I don't like when people see me being pushed in my chair - somehow, that's even more crippled. What's ridiculous is that I think nothing of seeing other people pushed in their chairs, yet I still feel somehow "less than" when I need help. I hate being dependent. I think that must be God's lesson for me in this life: asking for, and accepting help gracefully. I suck at it! My motto is "I can do it myself!" That's all well and good when doing it myself doesn't cause me pain or injury. I'm all for being as independent as possible! But not when I'm gritting my teeth in agony just to push my own wheelchair. And that independence lead to a near disaster with the chair a few years ago.

While my husband had both of his arms in casts (see my earlier post: "Seeing pain from the outside."), we decided to have dinner with some new friends - a wonderful couple who we are now very good friends with. It was our first time out with this couple, so I had to prove how independent I am. We came to the curb to get up on the sidewalk. Instead of asking for help, I decided to pop a wheelie, get my front wheels up on the curb, then lean way forward to pop the back wheels up. Voila, I would be on the sidewalk all by myself, and everyone would know that I'm not crippled, I just can't walk. So silly, I know. Well, I got the front wheels up without incident, then I leaned way forward to pop my back wheels up ..... just at the moment that our new friend decided to help me, and grabbed the handles of the chair and lifted. Do you have the mental picture of this? Me leaning waaaaay forward, and him lifting the back of the chair. Out I went. I landed flat on my face on the sidewalk. I wonder if he was convinced of my independence at that moment!

Luckily I wasn't hurt. The poor man - I thought he was going to die, he felt so bad. Luckily he noticed I was silent on the ground because I was laughing so hard, so everyone joined the laughter, and we're left with a great story. But I'm also left with a lesson. People want to help!!! Why am I so bad at accepting help? Why am I so crazy about showing people how independent I am? Even to my own detriment. It doesn't make me any less of a person that I am disabled, and it doesn't make me any less of a person that I am disabled enough that I need help pushing my wheelchair. I refuse to get a scooter or motorized wheelchair for the same stupid reason: I feel like somehow I look more crippled in it. It's ridiculous!!! My head understands that, but my heart, my soul, my gut remain unconvinced. I'm working on it.


  1. Yes Keith, but look at the friendship that developed from you dumping me out of my wheelchair! Amazing.

  2. Hi Judy,
    I resently had to start using a wheelchair outside the house/ or scooter that they offer in stores. I have also found out hos nice people can be who offer help and just holding a door or letting you go before them. Unfortunatley I cant wheel myself because the source of all of my pain is from my nerve damage in my throcic spine so it hurts to wheel using my arms. I can use my legs a short while, but I also have left leg weakness. I need my significant other to help push me. I love the electric scooters that they have in many of the stores. I would actually love to get one for myself but not sure if insurance would cover it.. plus how the heck would I be able to take that with me..too heavy to life for anyone..wouldnt you need a van with a lift??
    Take care

  3. I hope you are able to overcome your aversion to the scooter. It would give you more independence than you can imagine. I have had two different shoppers in my store recently. They have managed much far better than the customers that have come in via the traditional wheelchairs. They have better accessibility, they can get through one door (rather than needing two) and they have a better turning radius. Both a plus in my book, and the speed, OMG girl... your walking friends would have to be in a real hurry to keep up if you "opened her up". When I have a shopper come in on a scooter, it brings a smile to my face, and I think how wonderful that she has a bit of her independence. So please continue to work on it. Check them out, take a test ride. I think you'll be surprised and pleased. And what would it hurt?

  4. I was commenting on the A-hole who dumped you out - I certainly would never do anything so stupid myself. THAT numbskull must certainly be the.. worst... Boy.. Scout... EVER.