Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Taking out the trash

I'm often asked, "What is the hardest part of having a Spinal Cord Injury?"

Is it the loss of mobility that comes with loosing function of your legs? Is it the pain after the surgery? Or is it the added difficulty associated with being in a wheelchair?

The answer: Watching my wife struggle while taking two trash cans out to the road.

For me, the most difficult part of this has been watching my wife do the tasks, that prior to the accident were mine to do. Taking out the trash, carrying in the heavy bags of salt, and other tasks around the house were my contribution to the household and added to my self worth. It's a damaging blow to my self esteem and my self worth to have to watch my wife complete these tasks now. To sit-by and watch while someone you love struggles, knowing that you physically can't help them.

It's not just the physical contributions, it's the financial contributions as well. I have always been the one who provided financially for my family. The fact is that, I haven't worked in over 5 months and have brought in no money. So, I can't physically help and I'm not contributing any money to the household. I'm really struggling with my self esteem and trying to come up with some way to contribute.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


My old beat-up loaner chair from Mary Free Bed got a flat on Wednesday morning. I found this as I attempted to transfer from the bed into the wheelchair and the brake failed to hold. (The brake is a friction lock that sits against the inflated tire, so a deflated tire doesn't sit as high and therefore the brake provides zero friction) Luckily I was at Mary Free Bed, so I wheeled the broken chair to therapy hoping they could fix it for me. But, instead of fixing the loaner chair, they sent me home in a Breezy.

What is a Breezy you ask?

Breezy's are big, heavy, un-maneuverable beasts that take two living rooms to turn around in. A Breezy is the tandem trailer semi-truck of the wheelchair world. Hospitals use Breezy's as complimentary, visitor wheelchairs because they know that no one would ever even think of stealing one.

Luckily for me, UPS showed online that the Quickie Q7 demo wheelchair that I bought from New Jersey had been delivered. When I returned home in my Breezy, I quickly assembled my demo chair and transferred into it. I was just beginning to adjust to the chair when we realized that it had a flat. Another flat? To make matters worse, the valve stem is not a normal automotive/bike stem, it's a European thin valve designed for racing. Unfortunately my air compressor doesn't have that type of fitting.

Thursday morning, I called around and found that Cycle and Fitness in St. Joseph had the required adapter and could fill up my tire. The staff at Cycle and Fitness checked my tire and tube and filled both tires to the correct pressure. Cycle and Fitness keeps both tubes and tires in stock for all sizes of wheelchairs and they can repair or modify just about any part on the chair itself. I was definitely impressed by Cycle and Fitness.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


This has been infinitely more difficult than I imagined...

- Watching friends and family labor on the garage and ramp without being able to assist them. I find myself wishing I could just carry a package of shingles or climb onto the roof to help position drip edge. I would even settle for helping grade the sand on the floor before the cement is poured, but my wheels won't move in the deep sand. I'm constantly struggling to find a way to be useful.

- Receiving e-mails and notes from the Engineering meetings at work, knowing that the doctor hasn't released me back to work. I hear the engineering projects that I worked on turning into production products and I want so badly to jump in and help with the transition.

- Standing (OK sitting) by while my wife takes care of the kids, grandpa, and now my needs. I struggle with the fact that I need help doing the simplest of tasks.

- Being driven around by my wife and having to wait while she assembles my wheelchair at each and every stop. I'm not a patient person, nor do I like having to be carted around.

I've got to be honest, this being restricted is not in my DNA and it's really begun to affect me.

Those of you that know me, know that I am not one to sit by and accept this as my fate. I'm already working out solutions for the challenges that I have run into so far.