After the car accident I had three choices to choose from and whichever one I picked I would have to live with. The first was to just stay in bed and be waited on. I would give up my independence and become helplessly dependent on others. The second choice was to crawl and drag myself around the house. I could push with my hands and slide on my butt. Sure it would take some time but, hey, I had time. The third choice was getting a wheelchair.
This choice would give me the needed independence, regardless of my mental block in being worried about what others might think and how they would treat me as I sat in a chair with wheels and they stood on legs that worked. I was worried about all the negative things that could happen. How the brakes could fail while I was going down hill or while in a public restroom. There were steps I could not climb and doors I could not open. What if my wheels got caught in a crack in the sidewalk? My brain raced with negative worst-case things that could happen to me, if I chose life in a wheelchair.
It became like a dream I lived over and over. That dammed car wreck had taken the good times and trashed them in one quick move. I worked through the stages of denial and anger, and then depression, and finally the acceptance. I was a quadriplegic and pretending I wasn't, was not getting me anywhere.
Choice one, stay in bed. I was already sick of that choice. Choice two, the crawl drag maneuver, that wore holes in the seat of my pants, and gave me sore hands and muscle aches. Choice three, became my choice for I wanted out of the bed, off the floor, and out of the house.
So I would choose a traditional wheelchair or a motorized one? The manual one had its good features and a few bad ones. The motorized version could get me where I needed to go with the help of public transportation and a good battery. More choices. I chose the manual one first and worked toward a motorized one. The manual one fit through the doorways of my house and I decided to try and build strength in my arms.
Two friends suggested to me that together we learn where to find accessible areas I could get to in our town. Finding accessible ramps and restrooms, elevators and telephones, on my own would have been a very hard chore without the help of my trusted friends. We drew a map of these areas, which I carried in my wallet.
I learned so many things with the help of my friend’s, as in when to go ahead and accept help that is offered and not let my stubborn pride get in the way. I learned to speak up for myself and ask those wishing to speak to me to get down to my level where we could talk eye-to-eye. I learned most importantly that most folks want to help and my being rude or saying no did not foster friendships.
Mostly I learned not to question my abilities or my disabilities, for until I was willing to do something for myself I really had no clue on what my physical condition would let me do. A few things I did not really care for, but tolerated out of goodwill, was getting touched a lot or patted on the back or shoulder. But thinking about it from another point of view, I realized this was my friend’s way of showing love and concern and should I refuse that? Of course not, I am not a heartless old fool.
In the end the choices I made suited me, and my friend’s, who stuck by me all these years. Watching out for me each day, and giving me hell when I needed it. Providing comfort and companionship on sunny days and on sad lonely nights. These friends who care deeply for me are still nearby, one is my dear wife and the other a woman of whom I gave permission to write my story, and share it here anonymously.