A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE

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A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE

What would cause such a drastic change in a person’s life?   Are there resources that might be of value as a result? What about daily activities and getting around? Do special adaptations need to be considered and put in to place?   Was the person born with the disability or did it happen later on in life?

In every life we all can be expected to make changes, but not one we should take lightly.   I am speaking from personal experience, since recently had a lengthy hospital stay due to a serious infection in my leg and ultimately had to have it amputated below the knee. This has not been an easy transition for someone who has always been independent, involved and active.   And to have some of that independence taken away, has been an unkind cut. I have adapted many of my “normal” routine to fit my new normal, and am making it work, but I still have a way to go on other facets which will take time.   It also has been an eye-opening experience to see how people react when they see someone in a wheelchair it can range from being treated as if you are invisible to being very helpful whether or not you get stuck, drop something and are unable to pick it up, but big things I have found are holding doors open for you so that you can maneuver much easier coming or going to even offering to give you a push (if you’re in a wheelchair). It’s a blessing to know there are still some nice and caring people out there that are willing to help if they can.

One of the things I find particularly disturbing is that while being put in touch with various government and private entities that are geared to assist people with disabilities, I am either being referred elsewhere to try to get some help or being turned away/turned down. Even applying for “disability benefits” through Social Security, only to be turned away , with the excuse being that they don’t see it as I have a disability and am still able to work (or similar termed reason).   And I am going another route in an effort to get some help.   America must learn all these problems that I and others that are similarly situated face daily, and that as every day passes day a woman like myself alone, who is not helped by anyone, that the state does not help, that health care does not help those who need to be helped in all the days being followed in a path of healing and that it is that not simple as it sounds.   It is disconcerting that all the money that is funneled into health care and via PACS to politicians and the powers that be in government to gain influence and the people that really need help end up getting ignored, brushed aside or worse.     I sometimes wonder how and why some people are able to get help while there are others who go through all the proper channels and provide all items necessary still can’t get very far. And they struggle, end out on the street, in shelters or possibly worse.

I have also been thrown out of work and now do not have a pension or annuity that is paid to me (as they say here in America that would bring money in) but no one can live alone and with no help now and having this disability due to the amputation of a leg, and I worry about the fact that have to pay rent, I need help from someone to help me push the wheelchair when necessary, someone to help me get to and from the grocery store and other errands that need to be done. And how I am going to get this all done and still try to retain my self-confidence, my independence and………

While I feel that I may still be able to hold down a job and be a productive member of society as well as making an important contribution somewhere, it still hurts to know that there are those that are not willing to take a chance.   Look at the strides that many athletes, wounded soldiers and many other similarly affected peoples around the world have made while being minus a limb or limbs.

People with disabilities live in a world designed primarily for the able-bodied. People with disabilities want to live life no differently than anyone else. They want to be able to go shopping, go to the movies, go out to eat, work, and enjoy life, fully realizing that must be done within the boundaries of their limitations.

Accepting disability and redefining life within the limitations imposed by disease is the biggest hurdle for people with disabilities. There are harsh realities. Expensive equipment and medications may be required. Mobility scooters, adapted vans, voice-recognition software, orthotics, medical treatment, and myriad types of assistive equipment improve daily living for people with disabilities but it all comes at a price.

Adapt and adjust becomes the mantra of a person living with a disability.

There are experiences some able-bodied people may take for granted which people with disabilities must forgo. Disabled people may miss out on: (1) the joy of rough-housing with children; (2) possibly playing competitive sports; (3) traveling and (4) long road-trips (personally I don’t think this is the case). I, for one, am not going to let having an amputation and a prosthetic device stop me from things that I have always enjoyed.

Crowded events can become daunting, and some social situations may become uncomfortable for many people.

What can be more frustrating than harsh realities are subtle realities for people with disabilities? Living with a disability is difficult enough but can sting even more when there are people disabled person encounters are: (1) impatient; (2) rude; (3) insensitive; (4) inconsiderate; (5) pessimistic and (6) unhelpful.

What you can control, whether you are able-bodied or disabled, is yourself. All humans face challenges, it’s just that people with disabilities face different challenges. You will not rid the world of impatient, rude, insensitive people, but you can control how you react to them. (a) Impatient people cause you to be more patient; (b) Insensitive people cause you to be more sensitive; and (c) Negative people cause you to react with positivity.

For each negative person you encounter, you have many more positive encounters. Surround yourself with people, things, and experiences which make you feel good and do well.

It does matter how the able-bodied and those with a disability relate and interact with each other. I see more and more of it on a daily basis especially now that I have certain limitations as a result of the amputation. I will be getting a prosthetic limb, in the course of the next several months. And I need to relearn how to put weight on that limb, learn how to walk with the limb and so much more. I am up to the challenge. But I am not going to let much deter me, when I need help with something I will ask, and trust that my request will be received positively. I am determined to keep my life as normal as possible and keep growing and challenging myself on a regular basis.   Being positive and offering encouragement helps the person with a disability more than one can realize and helps in boosting up their confidence and self-esteem.

The most important lesson that must be realized and learned is never to take anything for granted in life; it can be snatched away in an instant. I could choose to be bitter and upset by what has happened to me and wallow in self-pity, but I do not.   I am determined and staying positive to overcome this loss and move forward and upward.   It’s also given me an invaluable insight in to a new part of what my life will be and work closer with others to teach them new things as well where people with handicaps are concerned. And possibly be a source of inspiration to someone along the way.

Kathy Kiefer

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