wheelchair girl’s daring rescue

ok kids, it’s time for the story of wheelchair girl’s daring rescue. although i was 36 – hardly a girl – when it happened. but wheelchair lady doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. it’s my story so i get to call it what i want – wheelchair girl’s daring rescue.

ok. this picture cracks me up. i'm re-enacting rolling down a curb cut and out into a parking lot when i was trying to get by a shopping cart on the sidewalk.

i spent the winter after my medical drama living with my parents. i wasn’t able to live on my own, and they were kind enough to take me in. and out – they took me on errands, on fun excursions, to social things with my friends.

me and my fantastic parents

one evening that winter, my mom picked me up from dinner and was driving us back to the house.

wheelchair girl and mom in warmer weather

my parents live on the north side of a little hill and the temperature was dropping quickly. she took it really slowly around the last curve, and we were in the home stretch. there was a guy walking around (very carefully) sprinkling rock salt on the road. as mom headed down the street towards the driveway, the car started to slide. mom was able to stop the car in the middle of the road. the guy sprinkling salt came to the window. turned out it was dave who lives further up the street. in the small world of corvallis, i’d had coffee with his wife that morning. mom didn’t feel like she could make the sharp right turn into their driveway. so i called my dad. he came out of the house and got behind the wheel while dave sprinkled salt in front of us. dad got the car going and it slid in slow motion until it gently tapped a car parked on the side of the road, between us and an embankment. and get this – the car was dave the salt king’s!

dad got out of the car and he and mom and dave strategized about the next step. as i sat in the passenger seat with the door open, for the first time i truly realized that i was disabled. no way was i able to get out of that car on my own. i was completely dependent on others. i felt awful.

me in happier times.

the guy from across the street showed up and so did some other guy i’d never seen before (or since) who will be referred to as the mystery man. they made a plan of how to get me out of the car and into the house, which was about 100 yards away over slick asphalt. but first they had to get my wheelchair out of the back. in my memory dave crawled in and got it. i collected my mom’s purse and my to-go box from dinner. dave struggled to put the wheelchair in the crook of the door and help me in. the guys slipped and slid for what felt like an hour, while my mom fretted over my missed medications, and finally got me to the temporary metal ramp into the house.

wheelchair girl and dad with ramp in warmer weather

so after all that, now they had to get me up the frozen ramp. the stairs were slick, and the four guys heaved me up – all i could do to help was sit really still – and into the house. i was embarrassed that i needed so much help. and feeling sorry for myself (cue “poor poor pitiful me” by warren zevon), so i said my thanks and rolled into the room where i was staying. that’s when it occurred to me that those guys were pumped! they were so excited, and i’m sure that they all slid home and told their families about wheelchair girl’s daring rescue. because that story isn’t just mine – it’s theirs too.

if the mystery man or the salt king or neighbor guy was writing this, the moral of his telling the story would be that he did a good deed and felt great about it. that’s what i realized sitting there in the bedroom. those guys weren’t angry or feeling put-out that they had to slide around on the ice for me. they got to be heroes. they rescued wheelchair girl!

before my medical drama i referred to myself as the little red hen. i was always the one who would say, “ok. i’ll do it.” i had a hard time accepting help, and i thought that i didn’t need much of it. after my medical drama i needed help with so many things, but i still was the little red hen at heart and i had trouble asking for help and accepting it gracefully. i had no problem giving help, it was the receiving part that got me.

after my daring rescue, i realized that it is actually a kind thing to ask for help. watching me struggle to regain my mobility, struggle to open an envelope and tie my shoes was shockingly difficult for my family and friends. they couldn’t really help me learn how to walk again, but they could open my envelope and tie my shoes. and once i started asking, i realized that they were so happy to be given the chance to do something for me.

when i moved out of my house and into an apartment a few months ago, i put out a call for help and many of my friends arrived one morning to transfer my life from the house to the apartment. it was hard for me to be on the sidelines while they carried boxes out to the trucks. i was starting to feel awful about it, when i took a look at them. they were smiling, laughing, chatting with each other. they weren’t upset – if anything they were relieved. so i joined in with the chatting and smiling and laughing and canceled the pity party.

wheelchair girl out with friends on new year's eve 2009

so now i do for myself whenever i can, and i gladly ask for help when i need it. and i feel fortunate to have so many people in my life who are happy to help. that was me once – i was always happy to help – and it will be me again. i’ve rescued wheelchair girl before, and i’ll do it again.

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20 responses to “wheelchair girl’s daring rescue

  1. I can relate to the “little red hen” feeling, and I’d never thought about from the perspective of everyone else. Great story, I really like your blog. And I don’t personally think wheelchair lady sounds that bad either, haha

  2. I have always been very independent, not one to ask for help. After Nathan was born, we realized we did indeed need some help at first and I had to learn to ask and to receive. Your post reminds me of a cool book I just read on inclusive classrooms– one of the things that everybody in an inclusive classroom (done right) can learn is that we all need help with some things, and how to ask for help when we need it and give help when others ask. How cool would it be to learn this as a kid, instead of in our 30’s?

  3. I am an environmentally conscious person who hates using salt. However, this a very appropriate use – human safety! So, we always keep a bag around for just this purpose. Being stuck on this part of the hill with my car, I went up to get my trusted bag of salt. Then along you came. I was all too glad to be at the right place at the right time to help out.

  4. And I have a bag of salt in the back of my car now. You never know when you need to turn into superman or wonder woman.

  5. Simply beautiful, Wheelchair Lady! xoxo

  6. i have a quibble. you say “no way i could have gotten out of the car on my own”. not true. you could have undone the seat belt, leaned to your right, and hey nonny presto! one car, exited.

    of course, what you do from there is a bit problematic. but that wasn’t what you were talking about.

  7. again, you would have successfully exited the car. however, “gotten out of the car without breaking my wrists, concussing myself or sliding down the hill on the ice while my would-be rescuers concerned themselves with the car” would be absolutely ass writing.

    • i feel like what we really should be talking about is how rad my re-enactment photo is. it cracks me up. when it really happened i just shot down a ramp and out into the parking lot. i wish i had it on video.

  8. Life just wouldn’t be the same without the occasional damsel in distress.

    Digging Dad’s look, circa 1980: Mustache and Budweiser T.

    • it’s such a good look! and i believe that that picture was for our christmas card that year, so he might have been dressed up. you should bring it back, bob. invest in tube socks.

  9. This is the first time I’ve read this story. It showed up on my facebook stream. Thank you so much for writing it. I know at least one person that I’ve struggled and even argued with a little because she won’t let people just help her. She makes it all complicated because she goes to so much length to prevent anyone from having to help and being “put out.” We humans, for the most part, LOVE to help! It tickles that place in our brain that produces happy feelings. I love your story and your attitude. So happy that I have had a chance to know you and your great family, even if just a little.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this with us Kriste. I hope we all keep learning. You are an inspiration to us all!

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