An open letter to folks with newly injured friends, especially spinal chord injured.
Recently I’ve been posting pictures about our family adjusting to life in a… chair.. As best we can ..,But there are some new realities that have lately appeared in our world.
There is an air of hesitation and fear from our friends to call or visit. Everyone was so wonderful at pitching in with the physical stuff like our Reno and the fundraiser and we will be forever grateful.
And now…the dust is settling… And In speaking to a few people lately about the fears of hanging out with a quadraplegic, they are real fears based in mortality. People see the injured as a reminder that freak accidents that came outta nowhere are beyond our control. What this fear eventually turns into is avoidance and isolation over time.
Our friends have always used the outdoors to spend time and relate to one another… So what happens when that dynamic shifts to not hitting the bike trails or talking on a chair lift? One if the hardest realities of a new injury is the feeling like you don’t fit in as a family with your friends anymore. Often a newly injured person feels their whole life revolves around doctors appointments, physio and bathroom routines.. When just yesterday they went to work.. Played and lived just as you do today…It’s overwhelming at times for them.
So I would like to challenge some of the fears you might have about reaching out to a friend with a new disability and being their buddy again.
Beer… Can they go out for a beer? Hell yes.. But one of you will have to be the dd and drive our van….like any other night and the pub needs a ramp or 2 strong guys.. Either will work. And if it’s getting roudy.. Keep your eyes open for over loving friends jumping on his lap and knocking them out of the chair.. Be their bouncer!
Outdoors… Can a quadraplegic hang outside?
Anything is possible with planning… But that’s just where I see the problem arising. The valley has a famous approach to spontaneity, us included!.. But That’s one of those things we can’t swing right now.. But we’re working on it…
Bailing out and being really late..
On a few occasions we’ve made plans only to have it cancelled last minute or show up really really late…We prepare and plan in advance as getting ready takes way longer.. But that’s our problem to get ready.. All we need is you to show up as planned… Sometimes a no-show can wreck a well planned day out with friends, sometimes we planned assuming we have enough muscle to lift or assist.. Or the caregiver made rare plans to have a life out of this craziness and if you bail, it has a domino effect.
That being said.. We occasionally have to back out too last minute with medical issues, but it’s rare… So be patient if that’s the case.
Some really easy ways to hang out are go for a walk (they can wheel) Rhinos also work great… Skate park in summer.. Beer at the Station pub or similar.. Coffee downtown…
Treat them the way you treat everyone else.. You won’t offend him or hurt his feelings.. Avoiding them will do that!
Being a friend to an quadraplegic may not be easy sometimes, but life isn’t easy …So to me…that’s a cop out…
It takes effort, planning and empathy, but damn rewarding to see the fun you can have with them and be a part of the normalcy we all strive for.. All folks with disabilities can be great friends and partners who deserve a life with friendship and adventure. Don’t shut them out of your world because you are afraid.. Imagine the courage it takes to get up everyday in their position, it eclipses your fears ten fold…
I write this letter in the hope to educate and rest some fears about being involved with a disabled friend. Those with new disabilities will sometimes smile because often it makes you feel more comfortable.. Just know they can sometimes be hurting inside.. Longing for their old life to come back..
So… Please….Just be you, so they can be themselves, they were your friend before the accident and now They need good friends more than ever..
With love, light and honesty…