Our country's independence was all over the media this weekend, and it led me to think about personal independence. As MS progresses, it goes through phases that challenges that personal independence, possibly making us depend on different mobility aids. Since my MS diagnosis, I have found some paths actually provide experiences of unexpected personal independence.
A problem is that MSers don't want to go from one phase to another. I know I didn't. An independent walker does not want to start using a cane; a cane-walker does not want to start using a walker; someone who uses a walker does not want to start using a wheelchair. New paths have a problem — each new phase seems a step closer to total disability, and that mean dependence on others or on mobility devices to get through the day.
As control of my legs began to wither, I had hand controls put in my car. I could still drive, and I could still get myself to work, to the grocery store, to the doctor's, to see friends and family, to visit museums or anywhere I chose. I would park my scooter on the lift on the back of my car and go out by myself. It was a good feeling.
Then there was another day. It happened to be the day of the MS Walk where I had volunteered. When it was over I began making my way to the parking lot using my walker, slowly, ever so slowly, but I was making progress. My legs were tired, my arms were tired, but I kept going. A young woman stopped me, said she thought she could help, and gave me her business card for Amigo Mobility. I made it to the car, didn't I? I did NOT need a wheelchair.
Then another day sometime later, I was in Wal-Mart, struggling with the walker, and I actually thought I was not going to make it out of the store. So when I finally got home, I made an appointment with Amigo Mobility. Maybe a wheelchair was not such a bad idea after all.
On the day of my appointment, I drove my car up and down the road twice, but could not see the numbers identifying the right address. I was going to have to ask for help. I struggled with my walker to enter a restaurant thinking they would know of nearby businesses. The maitre d' asked if he could help me, and I said, "I'm looking for Amigo."
He had a puzzled expression. "You're looking for a friend?"
Laughing, I said, "I'm looking for Amigo Mobility," and I showed him the address. His directions led me to my first Amigo.
Once at home with my new Amigo, I practiced stopping and starting again, gong turtle speed and rabbit speed, making narrow turns, and avoiding walls and furniture. It was all easy. I was ready for a ride in the neighborhood. Riding my Amigo for the first time on the sidewalk was exhilarating. I went fast enough so my hair was actually blowing in the breeze. It doesn't sound like much, but it felt liberating. I did not struggle, I was not exhausted, I was moving and actually getting somewhere. I was once again in control of my own mobility. I thought this was kind of fun, and I was ready to take my Amigo out beyond my neighborhood and begin new adventures.
Even with my new found mobility, there were times I needed help - as well as a sense of humor. A woman opened the heavy glass door for me at the post office. When we were inside, she commented on my scooter, saying that she is lazy, too. On a hectic Christmas shopping day, a young man stopped to talk to me. He indicated I had it easy. He wished he had a cart because of the long walk he had to make all the way to the end of the mall.
Three young boys selling candy for their school were more interested in my Amigo, and why I got to ride it in the house. One little girl tugged at her dad's sleeve and asked, "Why can't I have one of those?" Children often pointed, smiled, followed me around, and stopped me just to talk. The shy ones just watched, but they were all curious, and they liked what they saw. The more bold ones frequently asked for a ride. The grandchildren all had their turns riding around the house in my lap; this quickly became their own personal amusement park ride.
My Amigo is a hit with me and the kids. I need to tell the maitre d' at that restaurant that I really did find a friend when I found my Amigo. I had resisted using a wheelchair. Like so many other MSers, a wheelchair meant disability.I made the leap, and I wondered why hadn't I done this earlier. I did not feel more disabled. Instead I had re-gained my freedom of movement. The day my wheelchair was delivered was my personal Independence Day.
Published On: July 06, 2010