Written by: Dominick at 12:24 am
This week has been a fluster of activity, and throughout it all, I’ve been asked multiple times, the same question over and over.
“Were you in a car accident…?”
I understand I am not spastic. Yes, my legs do bend kind of funny, but for the most part, I am not too contorted. For all intents and purposes, I look like the “normal” guy who just happens to be in a wheelchair. Still, I just so happen to have a muscle disease. I was born with a disability, and let’s face it, crips from birth are not treated the same as those who become crips later in life. I love to see the look of shock on people’s faces when I say that, “No, I was not in a car accident.” If I offer no further details they look absolutely perplexed. If I say I have a muscle disease, I always always ALWAYS get, “Oh, you mean like MS?” Do not get me started on the amount of people who mix up MS and MD because that’s one pet peeve I don’t want to get stuck on ranting about.
Needless to say, the first experience I had concerning my “car accident” happened this weekend while I was in the hospital. I have a stent in (kidney stones) and the doctor was supposed to remove it. He found more stones, so he replaced my old stent with a new one. We’ll be repeating this process sometime next week in the hope that we can finally remove the stent (here’s hoping because I am tired of feeling like I constantly have to urinate every few seconds). While I was being prepped the anesthesiologist tried to convince me I could wiggle myself from one table to the other. Not going to happen. I cannot even roll over in bed without help.
Overhearing the conversation, a nurse or nurse’s aide, or someone who Ashtyn swears looked like a drag queen (the events of the day are hazy, for me, so I am having trouble remembering what anyone looks like, including my surgeon, who I’ve seen a few times) felt the need to whisper with Ash, about me, like I wasn’t even there. It’s not like I’m shocked, because this is really common. People talk over me all the time. They ask her questions about me, as if I am too stupid to answer. Of course, the woman’s questions didn’t help.
She asked Ashtyn if I could move, at all. Ash told her, “Not enough to help.”
She then whispered, “Car Accident…?”
Ash said, “No…”
The woman wanted to know more, but Ash didn’t provide her with more information.
That brings me to today. I was on the bus, riding downtown, to go to the movie theater. There was a special event happening, and some of the members of my film class were there. The number 17 was packed, by the time I got on, even though it had just left the South Hub and the mall (it is typically full when heading into Dayton, not prior to the city).
As I got on the bus, a woman who was sitting with her friend pointed out how “nifty” my super long joystick was. She kept bringing it up. I told her thanks and explained it was because I could not reach the button, otherwise. She marveled about it and then spoke about how a relative had a scooter-chair (which is nothing like a wheelchair). She told me how expensive it was for parts and then asked if I knew anywhere to get the parts for cheap. After telling her my wheelchair cost close to $30K (she was dumbfounded), I thought I had gotten her to stop talking to me…but NO! The conversation continued onward, with her then leaning over, pseudo-whispering…”I don’t mean to pry, but…car accident?”
Mind you, the woman is somewhere behind me. I’m talking blindly to her. The bus is full and I was in a sour mood, anyway. I would have liked to say something snarky, but all I said was, “Nope…muscle disease.”
This got the token, “Oh…you mean like MS?”
I replied, “No, like Muscular Dystrophy.”
From there, she proceeded to inform me she had neuropathy thanks to diabetes and how hard her life has been and the pain she has endured since her diagnosis. I would have pitied her but she just wouldn’t shut up and continued to try and talk to me. Let me just say, I’ve never been more grateful to see a group of Muslims because as they boarded the bus, she proceeded to grill them about their head scarfs, their marriage traditions and why they were wearing blue jeans. Best part was when they got off and she asked her friend, “They believe in Buddha, right?” (Her friend couldn’t answer, mind you…)
This brings me to the point of my post. Why is it acceptable to assume that the only reason people are in wheelchairs and are still able to function is because they were not born this way? I think society, on the whole, tends to see people “born this way” as less. We need to get past this idea that people in wheelchairs must be otherwise normal if they act otherwise normal. We’re really just like everyone else; the good and the bad. Even if we don’t look “normal” we still can function and many of us have a lot more to offer than just your average person.
So, the next time you feel compelled to ask if someone has been in a car accident, why not ask, instead, about their unique abilities. Many of us have pretty cool crip powers, so we may just share how we got them, in the first place.