Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on April 16, 2021
First published on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation blog….
One of our daughter’s best friends broke her leg on the very last day our town rope tow was open. When her full-length cast weighed more than she did, and it was time to return to school, her mom reached out, knowing we had a plethora of wheelchairs that could be modified. We went to visit, bringing along a care package of select fourth-grade goodies as well as a few different wheelchairs. Her dad rigged up an awesome appendage off the front of the smallest wheelchair, which did the trick nicely in supporting her healing leg, but she was apprehensive about bringing it to school.
Meanwhile, our kid didn’t understand why her friend, who has grown up around Geoff, would not want to zip around the school in a wheelchair. “Mom, she has no idea how fast she will be able to go yet,” she sighed, almost envious of the wheelchair status more for speed reasons than additional attention. And sure enough, after settling in and practicing in the new wheels, her friend was excited about returning to school, but Geoff made her promise no stunts yet.
So it should not have surprised me on Easter morning that Greta wanted to drive some of the spare wheelchairs we store “just in case” others in our community have a need. However, when she pushed the opener, Geoff noticed from ten feet away that a screw had fallen out of the garage door and thought we should fix it before putting the garage door up or down again. He claims that his lower-to-ground point of view makes ground screws more easily spotted. This made sense to me, of course, but in my mind, I didn’t really want to climb the ladder in my Easter best.
The day before, I had already spent a lot of time uncomfortably putting our kids’ trampoline together on a taller ladder. When you get to be 46, ladders are a little unsettling, especially when you are propping them on uneven ground, and even more especially when your 9 or 11-year-old is your spotter. But my point is that my arms were already tired, so there I was on the ladder in our garage trying to pull the door up manually while worrying it would slip from my hands and crash onto Geoff or a child. Geoff’s brilliant mind asked Greta to grab a nearby ski to place under the garage door since no one else could help to hold it up, given I was on the ladder already.
And this is our life. Dressed up for Easter, but first, let’s fix the garage door. I took this photo (from up on the ladder) of my handsome husband and helpful daughter on Easter Sunday right as we were supposed to be hopping in the car to head over the river and through the woods to get to Grandma’s house. But I do not have a naturally mechanical mind– like my husband or brother– and I don’t actually enjoy thinking about how tools or machines work or why they work that way.
With Geoff’s patience from below and less patient repetition, I fixed the garage door at least temporarily. I’m guessing a few more screws would make the little lever attached to it more secure. Geoff enjoys fixing things, and I do not. But I know some of his most frustrating moments as a wheelchair user happen when he tries to power my legs or arms or hands up on the ladder, simply because he can’t get up there himself. He continues to teach us all about resourcefulness– that a ski can be more than a ski– a tool that both propels him down mountains and holds up a garage door when he cannot reach. Better yet, he models that for our children as well. Even on Easter. Even when I don’t want to be on a ladder again. However, you ought to see me with a leaf blower. I’m unstoppable.
Greta’s fourth-grade friend’s leg will heal, and she will graduate to crutches and later just the power of her own legs. But she likely will forever remember the frustration of that first day when we brought the wheelchair over, yet modification work needed to be done for her to use it. She will remember the weeks her mobility was impaired and the loss of a softball season because of how terrible a break it was. But she will also remember how she learned to adapt, overcome adversity, grow her resilience and figure out school, the bathrooms, and her neighborhood from a different perspective.
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 11 and 9, respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website http://www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.