How many times have you heard a television personality on a telethon or even your own doctor tell you the unexpected could happen to you? You hear it all the time as non-profit organizations try to raise money.
Cancer can strike anyone at any time. Diabetes, stroke, heart disease, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, the list goes on and on. It does not matter who you are, how much money you have, how old you are, or where you are from. Any of these ailments could strike you or a loved one and change your life in an instant.
One day you could wake up and have some sort of life limitation. For all intents and purposes, you could wake up tomorrow, get in a car accident, and become a paraplegic or quadriplegic. The truth is we do not know what the future holds because we do not have a crystal ball that we can peer into on a regular basis. We do not have the answers to such mysteries of life, and I doubt we ever will.
In a single second, your life, as you know it could change… for better or for worse.
However, on the flip side, what would it be like if a person with an ailment or disability woke up tomorrow 100% healthy?
In considering how drastically different life becomes and how many simple things able-bodied individuals take for granted, I am going to pretend that I have awakened perfectly capable of every physical feat the average, able-bodied individual has the ability to perform on a daily basis. I’m not pretending to be a body builder, just your average, everyday Joe.
As I wake, I sit up in bed unassisted. No longer do I need the Hoyer lift and Ashtyn’s tugging and pushing hands and arms to get my body into that sitting position. I just throw back the covers and I’m up!
As I am sitting there, my Shih-Tzu, Oliver, comes up to say good morning. However, this time I can lift him up and actually hold the squirming ball of fur. He doesn’t have to sprawl out next to me just so I can pet him since he’s a bit too bulky for me to lift up usually.
Ashtyn is awake and as I spring out of bed, for the first time ever I take her in my arms and give her a traditional, non-adapted hug. She can slide in my arms quite easily without the wheelchair in the way and it feels very nice to hold her so close.
By this point, I would do what any person does when they wake up — go to the bathroom. With nature calling, I can easily walk into my tiny bathroom. Gone are the days of swinging from my Hoyer lift onto the bedside commode, since the bathroom is too small for even a Hoyer or little chair to get into at all. Instead of taking 10-20 minutes of moving, it takes a minute and then I’m up and in the shower.
Mind you, this is the first shower I’ve had since I was a young teenager that did not involve shower chairs, Hoyer lifts, or other assistive devices. A 30-minute process is reduced to five to ten minutes and I’m much cleaner because I’m not having to work around a shower chair to scrub soap on my body, nor do I have to work against uncooperative limbs that don’t want to bend or move to get under my arms, behind my knees, etc.
After my shower, for the first tine since age 15, I get dressed unassisted. Again, I am amazed by how short the process is. A 15-20 minute process is five minutes tops minus gelling my hair and brushing my teeth. Of course, I may just pop a cap on my head and be off after a quick brush through my short brown hair.
After getting dressed, I’d be able to lift my son up in my arms and give him a hug. We could go outside and maybe hit a baseball around. I could pitch the ball to him instead of having to have Ashtyn do it. We’d be able to take Oliver on a walk without worrying about his leash getting tangled in my wheels.
Then I’d be able to hop in the car and go to the supermarket or out to eat. I wouldn’t have to worry about special equipment such as a van lift or hand controls. I’d be able to hop in the passenger side (only because I don’t have my license) and get out of the car only to walk into the store or restaurant.
If we go to the store, I can push my own cart much easier then bending my arm backwards, clinging to the cart basket, and holding on as I pull it. Navigation of tight aisles is a snap and I can reach the higher shelves without a problem.
At the restaurant, I can sit in a booth or at a table. I don’t have to sit in my wheelchair and become a possible blocker of the aisle people walk down to get from table to table. I also don’t have to worry about the table being too low to the ground and my wheelchair too high up so that reaching my plate is a chore. I can actually enjoy a meal as I feed myself without tremors in my hands that cause me to spill all over the place.
After we return home, there is so much I can do. I don’t want to take anything for granted, not even being able to sit on the couch for the first time in ten years. I can even sit on the floor if I wanted. Navigating the steps in my house means I can go anywhere in it. I can even get through the narrow hallways my wheelchair was incapable of navigating.
Getting a drink in the kitchen is a breeze. I don’t need to ask anyone. I can just go and grab a cold bottle of water from the fridge. I can also reach the shelves if I want to get a glass with some ice. Any time I need to go to the bathroom, I can just go without asking for help. Doing things is a lot easier.
I don’t have to be as creative about doing things as I do now. However, my day is not even half over and I’ve already saved an amazing amount of time.
Perhaps I’d even jump up and down, just for the heck of it. I’ve never been able to jump. Not even as a child. I remember struggling to try to jump and being unable to do so. For old time’s sake, I’d get that little thrill of the first jump and then it would be over. Such a simple thing… and yet I’d hold the memory of it close just in case it was a one time thing that I might forget otherwise.
I’m sure by now you get my point. Life in a wheelchair or with any type of ailment really is an adaptation. Every little thing, from putting on your socks to grabbing a can of pop from the fridge, should be cherished because you never know what tomorrow brings.
You, too, could be the next person who can’t open a jar anymore or cannot get through the hallways in your home. You may be unable to eat certain foods you have always eaten because if you do it will affect your blood sugar or your heart.
Yet, I see so many people take the simple things in life for granted and I wonder why. I’d give anything to be able to do these things again….
Of course, they do say you never really miss something until you no longer have it. With this in mind, my disability challenge for you is simple.
Make a list of everything you can do in your everyday life which you do not think a person in a wheelchair or with another disability or ailment would be able to do in the conventional way. For example, listening to music by turning on a stereo is not something a deaf person can do. They can adapt music to flash lights as it is playing and this light therapy, though not the same, has been used in performances by symphonies, choirs, etc.
I’m not saying we cannot do these things at all, but the true challenge of any disabled person is finding a way to do simple, everyday things with their disability forever in their mind.
Next time you seem to be taking the everyday things for granted, you could look at your list. I hope it will remind you of what your life could be like and how lucky you truly are.