Me? I’m attempting to go through our journey and countdown 31 things I used to have to do for Danny, that I don’t have to anymore. This exercise has already taken me down roads I haven’t traveled in my mind in quite some time. It has, and will allow me to be reminded just how far we really have come since August 16, 2005.
3. Pushing Danny
‘Pushing Danny’ could be applicable to many different things that I have done and/or still do, but this particular post will focus on wheelchairs.
As I discussed in this post, Danny’s first chair was an Invacare Tilt ‘n Space. Everything was manual. Pushing, tilting, turning and stopping were all decisions we made for Danny. He couldn’t speak or express his desires (until later) so this wheelchair served a simple purpose. It made life easier for us and got Danny out of bed.
When Danny entered Shepherd’s ABI Unit a second time, they tried putting him in a power wheelchair. On one particular visit, the therapists suggested we go for a walk around the hospital to see how Danny could drive. I cut our trip very short, as Danny went full speed straight towards a metal door laughing the whole time. I was glad I was there to stop him, and we quickly decided that a power wheelchair would have to come later down the road.
The manual wheelchair we selected was very basic. The hope was that Danny would be encouraged to push himself around, working his left arm (the slow one) especially. At this point, Danny was heavier than his too lean 158lbs. And, he was vocal.
It was an adjustment for him and for us. The new chair was not as comfortable and could not recline. It didn’t have a headrest and the backrest put a lot of pressure across his back. Danny couldn’t sit forward or lean over his toes to relieve the pressure. And, he made sure we knew about it.
Not only did Danny complain about the chair, he also wanted to be out of the house more so we had to use it more often. Pushing Danny was not easy. The chair weighed about 50lbs. and Danny was close to 250lbs. Inclines were not our friends.
We went to a Brad Paisley concert by ourselves at Philips Arena in Atlanta. We easily parked and unloaded out of the van, but to get inside the arena was my workout for a week. Downhill, further downhill, crossing the street and then back uphill to the doors. Whoa, my calves were burning.
Going out and about in a wheelchair will give you great insight on exactly how in-accessible many places are. We can’t go to several restaurants because the tables are too close together or the tables aren’t high enough for Danny’s knees to fit underneath. Or, there are flower pots, benches or signs placed along the sidewalks and in front of wheelchair ramps. It’s a never ending discovery and don’t even get me started on the abuse of handicap parking spaces.
Anyway, the manual chair didn’t really increase Danny’s independence as much as we’d hoped. If anything, he demanded more attention and assistance from us. As much as we’d hoped it was a good choice, it backfired.
Danny couldn’t get his left arm back far enough to get a good even push, so there was a lot of back and forth movement. He would get his fingers caught in the spokes or smashed on the door frames. We got the backrest changed and this improved his comfort, but the tires were thin which made rough terrain difficult to maneuver.
Let’s add in the baby element. To go out anywhere, just the three of us, was an undertaking. Most of the time, if we went out, it was to eat somewhere. I would put Corbin in Danny’s lap, and would lace Danny’s fingers together for him to hold Corbin safely. At Costco, I would Velcro strap the wheelchair cart to Danny’s chair, put Corbin in his lap and push them all around like a train. We made very wide turns.
It was a whole new world for us when Danny got his power wheelchair. Going to Costco was so much easier! I could actually push a real cart and put Corbin in the child’s seat. Danny was free to try all the samples he wanted.
In the power chair, Danny can go check the mail, or take the dog out all by himself. He goes over to his parents condo and visits with the neighbors. When we go out to eat, he can place himself at the table and now, he can at times, take himself to the bathroom. It’s a whole new world!
I am thankful that we had the manual chairs, but pushing Danny around, with him depending or waiting on us, was burdensome for all of us. The power chair gives us more opportunity to explore other places and do more together as a family. It’s easier and gives us all more freedom.
We still have the manual chair as a back up when the power chair needs service. But, as Danny begins to walk more often and walk with more stability, I’ll be very happy to get rid of that manual chair- through donation or throwing if off a cliff. Either way, I’ll be glad to be rid of it for good.