Using a Wheelchair for the First Time
If you have read this blog recently, you know that I had a major ankle injury this past summer. The only way I could walk for even a few steps the first two months was to use a walker and I'm still recovering several months later (it's now December).
I am to the point where I can walk on level surfaces without too much of an issue. If I'm going places where I don't know what types of surfaces and varying heights I'll be walking on, I wear an ankle brace and take a cane.
But for very long distances, like going to a zoo, I knew a brace with a cane wouldn't cut it. I realized the only way I could get around was to get a wheelchair.
My last blog post discussed the whole process of getting ready for a trip to meet my boyfriend's family, which I knew would involve at least one instance of needing to do lots of walking. This included buying a wheelchair because I knew that I couldn't count on them having one at the place(s) we visited, and even if they did, it might not be a heavy-duty one (which I need because of my weight).
So I ordered it. There was a lot of nervousness surrounding whether it would arrive in time for the trip with all of the delivery delays surrounding a COVID Christmas. I had decided it made more sense to get it delivered to my boyfriend's parents' home in case it arrived after we left. Still, I was very relieved when I got a confirmation that it had been delivered.
But getting it at his parent's house caused a new dilemma... I was nervous about sitting in it for the first time. I knew it had measurements and was supposed to be big enough to fit me - and heavy-duty enough to not bend under my weight - but until I sat in it, I wouldn't know for sure.
I ended up waiting until everyone was asleep to try it out for the first time. I sat in it and was so relieved when I realized it was the size it advertised as well as being very sturdy. Only then was I able to start getting excited about going to the zoo with his family.
The closer I got to actually getting to the zoo, the more nervous I started feeling... again. What would it be like to have to be wheeled around? Would there be places I couldn't get to because they weren't accessible? Would I get judgmental looks because I am so overweight and I "should" be walking?
I'd love to say that when answering those questions, it turned out that there had been nothing to worry about. I can't say that's true. It wasn't fun to be wheeled around (more about that later). Most of the zoo was accessible but there was one place I had to go on a very shaky lift and a couple of other places I had to get out and walk (which was difficult with my ankle). I got looks but I didn't feel a lot of judgment (some, but not a lot).
About being wheeled around... you need to know that this type of wheelchair has small wheels so it fits easier into a car. This meant that when my boyfriend, who is also a photographer, wanted to get a shot of something quickly, he'd park my wheelchair and just leave me there. I was stuck because I can't move it on my own.
Sometimes this meant that I couldn't get the shot I wanted, because I either had to try to get up and walk (which was very difficult) or just miss it and wait for him to come back. It didn't happen much as he takes great care of me, but there were a few times he did this.
I didn't get mad at him; however, I was really mad about the situation. I kept beating myself up for letting this happen. Though the ankle injury wasn't my fault, I felt that if I was a typical size, I'd be fully recovered by now.
When I can step back (pun intended) and analyze my feelings, I know that even incredibly fit athletes have injuries where they have to be in a wheelchair for a time. I know that I'm a food addict and didn't realize this for 50 of my 52 years on earth. I know that I have other medical conditions that contributed both to my injury and my weight. But at the zoo, I continued to beat myself up.
On the other hand, it was nice to be able to get around the zoo without worrying about whether I'd be able to walk the next day due to straining my ankle. It's also a relief to know that if my ankle gets worse or something comes up where I normally would have to do a lot of walking, I have a way to get around.
My hope is that when I get home from this trip, I'll be able to store the wheelchair and not need it for a very long time, if ever. But it is nice to know that I have it if I need it. So I'm thankful for my wheelchair, even though it would be so much better to not need it at all.