h is for handicapped

I wanted to move from patient to person. Each day was laid out for me. Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, meals and rest were scheduled. Structuring my days was bringing some evenness to my life. However, I missed having a life of my own, one where I wasn’t accountable to a team of people.

Towards the end of my time at the burn unit I began to help with my dressing changes. Before the nurse came in (my army of nurses was reduced to one) I unwound the gauze from my arms. It wasn’t so much that I was being helpful, but exercising my will. Decisions had been made for my benefit since my arrival. These decisions saved my life, so I wasn’t arguing. Being a patient was like being a child, though. Lying on your back every day, rails on either side of you, dependent, your brain gets soft. I unwound that gauze, needing to wean myself from constant care.

At GF Strong there was more opportunity to be self-sufficient, to work my way towards independence. But I was moved from one set of arms to another and decisions continued to be made for me.

I was in a meeting with my prosthetist, an occupational therapist, a social worker, and I think my mom was there. It was a meeting to discuss reintegrating me into the world. What were the necessary steps to get me out there and on my own?

I don’t think anyone intended for me to be excluded, but somewhere along the way I was forgotten. She needs, she wants, she should. I let the conversation wash over me. They were discussing my ability to get around in the future.

“Perhaps it’s best for her to have a scooter.”

“Heidi isn’t able to walk as much as we’d hoped, so…”

“She’ll need a large enough van to accommodate a wheelchair or a scooter.”

I didn’t speak up. I don’t know why I didn’t say anything. When I left the meeting I was signed up for lessons on using hand controls for the new van I’d be getting.

My brain was soft.

When did I become paraplegic? Hand controls made sense for people that couldn’t feel their legs. When did I turn eighty and need a scooter? They may as well have put an orange vest on me, attached bells, and slapped a sign on my chest that said, I’m Handicapped.

A week later, I finished the first forty-five minute lesson for my reintroduction to driving. As I waited for the handydart (the bus for the disabled) to come get me I made the decision to drive again, on my own terms. I’d already taken Drivers Ed when I was sixteen and I wasn’t about to torture myself with that again. Scooters and vans and what I couldn’t do be damned. I was a grown-up and knew how to say no.

I never returned for a second lesson.

5 thoughts on “h is for handicapped

  1. IntenseGuy

    Ah, now that was one way to reassert yourself! I’m not surprised it was such a gutsy move on your part given what I know of you. As you’ve seen from what ToriZ does (every time I think she’s done something incredible, like take photographs of birds, she says, “nah, it’s nothing”), some people almost seem to embrace the challenge of doing things – hard things – because it … reinforces their sense of self.

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