Saturday, November 22, 2008

To Wheelchair or Not to Wheelchair

The chair was a difficult decision. As a child, I was a horseback fanatic, gymnast, and even had lettered in Swimming in high school. Nothing made me happier than being outside and doing something- whether it be climbing mountains, or swimming in a pond, or ice skating in 20 degree Boston weather. The last time I rode a horse was when I was 38, in Northern California, on the beach watching a sunset. It was the best ride of my life, barn-rat horse or not. The following weeks I dislocated a patella so badly that I was in a brace. It would the first of many times thereafter.

The doctor I had at the time said, "you may feel better if you used a cane, because I think you're probably heading towards a wheelchair". For several months I was "dropping" as I walked. Dropping is the term that is used when you are upright one moment and suddenly have no legs under you- you literally drop to the ground without any warning. My legs just wouldn't play nice with the rest of me. One of my co-workers laughed at me and asked if I drank anything at lunch. I wasn't laughing. I knew it was time for that cane, and it wouldn't be too long before that wheelchair. Then, possibly drinking and driving, in a safe sense of the phrase.

I moved to a different climate, to the desert from the Bay Area, hoping this would put off the inevitable. The cane and I were inseparable. My job and I were not. The work I did telecommuting for a dot-com was often interrupted by medical appointments, and when they opted to move the home base to India, I was let go. This was also the insurance that was used to keep those doctors working. With six to ten appointments a month at a variety of medical specialists, I was learning that my body and I were incompatible with things other than that cane- I started losing use of my hands, and I would drop far more often than I would admit.

It was also when I started to lose a lot of weight without any apparent effort or reason. I was slightly above my smallest size due to medication. But within a few weeks, I was down below the weight I maintained back in graduate school, when my diet consisted of whatever the happy hour fare was between my many jobs. I started to look like the way I always thought I would look after working out 30 hours a week. The problem of course, I hadn't ever walked farther than the bedroom to the kitchen.

Every few weeks I would meet a friend for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. I became friends with a waiter- a very gay, very sweet, very funny fellow who watched the weight changes in me, and the problems I would have walking. For a few weeks, my doctors were telling me to start shopping for a wheelchair. I was getting too weak to walk at all, and my joints swelled so much that even on good days it was too difficult to get anywhere. The waiter, coincidentally named Angel, dropped by my home on a Sunday afternoon with a Hover-round. He had kept it in his closet, after his close dear friend had died, and was waiting to donate it to the right person. It was a moment of unselfishness I will never forget.

Because of his generosity, I felt a bit more human again. Yes, the motorization brought out the person-hood. But, I could at least leave the house for more than an hour at a time, and if I wanted to go anywhere, I could at least have some assistance, and respite. What I didn't expect is that my joints were so damaged that I was going to need full disability- and that's a conversation for another time.

Today's Question- When did you learn you were more ill than you thought? Did you have to have outside assistance? Was there anyone who helped change your condition for the better?

And here is the rest of it.

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