Several years ago I was being prepared for a surgery to remove staghorn stones in both kidneys and bladder.
Unfortunately, they apparently I began to bleed profusely. They stopped the bleeding temporarily. Overnight I kept bleeding and the next morning my blood pressure was so low I needed a blood transfusion.
The next evening the chaplain came into see me. I asked him how he was doing. He told me that he was having a bad day. Here I was, just having a blood transfusion, I have sores on my body, and he’s telling me he feels bad.
Maybe it was the voice of God, but I felt compelled to pray for him. Despite the fact that I looked worse than him lying on a hospital bed.
God showed me this night that even though I may have looked worse, I had gone through surgeries all of my life, while perhaps this chaplain may have been experiencing something he had never been through. Who was I to judge whether my day was worse? Common sense was not making sense that night.
Was this the Romans 8:28 Scripture coming to fruition? Well, it sure did me good and I believe God was glorified.
As a person with a disability whose life has been filled with trials, I’m grateful that I continue to learn how to see things from a heavenly perspective.
All of my life I have had some talent in music. The first time I knew I had an “ear” for music was when I was around 5 or so watching Sesame Street. I don’t know where it came from, but I sure was playing each note of Sesame Street on my guitar! From there I got some lessons and learned the basic chords which helped my ear as well. As time went on I was able to play anything that I listened to back then. From KISS to Led Zepplin, To Tom T. Hall, I had a wide range of ability to pick out the tunes and play them on my guitar.
Later in life I began playing the harmonica. This is when I really began seeing my potential. I picked it up so fast. The worship leader at my church gave me a chance to play with them. Today we play together along with other members of the church band at an assisted living place.
By no means am I a great guitar or harmonica player. I have a lot of growing to do. However, I recognize I have a lot of potential.
I believe that whether we are disabled or not, we all that spark of potential within us. With the help of friends, I was able to find mine.
As a kid, I got to play wheelchair sports such as basketball, and soccer. While there was some modification, the basics were the same as anybody else who played. Track and Field were also a part of my childhood. It seems like yesterday I was on the starting line of the 60 meter dash. I was a fantastic sprinter, so the 60 meter dash was a perfect fit to win 1st place. My favorite field event was the club and javelin. I competed in the shot put, and actually landed on the front page of the local newspaper holding a shot put in my hand.
I suppose the point to sharing this is that my family made sure that I was active. I stayed plenty active in sports. Unfortunately, as an adult I went years without being active. It wasn’t until I started attending church, and getting to make friends that I started getting to be a social person. However, when I got my dog last year, that’s when my activity level went to an all time high. With my dog, Chancey, I was able to break all kinds of boundaries I had built around me because I was so anxious.
Without the help of Chancey, I’d probably still be in my comfort zone, watching television all day waiting for someone to initiate some type of activity that I could be part of. Since I have gotten a dog, I feel so much healthier. Dogs are a great motivator!
My first car was a 1976 Cutlass Supreme. That car was the bomb! I shared it with my step brother at the time, until the family van became his to drive. My cousin and I loved to drive fast over steep hills and see if we could jump it like the Dukes of Hazzard. We hardly got off the ground, but I sure could feel that spine-tingling feeling that went over the top. One of the girls I dated back then was in a wheelchair, too. The wheelchairs back then were not made of the light material like today. I was responsible for getting her wheelchair in my car, followed by mine. That took some arm strength. We also worked at the same movie theater. I’d pick her up and we’d drive to work together. The only problem we had with this was that our wheelchairs often got stuck together. I finally got into the habit of making sure that where ever we went, we’d have someone come help us take out our wheelchairs. We had some good laughs over it.
Today I drive an MV-1. It’s a vehicle built from the ground up for people in wheelchairs. The ramp comes out of the bottom of the floor. Vehicles have come a long way in helping disabled people have more freedom. It has made transportation so much easier.
From my fun Cutlass to my convenient MV-1 I’ve experienced a lot of changes in vehicle accessibility. It’s also helpful to have a titanium wheelchair. I’m grateful for the changes that have been made over the years. Thanks to the innovators who make it possible to travel!
One early morning my dog and I drove to the downtown square so we both could get some exercise. We had a great time of strolling around the square. After we finished we headed back to the car underneath the parking deck. As we got closer to the car I noticed someone had parked within the white lines. (sometimes they are blue)
These white lines that are between two handicapped parking spaces serve a purpose. That purpose is for the ramp that comes out for the wheelchair to exit out of the vehicle.
When another car has crossed the boundary into the white lines, it prevents someone else who needs to let their ramp out and to the pavement to either get out of the vehicle or enter into the vehicle.
For me, the problem was entering the vehicle as I had just returned from walking my dog. I was faced with a problem at this point.
Knowing it was going to be very difficult, I first made sure my dog was safely in the car. Then I carefully climbed in the vehicle. Afterward, I had to get on my knees to pull in my wheelchair. Once finished bringing in my wheelchair, I held onto the drivers seat and pulled myself up into my wheelchair.
Once I was able to safely enter my wheelchair, I noticed blood on my jeans in the knee area. The pressure from the bottom of my vehicle against my knees from pulling my wheelchair in the car caused a sore on both.
Thankfully I am strong enough to pull my wheelchair back into the car. This might not be the case for other disabled drivers.
Please be aware that these lines in the handicapped parking spaces serve a specific purpose. A purpose that allows the person in a wheelchair to access the parking space.
Accessibility always makes me smile. That’s because someone or some organization took the time to think about how a person in a wheelchair can have access to their business, or some type of organization, housing, etc., that is open to the public. This morning, it was my church. My church has automatic doors so that people who might have a difficult time opening one of the other doors can come in and be part of the worship service, or take part in some other form of ministry. They also have a very cool lift behind the modern worship platform. Since I’m a harmonica player I have had the privilege of sharing my gift with those in the congregation. But it could not, and would not happen if someone had not taken the time to think about people in wheelchairs. Allow me to offer my gratitude to all who take the time to make it possible for people with disabilities of all kinds to access the community. Whether you are the ones who thought of the ideas, or built the ideas, I’m truly grateful.
I have had many hobbies over the years such as, ventriloquism, guitar/harmonica, photography, and more. There’s one hobby that has always taken center stage of them all; writing.
Writing will always and always has been a part of my life. I remember the first time I began writing. It was at the age of 10. Lying on a stretcher in front of the nurses station during a 4 month stay, I saw a drawing of a nurse that a friend of mine had drawn. He was there nearly the same time. It was what he wrote underneath the picture: “Have you hugged your nurse today?” That was when something sparked and all of a sudden I wrote a poem with this question as the title. (I would share it if I could remember the words.)
I wrote and wrote as a kid. It was a great way for me to express my feelings so young. After I gave my life to Christ, my writing was prolific. All of a sudden I was writing something daily, sometimes more!
I guess it’s no wonder I have a blog. It’s a great avenue to share my experiences with a disability. Second to my faith, writing has been a great source of solitude in the midst of chaos that sometimes a disability can bring. Nevertheless, I keep on rolling.
Perhaps you have experienced this, too. One day I was with someone in a restaurant when the server took our order. It went something like this: “What will you have?” (speaking to the person I am with) Then, “What will he have?” The server mistakenly thought I could not speak for myself I guess because I had a clear disability. At first I was offended. Then instead of letting that fester, I answered the person and gave them my order.
I remember another time during a church event years ago when one of the people in the group who led the event would not even look at me as I was introducing myself. That person eventually spoke to me and shared why.
Yes, there are times when people cannot look past my wheelchair to see me. If this has happened to you, you know the feeling.
Lately I have started inviting the servers to have a seat beside me when taking the order. This helps them get to know me better, and it makes them feel more at ease if they aren’t use to someone with a disability.
Last night I was very impressed with my pastor when I went up to him and wanted to share something deeply important to me. He didn’t stand there and talk: he got on the floor and looked me in the eyes and listened. It’s not always necessary to do this. But it is a great way to communicate with someone in a wheelchair.
People will continue to make decisions based on what they see rather than who they see. I will continue to invite them to sit by me and have a conversation. That’s one of the reasons I started Roll Model Movement; to build bridges of understanding. In the words of the Christian music artist, Matthew West, “Grace Wins Every Time”.
This is Chancey, my dog. She is nearing 4 years old. I got her at the Humane Society a year after my mom died. She has helped me tremendously. Before I got her I was having a season of deep depression. My mom died, then my grandmother died soon after. I began to lose interest in the things I once held dear. But one thing was always true regardless of my feelings of depression; I had a comfort zone that I had a difficult time breaking. I struggled with things like taking a mere, “walk”, down the street by myself. Going off my street certainly didn’t happen!
Once I got Chancey, I was off and running! Chancey helped me fight through my anxiety to a level that I had never seen. Because of Chancey, I went from fear of rolling up and down my street to rolling all over the downtown area. Chancey has helped bridge a gap I had longed to see.
When trained properly, dogs can be a great source of freedom for people with disabilities. Life sure has changed for the better in my case! Very soon, I’ll even have a new puppy. Chancey and I will be welcoming a Newfoundland. I can’t wait! I’ll talk more about how dogs have played an important role in my life as time progresses.
I have many talents. Walking on my hands is among them. This is me in South Florida on the beach. How I learned to do this is another post for another time. I wanted to show this picture because it shows what my body became because I did not do my exercises and stretches as the physical therapist instructed me to do. As a result of not listening, my body locks at my knees and hips. At one time my body could straighten which allowed me the opportunity to stand using a para-podium. This is kind of like leg braces that reach from the hips and have a platform at the bottom. Since I kept falling over (because I moved rather quickly) it was decided I should use my wheelchair most of the time. As you can see, my body looks like the shape of a chair. Parents, I can’t stress enough the importance of doing the stretches if your child’s physical therapist has directed it. The one thing I miss most is the ability to sit straight up on the floor with my legs straight out. Before doing any kind of exercise or stretches, I would strongly suggest consulting with a physical therapist, first.
As far as my talent; walking on my hands, there was a time I worked with a fitness trainer. She asked me to do 50 push-ups on my hands! After resting a short moment at 25 reps, I went on to complete the whole 50! Don’t try this without a professional trainer to assist.