So, You're in a Wheelchair Now....
'Round and 'Round
Unless you have been in one, you will not understand completely the nuances of life in a wheelchair.
My eyes have been opened since I have been committed to the chair and my arms became way stronger!
Because of the graphic nature of the wound I suffered, wisdom dictates that I not put an image of it here for you to see; so, I will forbear.
I will inform you of the life of us wheelchair people. Well... technically I cannot call myself a wheelchair person anymore since I have been liberated from the confines of the chair. I, however, am aware of life in a chair and have not forgotten the experience.
Kevin McHale, Actor
The first thing a person in a traditional wheelchair needs are gloves; work gloves are best in my opinion. Pushing the wheels on a traditional wheelchair is hard work on the bare hand. When I first started driving, I broke nails and skinned my fingers and hands in the metal trappings installed on the wheelchair.
If I did not skin my hands on the metal, I rubbed dirt all over them by using the rubber on the wheels to push the chair. I did not like using the metal bar designed to propel the chair manually because my chair's bar had no traction.
I noticed a fellow patient at the wound clinic who had gloves on his hands. I also remembered the character on Glee, Artie, who used gloves (Even though he is just acting like he was handicapped.). I went to the store and acquired gloves!
Having those gloves was the best accessory purchase in my wheel-chaired life! I started doing wheelies around the house and zooming in corridors when I went to my daily appointments--not to mention the protection to my hands from the furnishing of the chair.
If you see people in wheelchairs with gloves on, it is to protect their hands.
My Standard Wheelchair
Have you ever been confined to a wheelchair?
Customer Wheel Chairs!
Standard Verses Custom Wheelchairs
Unfortunately for me, I had a standard wheelchair. It is a big clunky thing to which I had to adjust. I say IS because I still have the monstrosity of a wheelchair in the garage.
My relationship with my wheelchair was heavily one-sided. Sure, it provided me with mobility and relative comfort. That doesn't mean I had to like everything about it, and I didn't! It was one-sided on my part. I love/hated the thing!
Standard chairs are made to serve the purpose of transporting the body comfortably. It would be like having a car that did not have a radio or music system installed. Sure, it will get you where you want to go, but the ride would be very tedious--especially a long ride!
Because my wheelchair was generic, and my insurance generic too, I was blessed with a generic chair. I cannot complain too much because that chair helped me get around.
I saw other people in wheelchairs that fit them and their capabilities. I consoled my envious heart by remembering that my residence in the wheelchair was not permanent. And my use of the chair was not 100 percent of the time.
Twenty percent of the time I hobbled around to the bath and whatnot.
To the right are some examples, albeit extreme cases, of custom wheelchairs. I did not SEE any wheelchairs that look like monster trucks, but how entertaining it would be to see one of those bad boys trying to go down a sidewalk!
Custom wheelchairs are made to order. In other words, these chairs fit the needs of the user. Some people play sports; some cannot move, others have no legs, hands, or arms and need chairs that are motorized--the list could go on and on to why a person uses a chair.
I am inspired when I see those in their chairs playing basketball or racing! It gives me the motivation to be like them, not necessarily able to do those things using a chair. No. But to have the motivation to live life the best way available without self-pity. Seeing them motivates me to be better at doing things in general, especially if I am handicapped--temporarily or permanently.
Sometimes these so-called ramps to make things accessible to wheel-chaired and other handicapped citizens are anything but that. I went to a doctor's appointment once where the only way that I could get up the ramps was by pulling myself by the side railing! It took forever, and I was ticked!
Look, it is hard enough to propel a manual wheelchair alone! I have to climb a mountain too! I used a few moderately inappropriate words in my head, but I got by.
Why do some of these businesses, because that is what a doctor's office is, install ramps that are meant for athletics rather than convenience?
I must admit, though, on the way down it was fun. I almost fell out of the chair once or twice or thrice... but I did not complain about the downward ride.
Business owners, please follow the ADA guidelines for wheelchair ramps. The ADA knows what it is doing. I mean, the guidelines are from the Americans with Disabilities Act for goodness sake! I think they have a clue on ramp incline.
Save money on something else like cold water. ...not on convenient rampage.
It hurts! It was sore. Prideful and foolish I, when I look back, found it rude when people would offer to push me places when I was in my wheelchair, but Oh Boy...!
Sometimes I repented of refusing that offer because of the pain, the nagging sore pain that came to be my constant companion in both of my shoulders.
Now see... there is so much talk of, and happening with divorce in the world today. Too bad you cannot divorce pain the same way you can a spouse! A clean cut... And make sure a prenuptial is signed before your first wheelchair drive!
I did not worry about the pain too much at the time because I thought I would get used to it and become extra muscled up top. You know? ...like the bodybuilder below.
To my great disappointment, I did not get any more muscles.
I suppose I did get stronger but not without the price of the constant soreness.
I was not about to start lifting any heavy weight because of my wheelchair workouts.
Shouldn't you get like a special other-sense or whatnot if you loose a common human ability? Well... anyway...
Margaret Finley, PT, Ph.D. of the Krannert School of Physical Therapy at the University of Indianapolis instructed us during a 2008 interview that
"You get a sub-maximal load [a load less than your body weight] on your shoulder joint with every push because (users who self propel) are essentially walking on their hands — and the upper extremity was not designed for that, especially the shoulder, because it really has no bony connection to the body. It's held together with ligaments
Our shoulders were not designed, evolved or what-have-you to bear loads like that--walking on hands! Somebody should tell that to the wheelchairs!
ME: Hello, wheelchair, the human body was just not made to walk on hands! So... sorry Bruce Lee! God rest your soul, but you make me sick for making it look so easy!
I still love you though.
Wheelchair: [silence, crickets]
Follow the link to know who this man, Bruce Lee, if you don't know already.
If you don't know, get to know him.
He is my favorite martial artist! Oh, and Jackie Chan too... Oh wait, and Jet Li and Chuck Norris and Jai White and... So maybe one of my favorites.
So I was talking about pain...
The pain did not stay with me as a permanent fixture. I think over time my muscles did become used to the pain. I also learned little tricks to avoid overexerting myself. The biggest one was having one of my kids push me around!
Instead of long strokes pushing the wheel, I would take short strokes and allow more inertia to work with my glide. The most stress was put on my shoulder when I had to come to a complete stop and start again. I tried to avoid that as often as I could.
Also, popping wheelies are fun, but they injure the shoulder if done too often. I stopped doing those so often too.
I know now that it takes a lot of endurance to use a wheelchair--the type of endurance that able-body people would never know of.
With my injury healed and my status cleared, I have since walked again without fear. My journey is not over, but I know what to expect if ever I need to be chaired again. Maybe if it happens in the future I won't feel sorry for myself this time.
If you have to be chaired, I hope this helps a little in your preparations:
- Get Gloves!
- Beware steep Ramps
- Know the types of wheelchairs (Stand v/s. Custom)
- Take care of those Shoulders
- Let people help you occasionally
© 2015 Rodric Anthony Johnson