Earlier this year I took my wheelchair for mechanical servicing and I had to transfer to another seat for the mechanic to comfortably work on the motor. Anyone that uses a wheelchair every day will tell you that it is the most comfy place to sit. You can have a fancy sofa, but your wheelchair is always where your preference lies. I transferred to a plastic chair because it would have been unreasonable for me not to. Seated on an ordinary chair outside a busy area, people did not have any reason to think I had any disability. To the outside eye, I was just another guy with very tight jeans sitting on a plastic chair.
As I waited, the mechanics handed me an old issue of the “True Love” magazine to keep me occupied. This was kind as it was odd. The garage was the last place I would have expected to find a lifestyle magazine. I took it only because I couldn’t refuse it fast enough. I don’t like magazines, books, newspapers or anything that requires me to flip pages. I have no movement in my fingers, and the last two in both hands have no sensation. Flipping pages might seem like the easiest, most effortless thing in the world but it’s tedious and stressful for me and the others who have experienced severe spinal injuries.
In my attempt to hold the magazine and try to go through its contents as naturally as I could, it slipped through my flaccid fingers and fell to the ground. Luckily, a young lady was approaching where I was, so I asked her to pick up the magazine for me. At that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me how the situation looked in her eyes. To her, a perfectly healthy young man was asking her to do something that most seemingly healthy people don’t need assistance with. So, she grimaced like a displeased Nigerian woman on Afro cinema and walked away.
“Please!!”, I said, trying to raise my voice, at the same time trying not to attract any attention. She turned and looked at me, I could tell that she had intended to counter my niceties with brutal sternness, but her countenance changed completely when she saw my hands. Besides my wheelchair, they are the only physical Indication that I might have a disability. They are thin, bony and fingers are positioned in an unnatural way. She was apologetic but I told her that it was okay, that I hadn’t taken offence.
It’s difficult to understand something you do not know about. That’s why I am here to raise awareness and try to paint a picture of how our lives look like.
The actual reality of paralysis is only evident behind the scenes. When we can’t bathe ourselves, eat without assistance, transfer from one position to the other, the real picture lies behind closed doors.
I have no sensation anywhere below my chest; specifically, I don’t feel my nipples and anything that comes after. Essentially, all I have is my shoulders, Parts of my hands, neck and head. In the beginning, I felt like my body had turned into a block of stone. I was used to moving any part of my body at will but within seconds everything had gone dark.
Without sensation, I can easily injure myself without knowing it. It happens to all of us who are paralyzed. Because the spinal cord has been interfered with, information about pain and discomfort doesn’t run as smoothly as it should. People sit too close to a fire and roast their feet without knowing. I have burnt my fingers severally after holding a cup of hot tea for too long.
It does something to your mind; knowing that something bad could happen to you without you even knowing it. A few months ago, I was seated on my shower chair naked as the way I was born. I was positioned right under the shower, as the water hit my legs and lower body, I didn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t tell if the water was hot or cold, I just sat there and hoped that it was warm. It is the weirdest thing, seeing the water fall on your body but not feeling wetness or the temperature.
Paralysis for me means three things; the body that works, the one that does not work and the body that everyone else sees. The body that works is the part that I can feel and still have control over. The other part exists far away from my jurisdiction. If my bladder decides to let loose right now, it will, and I will have no say about it. The body that everyone sees is a healthy one, its biggest problem, not being able to walk. From Stairs To Ramps: Fleeting Relationships