I wanted to sit in the rain and feel the grass underneath my feet but I couldn’t even roll myself over in bed. All in time I gained my independence but it came at a snail’s pace, it seemed. Once I was off bed rest, I still had trouble transferring and several therapists used to joke with me about carrying a transfer board in my backpack of my wheelchair. They said “Rob, why do you always carry that transfer board around?” The answer was simple I thought, in case I needed to transfer. I did not want to depend upon people.
Dependence upon people is a necessary part of life though. A necessary part of everyone’s life but when you are 19 (or any age) you have something like walking or even moving your arms taken away it’s terrifying. A book called Tuesdays With Morrie helped me accept the fact that there are times when I need help. Rather than a reminder of what I can’t do, it is a huge blessing to have the help of loved ones or the kindness of strangers there to help me.
It used to take me 45 minutes every morning to get dressed. Now, depending upon how late I am running, it takes as little as 5 minutes. There is no more transfer board behind my chair. I have found that even sitting down, I am able to do more than I ever thought possible. I ended up not needing a van and even bought a motorcycle or two that I ride, when they are not broken down. Independence is different for everyone and since I’m a paraplegic it might seem that I have more independence than those that have higher levels of spinal cord injury trauma, independence is also a state of being or mind. I am free to make decisions and choose how to feel or how to act. Early on after my accident I read a quote by a young man who was paralyzed and he said that before his accident there were 1,000 things he could do and that after his accident there were 900 things he could do. The numbers of course were just for impact but what struck me was he said that he chooses to focus on the 900 things he can do instead of the 100 things he can’t do. By the way, I’m yet to find something I can’t do.