10 Days Without Legs

Day 6…

Some of the hardest daily things to do without legs:

  1. Putting my pants on. I’ve tried rocking back and forth, laying on my stomach, and hanging my legs over the side of the bed. Can you think of any better ways to put pants on without using your legs?
  2. Going to the bathroom once my pants are on. This is obviously difficult at home because my house is not designed for someone without legs, but even the “handicap accessible” public bathroom in our office is not really handicap accessible. I know they have a handrail and a panic button, but trust me — a wheelchair does not fit well in the stall, and I can’t figure out how to get myself off the chair and on the pot without risking “splash-down.”
  3. Getting in the car without a ramp. Getting out of the car is relatively easy because the wheelchair is lower. I can use my arms to center myself over the chair and then drop down. Getting back up into the car is an entirely different issue, needless to say, my shoulders are sore!
  4. Going up the stairs. I already shared a video with you about climbing stairs, but it’s still worth mentioning again. Twice this week, I’ve been a part of an event at a non-handicap-accessible venue. There are around 40 stairs that lead up to the third story of an older building. Thanks to my friends Nicholas and Jeremiah, my wheelchair made it up the stairs both nights. But that still left me climbing 40 stairs with my arms and stomach muscles (see the picture above).
  5. Opening doors. I have figured out that for wheelchair drivers, each door offers a new puzzle. “Do I go backwards through this one or go strait and pull through with my arms?” It’s quite an adventure, and for heavy doors — quite difficult.

On the positive side, there are also several things that are easier to do in a wheelchair:

  1. Collect groceries at the grocery store. Yesterday, I found out that being in a wheelchair means I don’t need a cart. I piled up peanut butter, bread, soup, fruit, and a couple of other things on my lap and just rolled around. Also, the grocery store was the first place that I went to where the floors were smooth and flat, and where there were wide open spaces. For someone like me, this meant speed and a quite a lot of fun!
  2. Slow down (this is obvious, but also challenging). My life is not nearly as fast-paced or crazy as it was a little over 6 days ago. I’ve taken a nap with my 4-month old, read a book, and gone to bed early. I also find myself playing on the floor with my boys a lot more than I ever have before.
  3. Work out my arms. My arms feel like they’ve been going through P90X for the last several days! I might have discovered the “10 Day Plan to Stronger Arms.” Instead of watching infomercials and paying for new work-out tools that will collect dust in your closet, go without legs for 10 Days! I think you’ll find yourself with a six-pack and stackedĀ bicepsĀ (results may vary ;)!
  4. Discover my real friends. Let’s face it, having someone with a disability is inconvenient, but my friends have rallied around me. The other day, I rode piggy-back for the first time since I was around 5 years old. They’ve also helped get my chair in and out of the trunk of their cars. Picked me up and dropped me off at my house. And the other day, one of my coworkers even brought me coffee. It’s pretty awesome to know that if I ever had a real problem, I have friends around me who would help.
  5. Connect with people in need. As I have mentioned before, going without shoes, furniture, and media was stretching, but not really that hard. Going without legs, however, has been very difficult. Ever since the day I started this segment, I’ve literally been more aware of the people and needs around me. I would challenge you to look for things or activities that will force you to open your eyes — going without legs worked for me.

So what’s the point? The point is that the first 6 days of 10 Days Without Legs has made me very aware of the difficulties that people affected by disabilities deal with. But it’s also shown me why so many of those same people are full of joy and happiness. Sure, disabilities have their limitations which is part of the definition of a disability — but they also give people the opportunity to view life from a different perspective. And sometimes that’s what each of us need — a new perspective!

If you need a new perspective, click on this link and watch this video about the Dominican Republic. In developing countries, kids need child-sized wheelchairs, but they don’t have access to them. Joni and Friends works with inmates in several prisons to build these wheelchairs for kids around the world. Take 30 minutes this weekend and watch this video, it’s very challenging!

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*picture of me speaking at the event on the third story of a non-handicap-accessible building.

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