PA 12: All Eyes On Me

Long Treks, Inquisitive Kids and a Journey Through the Land of Giants.

Christmas in hospital had been better than any of us had expected but even so it hadn’t been where we’d wanted to spend the festive period.
However, with 2013 just around the corner and my recovery well underway, there were rumours of me finally being moved closer to home.

Not a single promise had been made (which is normally the way with doctors) in terms of when I would be able to move but they kept assuring me that if I continued to make good progress, it would not be too far in the future.

Into the Jungle

One thing I was allowed to do now that I was making progress in my recovery, was go out into the real world. That didn’t mean a quick breath of cold air by the doorway of the hotel or a roll around the hospital grounds but actually out into the city. Or at least, the nearby shopping centre.

It was a start.

My parents were a little nervous about taking me so far (2 miles) outside of the hospital. Considering the fact that up to this point there had always been a nurse or doctor less than one minute away, that was understandable.

I, however, did not share in my parents fears at all. That classic teenage superpower of forgetting that I’m not invincible had made a full comeback and I was ready to paint the town with the dark streaks of my wheelchair tires.

It is safe to say that despite his concerns about taking me out in public, my dad was pretty excited to be parking in a disabled bay for the first time.
Transferring from the car into the chair was certainly a lot easier in the bigger space than if we been pressed up against another vehicle and as I quickly learned, rolling across paving stones and tarmac was a lot tougher than gliding over the smooth hospital floor.
I was also grateful at not having to haul myself across a whole car park. As it was my arms were already burning by the time we made it through the door.

However, once we’d made it inside and I was able to focus on something other than my intense upper body workout, I came face to face with perhaps one of the greatest challenges of being newly disabled.

The unsubtle stares.

Neck Cramps

Up to this point in my life, it is unlikely that I would have stood out in a crowd. At a staggering 5 ft and 8 inches it was not uncommon for some of my taller friends to lose track of me amidst large groups.

Now though, it was like I was standing in a spotlight with a neon arrow above my head. Of course people tried to hide it but let me tell you now, if you have ever been staring at someone and then looked away suddenly when you thought they were about to notice… they had already noticed.

Nobody is quite as subtle as they think they are.

I was suddenly in the middle of an ocean of flicking heads, all twisting away from me in jerking motions that were not dissimilar to the kind made by dolls in horror movies.

Nobody wanted to catch my eye except, of course, the small boy who stopped right in front of me and stared open mouthed at my wheelchair and, presumably, lack of limb.

I smiled at him and waved, he smiled back for a brief moment before his mother (whom I had also seen trying, poorly, to hide her own staring) dragged him away by the arm and muttered something about it being rude.
Because apparently it was rude to be curious and smile…

Ahh well, there went yet another kid into the world who now felt uncomfortable around disabled people.

Here Be Giants

There was then the fact that I was now much, much shorter than everyone else. Given that I have just told you my height in the previous section you might think I was used to this but being at waist (or certain other body parts) level with most adults was a new and frankly intimidating experience.

It almost felt like being a child again, lost in a huge crowd of faceless people looming over me like giants. My eyes were constantly flicking to my parents, making sure they were right there with me.
God knows what I would have done had I been stuck there by myself.

Eventually, once the initial shock of my new position in the world had run its course, I did realise that most people were making sure to give me plenty of room and some would even give me a quick smile.

That was nice, it felt good to be around just regular people who weren’t dealing with all the hospital stress that we had been surrounded by for the last few months.

Of course, there had to be one idiot who jumped in front of my wheelchair and shouted something in my face. However, the amusement of his friend dragging him away by his shirt collar while another apologised for him made it almost worth it.

We got some shopping done that day and despite my situation, I did mostly enjoy being out of the hospital. If nothing else, it had made one thing very clear in my mind.

I would be back on two feet again, and it would be soon.

The Wisdom

  • Kids will stare.
    And that is great. Of course a kid is going to stare at somebody with a missing leg, especially if they have never seen it before. Sometimes they might even ask questions and if your kid does this then I have one simple request for you.

    Please do not chastise them.

    There are enough people in this world who feel uncomfortable around those of us with disabilities. If a small child feels confident enough to ask about what happened, as far as I’m concerned, that’s fantastic.

Obligatory Blog Quote

“You only have one leg sir.”

Peter Griffin

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