Last week we held Inspire!Vermont and it was an amazing evening! It was a great group of people in the room, a lot of people we know and many new faces. For the presentation we did something a little bit different. Normally I prepare something to say, but this time we had people submit questions and I answered 5 of them, picked at random. It was really fun for me (and actually easier because I didn’t have to prepare a speech!) and I hope others found it interesting. Since we only did 5 at the event I thought I would answer the rest of them here. I’ve also added in a few that I answered at Inspire!Vermont for people who weren’t there.
While this was an event idea, I hope everyone feels comfortable asking me questions about my injury, my life today, or anything! I often say I love working with kids (as a pediatric practitioner) because they don’t have a filter. The questions are so honest and the responses genuine. I’m happy to do it.
What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked about being in a wheelchair?
Being a pediatric nurse practitioner I am around kids a lot and they often have funny questions or perceptions about my chair. After the initial “Why are you in a wheelchair” question that I get from them, the next most common is, “How do you sleep?”. At first I was confused by this question, but then I realized the kids thought that since I’m paralyzed that means I can’t move so I must stay in my chair all the time and how is it that I sleep in my chair. It was pretty funny to come to this realization the first time I got this question and then explain to them that I don’t have to stay in my chair all the time and I can get into a bed.
What do you do when you are invited somewhere by a friend that you know isn’t wheelchair friendly?
It depends on the situation. If I’m going with Zeke or one of my family members and it’s just a few steps, I just go and don’t worry about it. Getting up or down 3-4 steps is no big deal for me when I’m with one of them, they are able to easily help me up and down the steps. If I’m not going with one of them it depends on how comfortable I am with the friends I’m going with, I sometimes will ask two of them to help me, I can explain to them what to do and my friends have always been more than happy to help. If I’m going somewhere that is really not accessible (like a couple flights of stairs) I have to talk and think about it a little bit more. With Zeke or my family they can carry me up or down (my sister piggy backs me!) if it’s something I really want to do. I almost always try to find a way to make something work, and it almost always does!
Do you get mad when people use the handicap restroom/parking spaces?
I will answer this in two ways. Yes, I get mad when someone uses a handicap parking space and they are clearly not handicapped. That said, there are many disabilities that you can’t see outright (prosthetic leg under pants, etc.) and it’s always possible the person who is parking is picking someone up who really needs the spot. Because of this I very rarely say anything, but I do get frustrated with the broad use of the handicap spots.
One thing that people don’t always know is that I don’t care about the proximity of the parking spots to the building (though I know this is important for some people who need them), I care about the extra space on the sides of the parking spot so I can open my door all the way to get in and out of the car with my chair. I get REALLY frustrated when people park in that reserved space.
For the accessible restroom I care a bit less. I know that there are limited stalls and if that one is open it is fine for anyone to use if all the others are full. If there are other stalls available I would prefer that people use the others before they use the accessible stall. When there is a long line for the bathroom, I always appreciate it when people let me cut the line to use the accessible stall once it is available – this doesn’t always happen (and I usually just wait in line) but when it does I always really appreciate it.
Who was your biggest inspiration during rehab right after your injury?
There was a woman named Sarah Will who is a paraplegic who came to visit me a few times after my injury. She has won something like 12 paralympic gold medals in ski racing. But beyond that she was just a normal woman living in a wheelchair. One time when she came to visit she showed me how she drove and got in and out of her car. She is probably 5’2″ and 90 pounds and she drives a Ford F-150 truck. She showed me how she hoisted herself and then her chair into this huge truck,and I began to be able to envision what my life could look like. It was great to have a roll model like that.
Did childbirth hurt? (We got 2 variations of this question)
No! When I say I have no feeling below my level of injury I mean it. I didn’t feel it at all! There are definitely some perks to this injury and that is one of them! Towards the end of my labor and delivery (the last hour or so) I would get a really bad headache with each contraction that would go away between contractions, but that was the only pain.
When you dream are in standing or in a wheelchair?
Both! (I answered this question at Inspire!Vermont and I love it!) It is completely random and varies whether I’m in a chair or standing in my dreams. Regardless of which one it is, it’s never a big deal or a part of my dream really, it just is what it is. A few times I’ve had a dream that if I try really hard I can walk. I always think, wow this is so cool, I just have to try really, really hard! It doesn’t work like that in real life!
What has been the biggest challenge of motherhood?
Stay tuned, I’ll answer this in one of my next few blogs!
Does Zeke micromanage at home as much as he does in the office?
(Do you actually want me to answer this??) Ha, I think he would say I micromanage him![EDITOR’S NOTE – I thought we made a pretty strict no staff questions rule…..]
Do you like older guys?
(What….?!) Well Zeke is older than me so I guess I do.