There are certain inarguable truths in life. Everyday the sun rises, everyday the sun sets, dogs will run into the road and in the life of a wheelchair-user, there are a handful of inexplicable truths we experience too.
Some of them are amusing. Most are critical to our long-term survival. But one thing is for sure, we all eventually experience them. What wheelchair truths do you live by? Check out my top 10 below.
1) You will have difficult days.
While many of us put on a happy front, behind closed doors we are all prone to those dark, desolate moments where we can’t believe we use a wheelchair. These moments will hit you at weird times too and can be overpowering, like deja vu. The important thing to remember is that it’s normal when they do happen. You don’t need to run away from them either. They are profound learning experiences and can be overcome. Always remember tomorrow will be better.
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2) If you fly, your wheelchair will (eventually) get damaged.
Airline luggage handlers are infamous for their unsavory handling of luggage, and this unfortunately has crossed over into the wheelchair world. With wheelchairs costing $5,000 and up, having your wheelchair damaged while flying is no small matter, but it will happen, mark my words. Most wheelchair-users reports their wheelchair damaged about every other time they fly.
To prevent this, cover your wheelchair in a black plastic tarp and tape a sign on it that reads, “Fragile. Handle with care.” This will at the very least alert the luggage handlers to your wheelchair and hopefully prompt them to be careful with it.
3) Comfy seating is worth more than gold.
When you’re sitting all day, what you’re sitting on and leaning against are important. Your seat and backrest are without question the most important furniture you own. You may not look at it that way, but it really is. As you sit, the pressure you exert on your seat and backrest can directly influence your muscles and bones, causing pain by the end of the day.
I recommend getting custom seating (available at most a rehab hospitals), but companies such as Roho and Jay that make standard seating for wheelchairs are also highly recommended by many wheelchair-users.
4) People will be uncomfortable around you.
Maybe it’ll be your coworkers, your boyfriend’s siblings, or maybe it’ll be a friend of a friend, whoever it is, don’t take it personally. I know that’s easy to say, but not everyone will be uncomfortable around you and they will be high in number too. Ignorance is nothing you want in a friend.
5) Your wheelchair will break at the most inopportune time.
Whether it’s on the weekend, a holiday or on vacation, your wheelchair will break during one of these moments. It can be incredibly hard not to let a broken wheelchair ruin your day since after all it is your legs, but if you can master it, you’re on your way to becoming one of the most patient people in the world.
And don’t forget – always have your wheelchair repair shop’s number in your phone.
6) Suddenly, your wheelchair will seem ridiculously dirty.
Maybe this is just me, but every couple of months or so I will get a good look at my wheelchair and realize it’s disgustingly dirty. “How in the world can it get so dirty and so quick?” I always chalk it up to life being dirtier than expected. This is true, but I swear all wheelchairs have some kind of built-in dirt attracting mechanism in them.
To avoid this sudden feeling of disgust, make a point to wipe off your chair with cleaner every other day and more if the weather outside is crazy.
7) Always have a backup manual wheelchair.
Kind of like an emergency kit in your car, having a backup manual wheelchair is paramount if you use a wheelchair. You don’t want to be stuck without any mode of transportation if your wheelchair breaks. That’s like having your legs tied underneath you as an able-bodied person. Completely unacceptable. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on your backup chair either. In fact, you may be able to score a used manual wheelchair on eBay or Craigslist.
8) Get your cardio.
When you use a wheelchair, you’re prone to a lifestyle that doesn’t have high levels of cardio. If you use a manual wheelchair, forget what I just said, but it you use a powerchair, keep on reading. You need to make sure you get your cardio anyway you can. Your heart deserves to be healthy too. Whether it’s using an armbike, wheelchair aerobics, Zumba or wheelchair boxing, there are several ways to get your cardio.
Trying doing any kind of cardio three times a week in 30 to 45 minute intervals to keep your heart at optimum health.
9) Preserve your joints.
When you rely on your upper-body for most things, those joints up top – I’m talking about your shoulders, elbows, wrists and even your neck – are all prone to being overused, and when they become this way, you’re never getting them back. The best thing you can do is to use your joints in moderation if at all possible.
At the very least, give your arms TLC – massage, hot packs, a hot soak in a tub – on a weekly basis.
10) Stretch and stretch often.
When you sit all day, there’s one thing that will happen no matter who you are, and that is muscle tightness from the lack of movement. Even if you can’t feel the tight muscles, they’re there. Having any kind of tight muscle can throw you off your game, from your balance to your arm strength, which is why stretching every morning and night is a must.
Create your own kind of daily stretching regimen. If you have a caregiver, it’s a bit easier to do this, but even if you don’t have a caregiver, don’t think that means you shouldn’t reach out for help. From a family member to a significant other, ask whomever you’re closest to help stretch your legs, stomach and back periodically.
So there you have it, my top wheelchair truths. In a way, it would’ve been nice to have had a life without disability. It certainly would’ve been easier, mentally, socially and physically, but I don’t believe life is all about being easy. Life is about being strong when tested and most wheelchair-users have this in spades.
Which wheelchair truths did we miss?