I met Leonard several months after my accident.
Discharged from the hospital following five months of incarceration, I began outpatient rehabilitation and continued to work hard at not working.
Each day I arrived at the hospital for physical therapy and independent exercise. Then I’d eat lunch and do more P.T. before going home. I remained feebly weak and had developed few essential wheelchair skills.
Regrettably, I steadfastly avoided most of the effort required to benefit from my new routine. I was supposed to build strength and endurance by pushing my chair around the quiet neighborhoods near the hospital. Instead, these “workouts” frequently consisted of sitting for several minutes, rolling a few feet, then stopping again. I didn’t improve significantly because I just couldn’t summon the hope required to overcome pain and discomfort.
I’d graduated from the clumsy, heavy, reclining wheelchair to a lighter everyday model. I could have made significant gains, but the solution involved more than equipment. Though I could no longer blame the bulky chair or the halo for my lack of progress, other excuses abounded. In the end, I couldn’t proceed until I chose to invest the required effort, and I wasn’t yet ready to make that decision.
Streets offered a much more difficult challenge. I’d finally mastered the smooth at the hospital. Now I faced bumps, rough surfaces, and hills. The smallest incline often defeated me; sometimes even the crowned shape of the streets seemed too extreme to overcome.
I spent weeks struggling to move ten feet, and now I faced yards, blocks, miles. Even the “wheelchair accessible” curb cuts seemed impossibly steep and uneven. I’d press the “WALK” button, the light would change, traffic would stop, and before I could even maneuver to the curb the cycle was over, “DON’T WALK” warning me not to cross. How could they ever expect me to get to the other side?
This story, like my elevator encounter, was about to take a humorous/frustrating turn.
To be continued…