Monday, December 19, 2016

The Nightmare Before Christmas: ESCALATORS and My Terrifying Weekend Experience

Story time!!! This past weekend, my brother, my mom, and I went on our annual excursion to the mall to finish up our Christmas shopping (or...in my brother's case...to start his Christmas shopping......).

I love everything about the mall at Christmastime...everything except for ESCALATORS.

If you don't have CP (or maybe even if you do?? Let me know if you're with me on this or not!), you might be saying, "But K...escalators are easier than stairs! You just put your feet on the first step and they carry you the rest of the way!"

To that, I say, "You're right. They do carry you. Unless they drag you."

Unfortunately, I'm speaking from experience.

For the record, I've always been a little wary of escalators. First of all, the railings MOVE. When I go up or down regular stairs, I usually like to grip the railing firmly first and get my bearings before I step. And every now and then, I notice that I have a little delay when I step (maybe a motor processing issue?), where it takes a few extra seconds for my other foot to follow. Normally, this isn't an issue, but on escalators, a few extra seconds can be the difference between being carried and being dragged.

When I was ten years old, one of my friends had a birthday party at the mall, so her mom took a group of us there, and I remember the quiet terror that overtook me when she led us to the escalators and didn't even look up. Ten-year-old me should have asked for a hand or maybe requested to take the elevator, but as you know if you've read previous posts on this blog, asking for disability-related help isn't exactly one of my strengths.

So I stepped on, closed my eyes, and prayed that I'd survive the experience without incident.

I did. That time.

But after my accident (in which I slipped on some water in eighth grade, broke my femur, and had to get surgery), I used crutches for several years and escalators were near impossible for me. I discovered this the hard way when I was out with my mom a couple years post-accident and we decided to give it a shot. I grabbed the railing with one hand and used my crutch in the other hand, and I couldn't get my left foot to follow quickly enough, so I fell. Falling with crutches is messy enough, but when you're on an ESCALATOR, it's a complete fiasco. I was being dragged up the escalator while my mom tried in vain to grab my arm and set me on my feet. It was beyond terrifying. Luckily, an employee witnessed my plight and ran over to press the emergency STOP button, but after that, I opted to use the elevators.

Now that I can put full weight on my left leg without pain (post-surgery to remove the pins) for the first time in eight/nine years, I wanted to try escalators again. And - hooray - I CAN DO THEM :) I did about five in a row without incident.

But let me walk you through what happened when I tried that sixth escalator. It was a couple hours into our shopping trip, and my brother just met up with my mom and me again so that we could grab something to eat (he had parted ways with us because he hates clothes shopping with a passion).

We approached a "down" escalator. My brother went first. My mom hesitated: "This escalator is kinda fast...I don't even know which stair to pick!" (It was unusually speedy). She gripped my arm and we picked a step.

I put my left foot first.

My right foot didn't follow.

My legs were tangled, going in two different directions as the escalator proceeded down, ready or not.

"HELP," was all I could manage to say.

My poor mom had no idea how to help me...*I* had no idea how to help me. All I knew was that I was at the top of an escalator that was dragging me down, pulling my legs in increasingly opposite directions as it descended.

And then: I fell.

My brother turned around, spread his arms, and caught me.

He managed, somehow, to right me again so that I caught my balance.

"Wow, that was a pretty epic trust fall," he said, once we had stepped off at the bottom.

I managed a shaky laugh -- "Thanks for saving me," I said. "I just about pulled a Buddy the Elf."

He laughed too. "I was thinking that too but I wasn't sure if it was TOO SOON."

I did a few more (slower) escalators successfully after that experience, but it was a reminder that sometimes the seemingly "ordinary" aspects of life can be tricky to navigate with CP. I have no idea what would have happened if my brother wasn't there in that moment, but I am beyond thankful that he was. And added bonus? My Christmas shopping is done!! :)


My escalator experience:
Think Buddy the Elf but far less graceful! ;)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Proving My Worth

Oops...I haven't blogged in over a month!! I was in the middle of drafting something a couple of weeks ago when I got a call from the girl I tutor asking for help, and then I forgot to come back and finish my thoughts.

But I love you guys, and I think of you often -- my community of people who accept me for who I am, many of whom KNOW what it's like to live with CP...and I wish that could be replicated all the time in the real world.

Sometimes it's a comment by a patient or a colleague -- "Your hips really drop when you walk" or "How can you help people do exercises when you are so inflexible yourself?" or "You need this physical therapy more than I do!" I smile and try to pretend that these words don't hurt, but the moment I arrive back home and can allow myself to feel again, I realize just how much their comments make me feel like I'm less than.

Functionally speaking, I can perform my job just as well as anybody, and it's not as though every moment is challenging. I have made so many friends at the clinic, and having CP has helped me connect with some of my patients...there's something so amazing about being able to say to somebody, "I know what you're going through. I've been there, too" -- to help them see that they aren't alone. I think most people can see that I am capable.

Sometimes it's just exhausting to feel as though I constantly have to prove myself to people, you know? And I know that this job isn't forever...it's just a stepping stone, but I wonder if I will always have to prove my worth in professional settings.

I'll write more later, but before I go, here's something that made me smile, and I thought maybe some of you guys could relate as well:

On the forms that we give patients, there's a "fall risk assessment," and it asks: "Have you fallen in the past year for any reason?" 

My initial (unvoiced!) reaction was: People can go an entire YEAR without falling?? I can hardly even go one WEEK! ;)

Until next time,
K