I have lost count of times I have been asked “Why are you in a wheelchair?” or “What happened?”
I have at times given an answer that amuses me and is way out there but sometimes I ignore them and sometimes I give a brief explanation, but I have also been asked this at hospital outpatient appointments!
People expect a wheelchair user to be paralysed from the waist down, if you can move your legs or even stand and walk as many can, well then you are labelled as a fraud.
Yes we have all seen the very ‘un’ funny memes of a wheelchair user standing along with captions of ‘It’s a Miracle’ or ‘Welfare Fraud’ and it is vile!
Many, many wheelchair users can stand, can walk but cannot do so for a prolonged period due to pain and or fatigue etc.
So why am I in a wheelchair?
I have had a few health problems but the first was my knees, well it started with one knee.
Way back in the early 90’s I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee as I had torn the cartilage and it needed trimming and washing out and it worked!
Then whilst playing football in an aircraft hangar with a lump of rag wrapped in duct tape, I kicked the floor instead of the ball and … well let’s just say it would now be considered inappropriate language in the workplace.
So it was back again for another arthroscopy and then eventually my left knee came out in sympathy for the right and actually became worse than it’s neighbour and of course arthritis crept in and it was over 10 knee surgeries later when I had a Mosaicplasty or Osteochondrital Graft on the left knee.
I knew it would be hard, I was warned that it would a hard recovery but I either didn’t fully understand or it wasn’t properly explained, because I regret the surgery to this day!
I had spent quite a few years on and off crutches and I got round well on them, it had become the usual.
After the surgery I was in a full leg splint and was not allowed to bend the leg for 4 weeks and no weight bearing for 8 weeks.
After that, recovery started and I was shocked at how weak the leg was, in the gym I had to leave the pin out on the leg extensions as I couldn’t even lift the first weight!
I was working full time at a company called Olympus Keymed and working on recovery. Due to suffering from anxiety I didn’t use the lifts and so I was up and down stairs on crutches but I was managing.
Then it all went wrong!
Management in their wisdom decided to change the layout of some of the work benches and they rushed it.
This meant that they didn’t have time to deal with a steel pipe that stuck two feet out of the floor and so they left it there sticking out the floor in a walkway and with no warning signs or tape.
Yep you guessed it.
I was a few weeks off of crutches and working on the opposite side of the workshop, I was asked to carry out some work in the area where the work benches had been moved and so I started work.
“Has anyone got any heat shrink?” I called out as the work stations hadn’t been restocked properly after the move and a work colleague said yes and I went round to get it.
This time I managed to not fill the air with expletives, but I knew instantly that I had knackered that knee.
So a very short explanation is I complained, they didn’t like it and spent the next couple of months doing what they could to sack me and it impacted my mental health and yes, I was sacked!
So it was more surgery.
I was now having problems with my shoulders and so I started using a wheelchair for when I was out and about.
It was then that I was offered a knee replacement and I immediately said no and I was then referred to a different orthopaedic consultant who also recommended a total knee replacement and I said no.
I ended up saying yes as family were telling me it was the right choice, it could mean that I would be back up and walking unaided and Bert’s next door neighbours friends uncle had one and he is hiking round the world.
Well not quite but you get the idea!
So I went for it and as soon as I was awake after the surgery, I was flexing the leg to try and get out quick and get recovery going and it was working, it was painful as hell but it was working.
My shoulders got worse, my hands were painful and the pain in my leg wasn’t getting any better and so I became more reliant on the wheelchair.
In the end I had to give up on crutches and just use the chair, I had no choice because if I used crutches then my shoulders would flare up and that meant I couldn’t use them and also it was painful propelling the wheelchair.
So I was now a full time wheelchair user.
The pain in my leg got worse and worse, no one could offer an explanation and that surgery was in March 2009 and here we are in 2019 with me in constant pain and unable to walk but I can stand for 30 seconds (ish) on a good day.
So that is why I use a wheelchair!
There are many reasons why somebody has to or chooses to use a wheelchair and doing so actually gives you freedom and I can assure you that they won’t have made the decision lightly.
In hind sight I should have used a wheelchair sooner and I might have saved my shoulders and hands from the damage.
So if you see someone in a wheelchair, don’t ask why!
If you see someone get out of a wheelchair and stand or walk, don’t judge them based on the shit on social media!