By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPCC
Months ago, 56-year-old Susan Schaub of Albert Lea, Minnesota, had ankle surgery. She then wrote about her six-week experience of having to use a wheelchair and gave me permission to publish it here. Here is what she wrote:
Having just had ankle surgery and told I had to stay off my feet and keep my ankle elevated, my only choice was a wheelchair. And having had a daughter with spina bifida who spent 17 years using a wheelchair, I thought I knew everything. Wow, was I wrong! I didn't have a clue how clueless I was.
LESSON 1: It’s not as easy as it looks. Right now, I'm using the standard “push me around the hospital” model. The only difference between my chair and the car Fred Flintstone drove cruising Bedrock is that I use my hands instead of feet to power it. It’s exhausting!
LESSON 2: We need longer arms. Even after arriving at my destination, such as the refrigerator, half the time I can’t reach what I want anyway. For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I wish I had arms like an orangutan.
LESSON 3: The refrigerator. All food, especially desserts and comfort foods, should be kept in the lower half of the refrigerator. It doesn’t do any good for neighbors to bring meals if the they end up on the top shelf of the fridge. If you're trying to lose weight while in a wheelchair, this is a great diet plan. Usually, the bottom section of the fridge contains raw veggies and protein items.
LESSON 4: You need a lot of room. Maybe it’s just me, but I have found life would have been easier had I spent the last four weeks living in a gymnasium that contained a bed, easy chair, television, and table. The concession stand would have served as a kitchen. I have nicked every doorway and piece of furniture in my house.
LESSON 5: Always apply the brakes when getting in or out. I learned this the hard way.
LESSON 6: People using wheelchairs are my heroes! I've replaced feeling bad for people in wheelchairs to being in awe. Life in a wheelchair is challenging, yet people do it daily with courage, determination, strength, and a smile. Wheelchairs bless those needing them and the people in them are a blessing, too.
[This column first ran in 2011. Mr. Vance is on vacation. Sponsored by Blue Valley Sod.]