Why I Still Don't Want You Dissing My Wheelchair When I'm No Longer Using It
Two and a half months ago, I had my hips replaced, and for the first time in two years, I am comfortably walking without pain. Before my surgery, I used my scooter or wheelchair most of the time to get around. Now that I’m traveling on legs rather than wheels, people make a lot of assumptions about my attitude towards my wheelchair. Don’t get me wrong, I love my new hips. Simple tasks like cooking, doing dishes, laundry and driving are so much easier without chronic pain. I have more energy and don’t have to worry as much about if I’m going to run out of spoons. I no longer have to deal with obnoxious side-effects of pain medication. And it feels good to walk, to push my body and discover its new limits; after all, I’m an athlete. But I still don’t want you dissing my wheelchair.
When people make comments like “Wow, you’re not in a wheelchair anymore!” I feel it assumes that there are two categories of people: those “in” wheelchairs and those who walk. The reality is that many people, myself included, have different modes of mobility depending on what they’re doing, where they’re going and how they’re feeling. No, I no longer use my wheelchair on a lunch date, but I still use my scooter for long distances. I didn’t magically go from “in a wheelchair” to “never using wheels again,” and I have no plans on getting rid of my wheels. My hips may be shiny and new, but I still have other orthopedic concerns and will need to use different mobility aids at different points in my life.
And more importantly, I’m the exact same person I was three months ago. I have the same personality, the same interests, the same friends. Yes, my mobility has changed, and this has given me a sense of freedom that I am incredibly grateful for. But my life is no more valuable now than it was three months ago.
As someone who’s used a wheelchair often, I know something that most of the world may not get — walking isn’t that important for living. Yes, it makes things easier, and yes, adjusting to not walking is difficult. But having a full human experience — one of love, of friendship, of trying to find your place and make a mark on this world, is not contingent on being able to walk. Negative comments about my wheelchair can enforce the idea that a life on legs is better than a life on wheels, and this is just not true. Our physical, mental and intellectual abilities don’t make us human; our hearts do.
So yes, I’m happy to be walking; I’m thrilled to not be in pain. But when I see my wheelchair, I don’t see tragedy or hardship; I see a device that enabled me to live and thrive no matter what was going on in my body, and for that I am grateful.
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