The quadriplegic population is often misunderstood. When thought of by most able-bodied individuals (those
without any physical disabilities) and even sometimes by those with other
disabilities, quadriplegics might actually be thought of as less fortunate and
disadvantaged! After breaking my
neck and losing all movement and feeling below my shoulders, I began to see the
fantastic truth about being a quadriplegic.
When comparing the lives of able-bodies to my new experience, I found
this new life to be far superior. Contrary
to what most believe, able-bodies are in fact the disadvantaged ones.
Quads and able-bodies both share
similar daily routines, such as waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast,
and going out for the day. Sadly, many able-bodies have to go through these routines
alone, with very little help or input from others.
I recall my pre-accident days when there was no one to prevent me from
making horrible fashion judgments. It
was embarrassing walking around in a neon shirt, plaid pants, and army boots!
But now, since I can't do anything myself, advice from others is always
readily available when getting dressed. In
addition to that, no meal will ever be eaten in solitude and I no longer have to
rely solely on my own sense of direction (if I do indeed have one) when driving
from place to place. Many
able-bodies are sometimes forced to face these tasks alone, when clearly two
heads are better than one.
Both quads and able-bodies are also
similar in that they each carry their individual self-concepts and ideas on body
image. Many able-bodied people
(including my pre-accident self) spend an enormous amount of time working to
improve their body image. There's
aerobics, sports, running, dieting, etc., all intended to help the average
person reach that impossible ideal self. I
would run at least 20 miles a week, do thousands of situps, and never be
content. But thankfully, my broken neck disrupted this endless cycle.
Now I have the greatest excuse not to work out.
It's a tremendous relief to finally say, "whatever will be, will
be." And besides, even if my clothes aren't fitting perfectly no
one will really notice since I'm always sitting.
Able-bodies simply do not have any such luxuries.
Another similarity between quads
and able-bodies is that they must each find some way to provide for all their
needs. I recall many experiences
before my accident trying to find work. I
tried babysitting, pulling weeds at a plant nursery, sweating in the back of
restaurants, and the list goes on. Of
course I didn't work myself to the bone because I enjoyed it, as I'm sure not
many people do. My broken neck saved me from the working force so many
able-bodies are dependent upon. Now
a disability check comes in every month while I do absolutely nothing, Medicaid
covers all my medical needs, and if I wish to pursue any career goals, disabled
services will pay for it. You can't
get much better than that!
Other problems plaguing both quads
and able-bodies are physical ailments. No
matter who you are, there's no escaping them.
I can't count the times I hurt myself before my accident.
All the bruises, broken bones, skinned knees, and pulled muscles were
sure to negatively affect my mood and abilities.
But now such events are merely an amusing spectacle.
All these things that caused much pain and anguish before now either
cause laughter or, at worst, empathy. And
what's best is that all these things that would either slow down or knock an
able-body temporarily out of commission usually won't keep a quadriplegic down
at all. As long as we're able to
sit in a chair, we're ready to roll.