When you’re in a wheelchair, finding a crib for your future baby is really, really hard! Read all about my adventures in my new post in the paraple-parenting category: Crib Shopping.
You’ve heard the old adage about getting back up if you fall down? Well, I did that today. Literally. Yes, I was “that person” who fell off a piece of equipment at the gym. I had a video, but I make the most unflattering face in it that I deleted it and tried purging it from my memory. It’s the kind of unflattering thing that a person uses to blackmail another person for lots of money.
Let’s go back to yesterday. I had a wild notion that I could use the rowing machine at the gym. My theory was that the thing slides pretty easy and that my hip muscles kind of work so maybe I could try it out.
The hubs and I went to the gym this afternoon to try it out. It was packed and I almost chickened out. But, I reminded myself that I am not Beyonce and people are probably not staring at me. Getting onto the machine was fairly easy. I just pushed the seat to the back and went at an angle that would keep it pushed back. The hubs put my feet in the foot strap and gave me the handle. Pulling myself in was harder than I thought. My right knee hyper extends, so I had to manually push it into a bent position then use my not so functioning quad muscles to try to actually bend them into the upright position while also pulling myself in. I was actually able to do it! I mean, I wouldn’t win any rowing championships, but it actually worked somewhat. Pushing back was fairly easy. After about 2 successful rows I convinced the hubs to film me so I could A) see my progress and B) show my mom. (Yes, in all things do I aim for my mother’s praise!)
He stood back and started filming. I pulled in, pushed out. Once. Twice. Three times. What I realized as I kept going is that it actually takes a little (read: A TON) of core strength and balance. These are things I am lacking. You see where this is going? Ok, so there I was. Once, twice, three. Four…whoops! I pulled so hard that I lost balance and fell off the machine, while simultaneously letting go of the handle which crashed back into the machine. The shock and hilarity of it all cracked me up. The hubs was more concerned with the fact that my left ankle was still strapped in place, despite my entire body being to the right of the machine. (Apparently he didn’t think ankles are supposed to bend in that direction.) My telling him it didn’t hurt didn’t seem to carry much weight. But, no, I did not actually hurt it.
After he freed the stuck foot, I was able to get back on the machine and tried a few more rows, this time focusing on not losing my balance. The hubs decided to not film me anymore and instead stand by me like a nervous mother hen.
I talked to the awesome gym owner and we’re going to brainstorm what I can do to keep my knee from hyper-extending so I can get into a rhythm without having to stop to bend it myself every time. He’s motivated to helping me in my recovery. I love the support!
The point of all of this is not to publicly embarrass myself more than I already did. It’s that now my abs are killing me. And it’s only 2 hours later. Tomorrow is going to suck! Ok, that’s not really the point. The point is that I fell down and got back up. I didn’t die from embarrassment. If anyone laughed or judged me, I’m confident they would end up in Hell, cause who could really laugh at a paralyzed person trying to better themselves? Only truly evil people. If you laughed at me (and not with me- there is a difference!) then yes, I’m totally judging you! But if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger. And if you fall, then you need to get back up and try again. That’s more of a reminder to myself than anything else.
I saw JPJ on Monday. I took the results from my MRI for him to read and translate. I had the CD and probably could have attempted to look at it myself over the weekend. But, have you seen images from an MRI? I’ve seen many from all my years of testing and all I can tell is my spine. That’s pretty distinguishable. The rest looks like a weird, blobby mess. It means nothing to me. So I waited. Let’s just say that the appointment didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped. Cliff notes: I’d better get used to sitting. We’re still holding out hope, but………
Instead of going into details and specifics, I decided to focus on some of the positive. I hereby give you a couple “tops” lists.
Top 5 reasons being in a wheelchair isn’t so bad:
- I am SOOOO much faster than I was before! I’ve never been a runner. I’ve never been fast. But now I can let the wheels go and feel the wind in my hair as I rush down the street. (Though sometimes I’ll hit a rough patch or a bump and almost unseat myself. But that’s part of the rush, right?)
- I don’t fall. Ok, to be fair, I am still able to fall. But that’s usually when I’m doing transfers and my locks aren’t tight. But before I used to fall all the time. Right before my surgery I was falling down several times every day. One more fall and my knees would have jumped out of my body and run away on their own. They were over it. (One could argue if they did their job better I wouldn’t have fallen down as often. But have you tried arguing with knees? Very stubborn.)
- I always have a seat. Like in a crowded place where there are only a couple benches, I don’t have to worry about my legs getting tired. I’m very comfortably seated while others are scrambling for space.
- My arms are getting so strong that I should probably start entering arm wrestling competitions.
- People are nicer to me. Usually. People tend to open doors for me. They offer to help me all the time. Some people rush over to my car to see if they can help me with my wheelchair. Complete strangers. I’m always amazed at people and their capacity to be kind. Well, most people. Some are complete jerks who live in their own self-absorbed worlds. But, it’s like 85% good people, 15% dbags. So, I still consider that a win.
Top 5 reasons why my doctor is cooler than yours*:
- He wears cowboy boots. All the time. In his office. In the hospital. In the OR (that stands for “operating room” for all of you surgery rookies out there). When I was in the hospital, I would hear the slow “clack-clack-clack” of his boots as he walked down the hallway and I’d feel relief as I knew he was coming in to check on me and save the day.
- He’s a cowboy from Montana. Legit. He has a farm there still. Fancy Beverly Hill neurosurgeon by day, cowboy in his spare time. That just reeks of cool.
- He has been involved in all of my major spinal surgeries. He was a resident under my neurosurgeon when I was ten and most likely operated on me then. And then he operated on me this past time. There’s something very Zen and full-circley about that.
- He saved my bladder. The way things were going, a catheter seemed to be in my near future. Like Superman, he swooped in and saved the day. How would that not win Coolest Doctor award?
- He fills the room like John Wayne. I guess that relates back to number 2. His presence just kind of fills the room. He’s this combination of intelligence and confidence that makes you feel like he’s going to save the day. If my doctor and your doctor were in the same room, your doctor would be quivering in my doctor’s shadow. For real.
See, now wasn’t that more fun than some whiney post about not walking? You’re welcome.
*This list obviously excludes all friends and family who are doctors. You’re all obviously very cool or else I wouldn’t waste my time knowing you.
Life is super funny sometimes. Today I had to do an MRI because I’m seeing JPJ, my surgeon, on Monday. I didn’t want the MRI. My dad wanted it. JPJ wanted it. 5-0 wanted it. I did not want it. My want apparently didn’t matter. My theory: what does it matter what it says? I’m not having any more surgeries! If there’s something wrong, it will just have to stay wrong. This may seem crazy, but the way I look at it is that I’m in this mess because my spine is pissed that it had to go through another surgery. It threw in the recovery towel. And until there are major breakthroughs where people are walking after years of paralysis, I’m not interested.
But, what JPJ wants, JPJ gets. And I went in for my MRI. Before the appointment, I went to court and had a great result for a new client. In fact, it was so good that I got one of her cases dismissed and amazing resolution on the other. She was so happy she was practically in tears thanking me. The MRI was scheduled during a break in court, as I had to go back for the afternoon session.
I went to the facility where the scan was to take place. I called my mom and texted the hubs along the way to make sure everyone knew how thoroughly displeased I was to have to go alone. This was the first time in my entire life that I’d had to go to a test alone. That may seem weird to people. I’m an adult. A professional adult. A responsible adult. And yet I didn’t want to go to the test alone. I guess that on the surface it seems weird. Immature even. But, when you look deeper, it makes sense. Every time I do something like this, something bad is the result. Surgery. The last time I had surgery I lost the use of my legs. Most x-rays and MRI’s that I’ve had since I was 10 have resulted in my body being cut open by teams of surgeons. So, yeah, I hate going to these things alone.
Another reason is that I had to get an IV. I HATE needles!! I hate them even more each time I encounter one. You’d think it would get easier. You’d be wrong. Today the nurse put in the IV and I teared up. I didn’t full on cry. I was giving myself major kudos for being so strong. The nurse was quick and gentle. Definitely good at her job. She put it in the crook of my elbow. After it was in there, I was afraid to move my arm too much. She told me that I could bend it, that it would be ok. But, I’m really good at isolating body parts and decided to not move it. The only problem: I need to use my arm to wheel myself. Another nurse offered to push me. A) I don’t have push handles, and B) I hate being pushed. I politely declined. But I still tried to push with my straight arm. Do you know how hard it is to use a straight arm to push a 24” diameter round wheel? Answer: very. I looked absolutely ridiculous trying to keep my arm straight and push myself. The nurses literally laughed at me. At. Not with. So finally I gave in and bent my arm. She was right. It didn’t hurt.
I got onto the MRI table and went into the tubey part. I’m not claustrophobic so MRI’s don’t really bother me at all. They’re just loud. The technician put ear plugs in, but it’s still loud. After about 2 minutes of laying perfectly still (I’m also really good at not moving at all during these tests. Years of practice have made perfect) I started crying. My arm was aching where the IV was. My nerves were on overdrive. And I was definitely pitying myself at being alone. I then thought how funny this all was. Here I was an aggressive fighter that morning defending my clients. And now I was laying there with tears running into my ears when nothing at all was happening. There’s literally nothing wrong with me, but I’d gotten myself all worked up. Well, I guess not literally since my arm did hurt from the tiny needle. But, I realized I was being ridiculous and forced myself to stop. I realized that I was lying still and had a legitimate excuse to take a nap at 10:30 in the morning! That was a very freeing realization.
The MRI was over after about 30 minutes. The nurse took the needle out of my arm, which made me want to give her a hug. I made a joke about liking her way better than the one who put in. And then I went back to court and back to being an aggressive fighter, wiping away all scaredy-cat thoughts and remnants of tears. Back to pretending that nothing ever happened. Well, pushing it all away except for the fact that I left the bandage with the small blood spot on until I saw the hubs so he could see the tangible proof of the pain I experienced that day. Hey, if I had to go it alone, I may as well milk the whole sympathy thing!
Last night, the hubs and I went to a dinner dance at our church. It was Western theme and everyone showed up in their country-wear finest ready to feast on BBQ. It was an odd choice, since the date was February 14th, but I was still really excited. We made plans with some new friends to attend and get to know them better. I bought the hubs a new shirt for the occasion, since our home is lacking in western-wear. I had a shirt that was a dark blue with small brown and white hearts. I felt like this shirt was hanging in my closet with the tags on for months was made for a country dance on Valentine’s Day. The tags came off and shirt went on.
We arrived at the church and made our way to the gymnasium of the attached school, where the festivities were being held. Outside, there were a couple of huge smoker trucks parked emitting the most drool-inducing smells. We forced ourselves away from the wondrousness and went inside to find our friends. We thought we would be early, getting there 15 minutes or so after it started, but the place was already packed! Go figure that in a town where the median age is 53, people would show up early for an event. We located our friends and sat with them. They had the luck (or was it planned? I don’t even know!) of sitting at table 1. Why was that lucky? Because we were the closest to the BBQ buffet AND the first table released! Score!
Of course everyone offered to get my dinner for me. Come on, it’s a function for Catholics. Of course people are going to be nice. (Well, mostly. One lady rolled her eyes in dismay when she found out that I am a criminal defense lawyer. I guess some people’s Christian charity only goes so far….) I made my usual joke of “The hubs will get it. Isn’t that why I got married- to have someone to do things for me??!!” I got the usual polite laughter. Some people don’t get my humor. Or I’m just not as funny as I think I am.
The food was even better than it smelled. The pulled pork was pulled to perfection. The smokey brisket was smoked to perfection. The ribs were, um…ribbed to perfection? I don’t know what to say about them other than I heard that they were tender and the meat fell off the bone. I didn’t actually have any ribs. I try to not eat food in public that will get all over my face and the thought of using a fork and knife on a rib would never enter my brain. I’d be the laughing stock of Cowboy Land!
The night was absolutely perfect! Ok, well, maybe not 100% perfect. After dinner, the dancing started. They hired a woman to teach all different types of dances- line, 2-step, electric slide, etc. The majority of the 200 attendees filled the basketball court to engage in the festivities. It was so much fun to listen to all the cowboy hits (Willie, Waylon, Patsy, Johnny) and watch the mostly senior group dancing. But, part of me got really sad. I wanted to be out there so bad. I kept flashing back to high school dances where my friends and I would be dancing until sweat poured down our faces. Or in college and law school when my friends and I would get dressed all fancy and hit up the clubs. I was a regular at an amazing 80’s club in my early 20’s. There is nothing like flailing around to Cyndi Lauper or White Snake that makes one feel alive!
But here I was, the wallflower at this dance. Well, not entirely. I mean, the hubs stayed with me (though, I think he used me as an excuse to not have to dance…) and a few other people at our table sat the dancing out. But that was their choice. I was forced into not joining. I try to stay really positive about my situation. There is so much that I CAN do! Why would I ever feel sorry for myself? But, last night was hard. I instead focused on the music and enjoying watching all the people. But still…
The point is: I think I put up a pretty solid front of positivity. I try to stay really focus and motivated. But every now and then, I have to acknowledge that this situation sucks. It’s tough. I know I can do more than a lot of people. But sometimes I’m reminded of how much less I can do than others as well. Every now and then it hits me- like when I can’t follow my niece up a stair to play with her, or when I can’t join the octogenarians to line dance. The sadness won’t keep me down. I promise that. It won’t sideline me. It’s going to motivate me.
So apparently I’m at the point in my recovery where I need to be stoked by little accomplishments. I was able to add an additional 20-30 feet to my lap. It doesn’t seem like a lot when I’m sitting here typing that out. That’s barely the length of a motorhome or a good sized sail boat. But, when I’m walking, it seems like the length of a marathon. My arms and abs are killing by the end. (I threw in abs because I just recently learned that you actually use your abs when walking and if 5-0 happens to read this, I want him to see that I’m doing it right.) By the end, my arms are shaking and I’m usually a sweaty mess. 5-0 says that walking like that for me is like a normal person running a bunch of miles. Sometimes I think he makes things up to make me happy. But, since I respond better to positive reinforcement, I’ll take it. And run. Hopefully. Someday. There’s a PT student who is currently working with 5-0. We’ll call her Drill Sgt. Jr., since she also trained with Drill Sgt. and picked up some of his drill sergeanty behaviors. Anyway, she’s been working with me too and is way better at the positive reinforcement these days. But, just to show off and get a “good job”, I keep pushing it a little extra. Whatever it takes, right?
I don’t have much else to say about it all right now. But, I do have video. [Sidenote: The hubs took this video. I will go to jail for murder if he ever films me from this angle ever again.] I love having video so I can compare. Hubs pulled up video from in the hospital where I could barely move anything and I was so frustrated. And then video from 6 months ago where I could barely lift my left foot off the floor and was beyond stoked. When I get frustrated, it helps to see the past videos to keep me motivated. Recovery is slow as molasses, but at least it’s still progressing. And I’m still fighting. And throwing out those pants in the video! Awful. Awful.
Yesterday was a huge day for me. It started out like any other normal day. I woke up and went to my office to meet my assistant to do some office organizing. [I feel like the hubs would interject here: “None of that is normal! You rarely go to your office when you don’t have to, and you hate to clean.”] I can’t argue with either of those points, but will continue on nonetheless.
It started out as an average, normal day. After I took off from the office around 10:30 (see, I hate spending too much time at work), I headed home. But then I remembered that I needed a few things from Target. “Do I dare go by myself??” I asked myself? See, I got my new wheelchair a few weeks ago. It’s AMAZING! It’s so much lighter and easier to maneuver. And I can get it in and out of my car by myself. It’s not the most graceful thing to witness. In fact, the other day, I actually trapped myself in my car because a front wheel got stuck on my push peddle. I mean, it was really wedged in there! After about three minutes thinking “this is where they’re going to find my remains!” (do you know how hot a garage in a heatwave in the desert can be???) I was able to get it unstuck. Ok, I was in my garage, so worst case, I’d be stuck until the hubs got home. And I had my phone, so I could have called someone for help. And it really just took me a minute to calm myself to figure out how to unwedge the wheel. But, those few minutes were not fun. Oh, and I’m always getting random bumps and bruises from clunking myself with the frame or the wheels. But again, it’s only been a few weeks! I really thought it would be smooth and easy. I watched a Youtube video of a girl claiming it was her first attempt at moving it into her car and it was seamless. Either she is full of…it or I’m just not as skilled. Maybe a combination thereof?
But I digress. Target. Ah, sweet Target. My home away from home. My Utopia. My Nirvana. The place that is likely to bankrupt me. Target. I decided to try it out. So far, I’d only gone to places where I knew I’d be ok if there was a problem. My office (my assistant is there, or I know the building manager could come help). The court (I know a bunch of bailiffs who could come help me out. I wouldn’t ask a fellow attorney. They’d leave me to rot and then try to steal my clients). Physical therapy (5 O’Clock Shadow would first ask me which muscles I felt working and talk about core strength. But then he’d eventually help me out). Those were the only places I’d gone solo. So going to Target was a little intimidating.
I parked at sat in the car for a minute, knowing that I could do this. Plus, I like to sit in the car for a few minutes to see if any people scowl at me disapprovingly. Then when I get my wheelchair out, they feel bad. Driving a car is the great equalizer. People can’t tell that my legs don’t work. Is that game mean? Probably. But, it’s the little things in life to get you through! I got my wheelchair out, no problem. Flew through the parking lot. I realize that sometimes I go so fast that people have to hurry to keep up. Having no one around means I can really open it up! In the store, I balanced a basket on my lap and cruised around the store. This was the first time in over a year that I had been in a public place (other than court- which the first time was Monday this week- or the pool for PT) completely by myself! It was amazing! It was liberating! It was a weird feeling. I guess I’d gotten so used to having people around that it was almost bizarre to be alone. But a great bizarre. The kind of bizarre that lets me believe that things are getting back to normal. Perhaps a new normal. I’m not giving up on walking again. I truly think it will happen. But, if it doesn’t, then I now truly believe that I will be OK. I can get back to doing things I used to do, just in a new and slightly modified way.
If I can shop at Target on my own [Hubs would here interject: “UGH!!!”], there isn’t anything I can’t do anymore!
10 months ago today, I lost my freedom. I went in for surgery and woke up 8 hours later unable to move my legs. I don’t blame anyone. There was no major screw-up. No law suits pending. My neurosurgeon is one of the most capable and knowledgeable surgeons in the world. Literally. My back just had enough. This was the 5th spinal surgery I’d had. Each one posed new threats with scar tissue and other medical things I don’t quite understand. It was a risk that there would be complications. But I truly had no alternatives. Avoiding surgery was a surefire way to end up permanently in a wheelchair. Right before my surgery, I could barely walk. My knees were raw from falling so often. I could barely take a few steps. It was miserable. And my bladder would have gone too. So I had to have surgery. And I chose the man who I think was the best at the job. My neurosurgeon, JPJ, is one of the best in the business. And, he trained under my pediatric neurosurgeon who truly was the best in the business. Number 1 guy. In fact, JPJ may have operated on me when I was 10 and had my first major, life changing spine surgery. He was a resident then. Funny how 23 year later, he was likely operating on the same back as he did when he was a resident. So while the outcome is momentarily unfortunate, I don’t regret it. I walked in to the hospital, and 8 hours later, I couldn’t move my legs.
Today I regained my freedom. No, I’m not walking. But, I did get hand controls on my car. 10 months of no driving. Of waiting for people to take me places. Of hoping that there was no emergency which required me to get somewhere, and hoping that if there were, someone was around to take me. I joked to my dad that I could just get a 3-wheeled motorcycle cause you don’t need legs for that. But he pointed out that I had nowhere to put my wheelchair. Curtains on that idea. 5 o’clock shadow told me about a local mechanic shop that only modifies cars. I called them and they had me immediately come down to chat. The guys who own the place were so friendly and reassuring. They could literally modify any car to fit any need. I have a little sedan and I want to keep it. They were able to put in hand controls that will fit my needs there. Now a bigger car could hold a lift to put my wheelchair in the car itself. Now I will be forced to get a lighter wheelchair to put in myself. But, to keep the car that I love, that’s all worth it to me! And the coolest part is that the pedals still work. So, the hubs or anyone else can still drive my car regularly.
The owner of the shop picked up my car this morning and then brought it back tonight. He then gave me an almost 2 hour driving lesson on how to use them. I thought that it wouldn’t be that hard. And it’s not. But it does take getting used to. My brain thinks that my right leg is going to just hit the gas or the brake. But, then it doesn’t move. So I have to train my body to think that the left hand now controls the brake and the gas. Brake- push. Gas- pull back. It seems pretty easy. And again, it is. But when you’re actually driving, it takes some getting used to. The hubs sat in the back seat the whole time watching. Apparently he also took a secret photo of me. I was so focused on not killing pedestrians that I didn’t even notice.
(Note: no people or animals were ever in harm’s way- we were in an empty parking lot.) The mechanic would tell me “kid runs out, stop!” to get me to see what it was like to slam on my brakes. Or he’d have me park between two imaginary cars and tell me that I hit one if I parked crooked. No pressure.
I was a natural! I met all of his tests and managed to pass without giving us whiplash. Yes, I did hit the brake hard once or twice. But that’s bound to happen. And it was weird to remember to push the brakes while changing from reverse to drive. It was all very awkward at first. But also weirdly easy. The hardest part was probably on the hubs who had to get my wheelchair in and out of the trunk like 8 times. Unfortunately every time I had to change seats, he had to get it in and out. But, he was a trooper and didn’t complain. Instead he took secret photos and sent them to my folks unbeknownst to me. I’m not going to lie, if I had known all that was going on, I may have “accidentally” hit the brakes once more. Maybe next time I drive.
Those words, and the fact that they mean I am mobile again now and have regained my freedom, make me so happy on this Friday the 13th. This 10 month paralysis anniversary.
As the great Willie Nelson says: On the road again/Goin’ places that I’ve never been/Seein’ things that I may never see again/And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
I definitely can’t wait to get back out on that road again!
I could write a standard holiday/new year’s resolution blog post. But, since my resolution this year is “WALK!!!” I figured it would be a short post. In celebration of the new year I met with two of my doctors on January 2: my urologist and my rehabilitation doctors. They both gave me identical feedback: no accidents = I’m doing good. Looks like 2014 is starting off perfectly!
Instead of a new year’s post, I think I need to write about the single most important topic that every good blog talks about at least once: Chuck Norris.
When I was a kid, I was really into karate. Like, really, really into karate. So into karate that I dressed up as a karate student for Halloween 3 or 4 years in a row just so I could wear my uniform. My dad, brother and I all went to the same studio. I outranked them both. That’s kind of my claim to fame. I went to an amazing studio. My doctors put certain restrictions on me, and my instructors followed those restrictions perfectly. For example, my legs were pretty weak, so I wasn’t allowed to kick when sparring. I still sparred other kids and they could kick. So, to win, I had to become deadly with my upper body. My most prized move was the ridge hand strike. Someone would come in with a kick. I would block the kick and use their forward motion to strike with the ridge hand. Point. Game. Match. I win.
My first big back surgery occurred when I was ten. This was smack dab in the middle of my karate years. My instructor came down to visit me the night before my surgery. Of course he was there when they came in to give me my IV. And I HATE needles. So there I was facing a huge predicament for a young karate ninja kid: give in to the pain or suck it up. I went with the latter. My instructor offered to leave, but I told him to stay. I needed to show him just how tough I was. The nurse inserted the IV into my little hand, and I didn’t shed a tear (something I can’t say happens now when I get an IV). I think he held my other hand, but that weakness is negated by the no tears thing.
When I got out of the hospital and was finally medically cleared to go back, my instructor took me back at karate classes. At first I was on a walker and then crutches. He modified the program for me and taught me how to protect myself with my crutches. I was literally in a chair learning how to swing around my crutches defensively. It probably looked ridiculous, but I was beyond stoked to be back in my element! And, bad guys don’t discriminate based on disability, so it could have been useful. If attacked, I could have protected my entire family with a couple swift slices of my crutches.
Here’s where Chuck Norris comes in to this story: one day I was told I had a phone call. I can’t remember now if it was while I was in the hospital or while I was at my karate studio. I blame facebook for not being in existence at that time, as I would have definitely made a post about it. Living without Facebook is one of those things that modern kids can’t even fathom. How did we communicate life events, relationship status or pictures of food back then?! But I digress. The point is, there was a phone call for 10 year old me. I answered it. The voice on the other end said “Hi, this is Chuck Norris.” The rest of the conversation was a blurry memory because after you talk to Chuck Norris, he erases your memory so you can’t recall a thing about it. There’s just a vague and hazy knowledge that you did actually speak. Or, I can’t remember because of excitement, shock and disbelief. All I recall is that he had heard of me from my instructor and he knew I was a huge fan and he wished me well.
As if the Chuck Norris phone call wasn’t enough, he then sent me a ton of things: signed copy of his autobiography, a poster from his show Walker, Texas Ranger, a cast & crew t-shirt from his show, and a bunch of other memorabilia which was displayed tastefully cluttered in my room. I wasn’t the most organized of children. To be fair, I’m also not the most organized of adults. For years, I made it onto the Chuck Norris Christmas and Easter card lists. He would send me cards and candy twice a year. It was the highlight of my entire childhood! In fact, it’s quite possibly the highlight of my adulthood. Graduating law school was cool. Marrying the most amazing guy? Yeah, that was neat. A box of Sees hard candies in a bunny box from Chuck Norris? Best thing that has ever happened in my entire life. Seriously.
Now, while I firmly believe that a phone call from Chuck Norris would wake my little legs up and cause me to walk again, I cling to the memories of how he helped me as a kid. And I try to recreate it in little ways. For example, in my therapies now, we have to tape my feet up so they don’t drag when I walk my 100 feet. My physical therapist said she was going to buy Hello Kitty duct tape. While they don’t make Chuck Norris duct tape (they should!!!) I did her one better:
Ninja Turtle duct tape!!
So here’s to my memory of Chuck Norris and the channeling of my inner karate ninja. I’m ready to kick 2014’s butt!
Tis the season to be jolly. Fa la la la la la la la la. Tis the season to be with friends and family. Fa la la la la la la la la. Tis the season to be reminded that you’re handicapped. Fa la la la la…D’oh!
My dad loves holiday traditions. It used to be the 4th of July. When we were little, we’d have a huge 4th of July celebration. Partly to celebrate Independence Day. Partly to celebrate my grandpa Poppy’s* birthday. Partly because it was the one time a year when my mom let him get away from his fatherly duties and drink with his friends. One doesn’t waste a good opportunity such as that!
The 4th of July parties were always amazing! My dad would have a band playing classic rock. (My dad and I share a love of John Cougar Mellencamp, Bob Seger, and the like). Us kids would run around and go swimming in our indoor pool. At night we would light sparklers and little fireworks. They were the best. Now the 4th of July parties are on the 3rd of July and are held at their beach house. A live band has been replaced by reggae on Pandora blasted through Bluetooth speakers. Sparklers have been replaced by beer.
Now my dad has started a new tradition, and this is where our story picks up. Newport Beach, CA has a big boat parade every December. A ton of boats get lit up with beautiful displays. It’s fun and festive. My dad rents a boat and a bunch of us cruise around the harbor to see the boats up close and personal. This year, due to my current situations, I was unable to go on the boat. So my dad planned a nice evening for the hubs and I so we could still feel included and so he wouldn’t have to cancel his boat reservation.
What should have happened: Hubs and I drive up from our house and check into a nearby hotel. We grab a cab down to a restaurant where my dad pre-paid for us to have a lovely, leisurely dinner on the bay to watch the boats go by. We would then meet my parents and some friends at a nearby bar for a couple drinks. What a lovely way to celebrate the season and be a part of the magical event.
What did happen: We left from home an hour later than I had hoped because my bladder decided it didn’t want to cooperate. (Since the surgery my bladder has been very temperamental. Just one of those fun side effects.) Once we did leave for the nearly hour drive, we didn’t hit any traffic. I took that as a good sign. I should have known better.
We checked into the hotel, where I had specifically booked a handicapped room. I didn’t want to, but the reality is that I’m in a wheelchair, so I may as well be comfortable. We got to our room and it was not a handicapped room. I got stuck getting into the bathroom. But, being the stubborn person I am, I forced my way in, scraping the doorjam some. Whoops. But once in, I couldn’t even maneuver onto the toilet. So I politely (read: very angrily and upset) called and asked to be moved. They told us they didn’t have a room for us. They also told me I booked online and that doesn’t guarantee a room. I called BS and after some persuasive arguments, I was given a handicap accessible room. Ok, so crisis averted.
The hubs then called for a cab. He told them that we needed a regular sedan and not a minivan as I am not capable of transferring into the van from my wheelchair. The cab arrived and lo and behold, it was a minivan. Shocker. At this point, I was so frustrated with everything that I was on the point of tears. The cabbie called dispatch and they said a sedan was on the way. We waited for 15 minutes and no cab. The hubs called. They said it was 5 minutes away. Another 15 minutes later, they called and said they had no sedans available. Now I really did lose it. This night was supposed to make everything better and make me feel like I could still enjoy things I always enjoyed, but instead it was reminding me of just how handicapped I am.
The hubs ended up driving. We had to park far away from our restaurant destination as there was no parking. We were nearly an hour late at this point, so he ran me down the sidewalk. A car had parked on the sidewalk so we had to go out onto the street to get around. We finally arrive and they still have our table. My dad had explained my wheeled presence and they assured us we’d have the very first table. If by first table, they meant the farthest table and that several diners would have to get up out of their seats so we could squeeze by, then they totally came through. Dinner progressed nicely.
After dinner we were going to meet my parents and some friends at a bar across the street. I thought I’d use the bathroom first. Fail again. The hallway was so narrow and full of people and sharp turns that I didn’t even want to try. Instead we went to the bar. My mom took over control of my wheelchair and wheeled me to the bathroom. To get there, we had to go out the side door and back around the front, as there was one step in the middle of the bar. We went in and found the hallway with the bathroom. My wheelchair wouldn’t even fit down the hallway. The bouncer was apologetic and told us we could use the public bathroom on the beach, ¼ mile away. My impatient bladder forced us to make the trek.
All in all, it was a fun night. Yes, I broke down in tears a couple times, as I realized that the comforts and ease of normal life were no longer things I could enjoy. But, my family and friends go out of their way to help with accommodations that I really can’t complain. We all have to learn to adapt in life.
*I always though we called him Poppy because he loved the flower. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I realized it was actually Papi, because he was from Spain. But, because I fondly remember him as having a love of flowers, and because the poppy is my favorite flower, he shall always remain my Poppy.