Before my car wreck and resultant SCI (C5/6/7 incomplete), I was a tomboy reared on a farm. I grew up to be a beauty pageant winner, a photographer’s model, and a natural athlete. Now, I have been tutored by 40 years of disability, living my life triumphantly from my chariot, i.e. wheelchair.
Any damage to the cervical (neck) vertebrae classifies one as a quadriplegic, tetraplegic in England. Quadriplegia is as un-categorical as any nerve damage can be. On a continuum of least to worst affected, there are walking quads (who still suffer unrecognizable side affects) to the Christopher Reeve’s totally paralyzed, without sensation, and on oxygen. In between, there is every combination.
I’m labeled a ‘super quad,’ meaning: I have movement and sensation that I shouldn’t have. (Although, to the unknowing onlooker, I appear to be a paraplegic because I don’t use a power chair or have a PA (personal attendant) accompanying me.) When an athlete or the average Joe injures a tendon, ligament or muscle, they proclaim a sabbatical from their normal routine. I am focusing on my muscles returning from extended leave.
During my chariot ride, I have worked as a speech pathologist with special children, a counselor, interior designer, a critical thinker (problem solver, not being critical), and have run several small business ventures. A few times, I have been knocked into neutral by wear-and-tear of disability and divorce, but I always shifted back into gear, at break-neck speed.
For some of you, that’s probably not funny because that’s what I did—broke my neck—but it made me giggle as I typed it. In fact, I was making a phone call a while back checking on something, maybe accessibility. My sister was with me. Midway through my conversation with whomever I was speaking, Candace reminded me, like a backseat driver, to offer that I was handicapped.
As I began to explain that I was disabled, my sister and I broke into hysterical laughter. The harder we tried to regain appropriate solemnity, the more boisterous we became. Finally, I just hung up. Neither of us could compose ourselves enough to explain.
I’m sure they thought it was some sick prank, totally disrespectful of the disabled plight. What can I say? That’s how I roll.
Besides my sister, here are some of my favorite things:
Music inspires me. I enjoy most genres from Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood, Adelle, Sade, Walela, Delirious, yada, yada. Carmen’s “Champion” is my favorite Easter song; for Christmas Michael English’s “Mary, did you know?” and, in general, the Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman”—a VERY old oldie. I even have music in Latin, Italian, Spanish, and Cherokee. I love music!
Nature woos me. I’m in awe of her cooperative communication—like a school of fish changing direction in a split-second (I used to scuba dive.) and a flight of birds swooping in a 180° turn in unison—azure skies, full moons, and shooting stars.
Among others are: cashmere sweaters, scarves, and barefoot sandals; breakfast, spicy Indian food, and mahimahi; the exuberance of orange, and the peacefulness of white; late winter daffodils, bright Gerber daisies, and red poppies; ancient Asian peonies, graceful crepe myrtles, and their leaping lizards (which will make sense when you read Views From My Chariot); a tugboat’s baritone horn in the night, a train’s distant whistle, soothing wind chimes, and a child’s voice; movies, movies, and more movies; cats, cats, and cats (I have three, and I’ll be posting some of their antics.); a good book, and time to read it; a wise oxymoron (Are you thinking I’m clearly confused?); a smart joke, a fun game with friends, and laughter; champagne, dry red wine, Glenlivet Scotch, Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Sauza Gold Tequila; coffee (coffee candy, coffee yogurt, Tiramisu, anything coffee), and espresso.
I’ve been tediously repetitious with things that I love, but life is good! If you think about it, all of the above are simple sensory delights available to the able and the disabled alike. And now, like any of you, after my coffee’s adrenalin surge, I am exceedingly alert with dilated arteries and accelerated blood flow. I think I’ll go run it off.
Uh-oh, I can’t run.