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4 Reasons Not to Ask ‘What Happened?’ Because I’m Using Crutches to Walk

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I have cerebral palsy (CP) and recently had a baclofen pump placed last July. I currently use crutches to walk and wear an abdominal binder brace. The brace is due to my most recent surgery and isn’t something I’ll wear forever. It’s just until I heal. I’m currently walking slower due to the surgery as well, which leads me to this story:

My brother and I were leaving our small town Dairy Queen when a middle-aged man approached and insisted he hold both doors for me. I appreciated the gesture, but here’s where things went wrong:

Man: “What happened to her?” (Looks at my brother.)

My brother: He doesn’t speak and looks at me.

Me: “I had surgery.” (It was easier to say this instead of explaining CP and then the surgery.)

Man: (Looks at my brother.) “I’ll pray for her.”

First, thank your for your prayers, sir. Second, does anyone else see the problem? No? Here, I’ll help.

1. Nothing has “happened” to me.

Honestly, nothing has. I was born with CP, it didn’t just happen. Second, you’re assuming something has happened because I’m not walking or moving in a “normal” way according to society. Stop. 


2. It’s really none of your business.

I’m not trying to be rude, but it’s true. I don’t feel like I should have to explain to a stranger what I deal with as far as my health is concerned. I don’t ask people why they wear glasses; I assume they need them and move on. You don’t get to know. My family and friends know. Just as I don’t know about your personal health, you don’t get to know mine.

3. It’s rude.

What if I went through a traumatic accident and didn’t want to talk about it? Or what if I only had a couple of weeks to live? I can assure you I wouldn’t want to answer your question then.

4. My crutches don’t make me deaf or nonverbal.

Come on society, why are we still assuming that people with disabilities can’t do things? Direct your question at me if you have to know “what happened.” Speak to me. Yes, I realize there are people who can’t answer for themselves, but don’t assume that right away. Give them a chance. Acknowledge me as a human being if you’re going to question my ability status.

OK, I’m aware some people are curious or aren’t sure what to say. But that doesn’t make it OK for you to ask. But if you do feel the need to ask, it’s still better to stick with “What happened?” rather than “What’s wrong?” When people ask the latter, it really stirs up a fire.

Follow this journey on Simply Complicated Megs.

Originally published: September 23, 2015
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