Saturday, September 17, 2011

Words of (Not Really) Wisdom

Walking with a front-wheeled walker when you’re only 32 is sure to get some attention. Most people smile if they happen to notice you looking, but it’s generally one of those obligatory I-don’t-know-what-to-say sorts of smiles. Today I went to exchange some items at a local store and the woman next to me in line gave me one of those smiles…a few times. It was obvious she was working up the nerve to say something. She finally asked me if I was in an accident. I told her I had a stroke and acted like yup, this is me, nothing to hide. She seemed at ease that I wasn’t offended. Frankly, I appreciate someone asking because at least they’re not assuming. Who knows – maybe in the process she learned something. I know I’m still learning that this is my new normal.

I remember sitting in a wheelchair in the hallway at rehab, thinking there is no way in hell I’m going out in public. No way. When you’re away from family and civilization in general, you get lonely but you also find a certain safety in your surroundings. Everyone there knew what was wrong with me and what I needed, even if I didn’t like needing it. They didn’t stare wondering what happened to me, worry about saying the wrong thing, or debate whether it was ok to ask me questions about how I was doing. Compared to being a stumbling cripple in front of strangers, getting naked with techs and being stabbed by nurses wasn’t such a bad trade off.
Well I’m getting over it. I’d like to say I’m getting comfortable in my new skin, but that isn’t true. I don’t ever want my recovery to become complacent, because then I won’t work as hard to overcome it. I am however confident in whom I’m becoming as a person and frankly, cabin fever is a bitch. I need to get out of here. Like seriously. Get me out of here.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve learned a few lessons about leaving the house the hard way. I’ll share them with you, should you ever find yourself in a similar predicament.

BEWARE OF CRACKS IN THE SIDEWALK. These cracks (especially the deliberate cracks made by the people that laid the concrete) have a way of bringing the front wheels of a walker to a dead stop while you of course have gained the momentum of a semi truck. Thank goodness my husband was there to grab me before I dived over the walker.

WATCH YOUR SPEED. This of course refers to the crack situation but also to those of us overcoming a paralyzed leg or foot. You may be a badass picking up the pace, but at any given moment your brain may betray you and swing your foot rapidly toward what you think is between the legs of your walker, but is in reality head-on into the leg of the walker. This will send your walker flying off to the side and possibly knock you on your ass. (Unless you’ve mastered the art of stumbling, which is an acquired skill that comes with time and practice.)

MOTORIZED SCOOTERS AT TARGET ARE THE WORK OF THE DEVIL. First of all, I’m 4’11” tall. These scooters are made for giants. I sat as close as I could to the handle bar only to find that the mechanism that makes it go forward is a button on the right side. Well that’s my paralyzed side. My thumb couldn’t push it. And if you think that this won’t affect you because your paralysis is on the left side, guess where the reverse button is! And if you think you’ll be clever and push the button on the right with your left hand AND manage to steer, don’t kid yourself. I knocked over several displays proving this.

MOTORIZED SCOOTERS AT WALMART ARE WORSE. I didn’t try one but I was there today and noticed they were even more ancient then the ones at Target. This debunks my theory that Wal-Mart scooters would be cutting edge since they get way more fat crippled shoppers than Target. (Before I get any hate mail from Wal-Mart shoppers I’d like to point out that I’m fat and crippled. Yes, that makes it ok.)

YOUR CHILDREN WILL BETRAY YOU. I was left with my 2 year old son for about 5 minutes in a restaurant while my husband went to pay the bill. My son jumped out of the booth, grabbed my walker and took off with it. I couldn’t run after him, so I sat there while other patrons got their kicks watching my son betray me. I asked him to come back, and he ran faster. Diaper changes at home generally result in a naked toddler running laps around the couch while peeing on the carpet all the while taunting, “Ha-ha mommy! Ha-ha mommy!”

I make no claims to wisdom. If I can help just one person avoid falling on their ass in public or being stabbed in the back by their own child in front of an audience, then I feel I’ve paid it forward. You may want to do the same. It’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.      

1 comment:

  1. this is great. You have changed the way I look at things as far as someone in a wheel chair or walker etc. I noticed that we always rush to help these people and give looks of feeling sorry for them or not knowing what we should do. But is it really for them? Or for us? Your helping people to see the reality of this thing and from the perspective of someone who is fierce strong and brave going through it, and very funny too by the way. Keep it up girl. Proud of you.