With my type of muscular dystrophy, I’ve never had to use a wheelchair before. I had various types of leg braces, crutches and walkers growing up but until last month, had never used a full on wheelchair before.
Before I went on Christmas vacation, I slipped in the shower. Something I’ve only done one other time in my life and it wasn’t in the house I live in now. A few days after that, I slipped and fell down a couple of stairs at my parents house and hit my head, something I’ve never done there as far back as I can remember.
I don’t know what’s been going on with me, but this is the second time in a month where I’ve had two falls in a row. Two falls that left me in a lot of pain. I spent Christmas Eve in bed because I was hurting too badly to go out our first night in Las Vegas. We were already planning on getting a wheelchair for me in Vegas since walking in crowds has become increasingly risk for me, but after two more falls, it was definitely something I needed.
I have a transport chair of my own that after much resistance, I let my mom buy for me. I’ve only used it a couple of times and not for an entire day. This was the first time I used a wheelchair for full days. I wasn’t sure how people were going to react. Was I going to get stared at even more? Were people going to look at me with pity? Was I going to get bad service places that I went or totally ignored? How was accessibility going to be?
It was kind of a mixed bag. A lot of people were much more quick to hold doors or help than they are when I’m not using a wheelchair. Some people would just stare at me and some would proceed to walk right in front of me as if I wasn’t there. Some people in retail places were confused or not sure how to act, I could tell. We ran into several places where the chair could barely get through if at all.
It without a doubt though, took away the worry of me falling, especially with all of the crowds there were in Vegas (and there were loads). That was a huge burden lifted and I’m super thankful to my dad for pushing me all over since I’m not strong enough to wheel myself.
It also gave me an entirely new appreciation for what people in the disability community have to deal with on a non-stop basis. I know in my head how many obstacles there are for people with disabilities who use wheelchairs on a daily basis, but I had never experienced them for myself.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t give me some relief to finally have people believe that I’m disabled. I didn’t have to explain or justify anything to anyone…people just knew. I’ve said over and over how exhausting it is to have to constantly try to get people to believe I’m actually disabled. To deal with the constant questioning. When I used the wheelchair, I didn’t have to deal with any of that. When I got up from the chair, I knew people knew why I was having such a hard time.
I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to post this after I wrote it. A lot of people with MD don’t have the option to walk on their own. Being in a wheelchair or a power chair isn’t something they can just “try” temporarily to avoid falling. I know my experience living with a disability will never be the same because of that. This was just a few day period in my life where a wheelchair was the safer option for me and my body. Unless I end up having to use a wheelchair full time (which I realize is a definite possibility the older I get), I’ll never truly be able to relate to what full time wheelchair or power chair users go through.