When I Realized a Wheelchair Doesn't Mean 'Giving Up'


Yesterday I ordered a wheelchair.

This was a huge step for me, because my whole life I’ve been stubborn. I have been told I was unable to do something because of my disability so often that my personal motto became “Succeed Out of Spite!” just to prove them wrong. I felt I could do anything anyone else can, and I was determined to do it even if it was deemed unsafe for me.

Nine times out of 10, this works to my advantage and I succeed out of spite. The other time, though, it ends in complete disaster. It’s always the same — there’s a large group of people who don’t know me, there’s a lot of walking in an area I don’t know well, and I get left behind. And the scale of it is getting bigger and bigger. It’s no longer my elementary school class leaving me behind on a walk around the neighborhood, it’s a French Immersion group leaving me behind in a city I don’t know because they didn’t know what the words “spinal cord injury” meant. As my adventures get bigger, potential disasters get bigger too.

When the idea of me getting a wheelchair first surfaced, I felt I was giving in to my disability. I felt I was letting it win and I was no longer “succeeding out of spite.” So I was reluctantly looking at wheelchairs. I looked at cheaper ones that would serve the purpose but not much else. Then one day I walked into a store that specifies in wheelchairs, and in high tech, nice chairs. I was looking around, not too invested in the chairs and secretly hoping something would change so I wouldn’t need one, and then my dad made me sit in a light sporty wheelchair.

Between when I sat down in the chair and when I wheeled myself to the other end of the store (it was more like a small warehouse), my whole perception had changed. I had never gone that fast in my life. I suddenly saw a type of freedom that my legs don’t give me. I thought I might be able to limit the size of the disasters that tend to fall on me. I thought for once I’d be able to keep up with my friends and family without asking them to slow down.

I’m now excited for my chair. I’m starting to see a type of freedom I never had before. I’m still stubborn, and trust me I’ll still cause a disaster by refusing to admit my limits, but now I can do it a little faster than I did before. And I can keep my spoons!

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Spinal Cord Injury

Beth on the subway.

My Daughter's 'Summer of Serendipity' After a Spinal Cord Injury

My daughter Beth was 17 years old at the end of her junior year of high school. Three years had passed since her spinal cord injury (C6-7) in May of 2000. The direction of her life was about to change — again. She led and I followed. First finals and first Paralympic American Record: During therapy [...]
Businesswoman sitting in a wheelchair working on a laptop in the office.

Why We Must 'Be Fearless' as Disabled People Searching for Employment

I grew up in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia, where there was one disabled accessible railway station a 25 minute drive up the highway and there weren’t any accessible buses. Or even regular buses. My parents trudged up and down the Mountains to look for a primary school suitable for me to [...]
Beth at her high school graduation.

When I Worried About My Daughter's Future With a Spinal Cord Injury

In May of 2000, my 14-year-old daughter looked forward to making the volleyball team at her new school. Instead, Beth would begin her freshman year with a C6-7 spinal cord injury, the result of a car accident near our hometown in Ohio. I worried endlessly about school and her future. “You don’t really have time [...]
Beth swimming.

How Being a Paralympic Athlete Changed My Daughter's Life

“When I began water therapy,” said Beth, “no one expected me to ever move in the water without someone holding me up.” My youngest child was paralyzed in a car accident near our hometown in Ohio. We became a team. In the rehab pool for physical therapy, Beth, 14 years old and a new quadriplegic, [...]