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Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog, July 23, 2020: “Heard of the Have a Hammock Trap?”

I came home from a long walk with a friend to find my husband and dog in this hammock predicament. Emerson our dogs face tells me this was not his idea, nor does he really know how it even happened in the first place. Further, now that it has happened, he isn’t sure how to help his person in the current situation. Not for the first time, I race for my phone to take a photo PRIOR to giving him an assist back onto the hammock safely. I don’t bother to ask, “What were you thinking?” as his answer would be as predictable as, “I wanted to take a nap in the hammock” of course. Geoff Krill and dog in hammock

Hammocks are even tricky for those of us who can feel our whole bodies, so you can imagine what they might be like for people who can only feel half their body. The hammock is alluring certainly– the perfect way to relax on a cool day or in the shade with a summer breeze– this hammock trap is as summer as sipping lemonade, or taking a leap into the river, or fishing for trout. A friend had given us the metal frame, but we kept waiting until we had a yard to put it together and purchase the actual hammock. Geoff had requirements of course; he didn’t want one of the classic rope kinds like his parents have given the likelihood of a limb slipping through the cracks and wreaking havoc on his body, again, parts he can’t feel like feet and ankles, knees and hips. He wanted the quilted, soft, blanket- like hammock which would stabilize properly for any kind of napping, or so he thought.

Hammocks are also tricky for tall or long people given their propensity for flipping over. So, the day he tested it out was also the same day I had just attached both ends to the metal frame using the hook and chain. However, I did not actually check to see if the hammock would be too low for an adult wanting to relax as Geoff clearly did on this particular summer day. There are risky behaviors certainly I’ve asked him not to do using the children as his legs, like the time I came home and found how the kids had climbed a shelving until to string some lights in the garage. “We were fine, Mom, it was totally safe.”Really? Totally safe is questionable. But getting into or out of a hammock independently was not something I had ever considered as dangerous until this occurred.

Geoff does not generally stop moving, so when he does transfer onto a couch or cushioned chair or in this case, the hammock trap, he is usually asleep quickly. Although the full story is not clear to me yet, I imagine one or both of the children helped him to get onto the hammock. At which point, he likely fell asleep and slowly drifted, legs sliding slowly to one side of the hammock so as not to flip him all at once. There must have been a moment where even in sleep his body became aware of the shift or maybe his blood pressure changed. Regardless, he opened his eyes on the hammock trap and realized the kids would not be able to help him back into the chair. Who knows how much time passed between his realization and my return home. It might have been uncomfortable. His phone had slid off the hammock out of his reach, and yet I stood there taking pictures and giggling. He is always a good sport even when under duress.

“Honey, would you please help me?”

“Sure thing, but I’m warning you now– this will be shared in my next Reeve blog,” I tell him smiling. The hardest part about the hammock trap is that the same part that moves and makes it relaxing also makes transferring back to the wheelchair near impossible. Together we decide to slide him fully onto the ground and do a transfer from the ground up to a regular chair and then into his wheelchair.

But the nap was certainly worth the effort he tells me. Every single time.

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 10 and 9. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

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