“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)
Travis’s grandfather had a stroke a few years back, which for any typical man in his 80’s doesn’t sound too unusual. However, for Grandfather, it was unusual. This is a man who up until the stroke had not been on even one medication- not one! Healthy as a horse! Here’s the kicker: not only is he on multiple medications now, but he is also pretty much sedentary. The man who was still doing yard work, volunteering, and fixing things in the heat of the Florida summer when I met Travis back in 2004, is now having to use a walker to be able to move around very slowly. He cannot drive. He is completely reliant on others’ help whereas he used to be the one to lend a helping hand. He used to take care of others. Now he can’t. Everything takes effort. When he started getting a little depressed, I understood to some extent. Sympathized some. That has changed recently.
As many of you know, two and a half weeks ago I wrecked my ankle at a local trampoline park because I evidently have no boundaries. I was trying to get off of a professional grade trampoline when I landed wrong on the edge mat. I got a third degree sprain which basically means I tore my ligaments (possibly tendons) to the point where it pulled at a bone in my foot causing a tiny hairline fracture (which is actually not even a huge deal- the bad part is the ligament damage). The doctors basically said it would have been better for me to have broken my ankle instead of what I did. Awesome. Therefore, now I am in a boot for 8-12 weeks ordered to completely immobilize my foot and keep it elevated. Thankfully, Travis bought a scooter for me that works by me resting my knee on a seat-looking part, while my free foot scoots me along. It has a basket on the front. It’s pretty sexy.
Now before I launch into this, please understand that I am not saying I understand grandfather’s or any other disabled person’s plight at all. So don’t send me e-mails.
What I will say is that since spraining my foot, I am getting the tiniest, slightest taste of what it means to live with a disability. Just a slight taste.
I don’t know what I would do if I was told that this was it. “This is how you have to live for the rest of your life.” Rolling around on a device to make it from point A to point B. Everything taking 3 times as long. Struggling with simple things like putting your child down for a nap or bathing. I would be… depressed. Just like grandfather. I understand that more now. I can’t completely fathom it because in 5 & 1/2- 9 & 1/2 weeks, I will be out of my boot and able to get back to normal life (potentially with some muscle therapy). But that is the rest of his life. Immobile for the most part. After 80-some years of doing everything and keeping active, he was asked to sit down. I can hardly stand it for 8-12 weeks, much less the rest of my life. And there are people who are born without ever being able to experience complete, uninhibited mobility. There are some who get a sample of mobility before having it taken away as young children. And that’s it. Forever.
That being said, here are some things I have learned so far from my much less severe experience:
1. It is depressing. I have cried, I have been frustrated, and I have been angry. Don’t be surprised if someone who can’t get up and move around gets snippy or sad. It is really hard not to get emotional when something as small as clothing left on the floor can make your trip to the restroom a difficult, time-consuming process of getting a wheel stuck, having to balance and pick something up move it, etc. When you feel helpless to what is happening around you.
2. Sitting on your butt for hours and hours catching up on Netflix is awesome for a day. After that, it is pretty boring.
3. Cleaning and organizing your own home is a gift. Yes, I appreciate everything my parents have done. They have been saints! But, there is just something about cleaning my own house exactly how I want to with my own two hands that I miss. Thankfully I can clean some with the use of my scooter, but I can forget about vacumming and mopping.
4. Getting clean is a lot easier on two solid feet. I have been taking baths rather than showers since I cannot stand on both feet, and it takes forever. Be grateful for your quick showers!
5. Visitors are awesome. If you have a friend or family member with a disability… go spend time with them. Even though it is great to have people come over to “help”, I have really enjoyed when people come over and just sit with me and talk to me. Getting out and about is more difficult right now, so I appreciate when people sacrifice and come to me.
6. This situation has given me a greater appreciation of things like wheelchair ramps, handicap bathrooms, etc. When I have healed, I will bound up steps with a greater appreciation for my ability to do so. On our drive up to Tennessee, we stopped at a Starbucks to use the restroom, and pulled right up to an entrance- perfect! I was happy we were close to an entrance before I realized there was no ramp… the only way to enter was through the main entrance. Now I am not going to harp about needing more ramps and such, but I guess I am just trying to point out how nice it is to have a ramp when it is available. Those parking spaces in the front of stores specifically reserved for people with disabilities? They really help! I was grateful to have a handicap bathroom stall that was big enough to fit my scooter! When people demand handicap ramps and such, I kind of understand why now. It didn’t seem as big of a deal until I experienced needing to use them.
7. Asking people to serve you gets tiresome. Asking people to get me things and do things for me was nice at first. Now I am just over it. It would take me less time to actually do what I am asking someone to do for me if I had two working feet than to ask them to do it for me and wait for them to complete the task. Also you start to feel a little guilty for asking someone to continuously serve you, even if they are the most giving person.
8. Sometimes I am going to move slower, be more cumbersome, be “in the way”, or accidentally bump into something or someone. It is so easy to get frustrated when someone in a wheelchair is moving slowly right in front of you at a theme park or in the store, but just remember that (in most cases) they don’t have a choice. They are just as or more frustrated than you because they have to experience the slowness and difficulty moving 24/7. You have to endure it for a few seconds. Be patient. I definitely need to work on this with myself.
Overall, I have a gained a much greater appreciation and respect for people who live with disabilities every day of their lives. Your strength inspires me.