Thud! I crash to the ground yet again. I look around to check there are no broken bones this time, or if the skin on my knees and hands have been scrapped. No! All good, up I get and continue to my way nursing whatever injury has occurred from the latest fall.
This is what my life is like with a disability. Most children who are learning to walk are familiar with suddenly finding yourself on the ground with knees that have been torn apart by concrete, but I never grew up from this. I still experienced the bleeding hands and legs as I continue to fall over even as an adult. Yes, I am what the medical world calls a falls risk. Most weeks various practitioners ask me if I’ve had any falls. To be honest I never can quite remember, unless it is big fall, because I’m always stumbling and trying to stop myself from falling. Every fall seems to mould into one. I have developed quite atechnique to stop a stumble from turning into a major fall. It wasn’t until the NDIS granted me funding to get orthotics that I stopped falling over most weeks. It’s been amazing to see how a bit of plastic moulded to shape of my foot and placed inside my shoe has made me more stable and free from daily falls.
My shoes use to always been damaged from my falls, but also because my limp caused my right shoe to rub against my left shoe causing holes in most of my shoes. Yes, I have gone through lots of shoes, which is a positive and negative. Positive because I could always legitimately buy new shoes but negative because I always need to buy expensive shoes that provide support, and living on a pension means you don’t have resources to do this. So it meant waiting till the shoes are clearly not wearable before purchasing new ones. But once again this bit of plastic that now lives inside my shoes has meant that there is a lot less wear and tear. I am now getting two or three seasons out of shoes instead of one. Yes, these are the things you don’t think about until you have a disability.
I haven’t yet worked out a solution to overcome what I call my ‘half hand’. Yes, I am one and a half handed. What I mean by this is that I have full use of my left hand, and half use of my right hand. My right hand spends most of the time shrivelled up. My right hand can pretty much only hold thing that aren’t breakable and type. I am right handed but can’t write with my right hand, so I had to teach myself to write with my left (not that my writing is clearer with my left). I have a tremor in my right hand that without any provocation will start shaking or flick out from my side. Hence why I can’t carry breakable objects with my right hand. I have had some really awkward moments as a result of my hand just flicking out and hitting people. But really all you can do it laugh!
The lack of coordination in my arms and legs means that I struggle to do the tasks that most adults take for granted. I take longer to get dressed. I have to sit down in the shower so I don’t fall. I have great difficulty using a knife and fork to eat food. Often I just use a fork, and to cut my food up, I either rely on other people or stab the piece of food with my fork and use my right half hand to hold onto the fork and use the left to cut. I have got some pretty strange looks from using this technique. It wasn’t till I was thirty that someone told me that I could buy special cutlery, so I could eat like a ‘normal’ person. Through lots of practice and heaps of food ending up on the floor, I have started to learn how to use a knife and fork properly. Needless to say cooking by myself is also a challenge. It takes me a lot longer to prepare food to cook than most people, even with use of assistive technology for one-armed people. By the time I’ve chopped everything up, I’m usually too exhausted to cook. I have a stool to sit down to do all the meal preparation, which helps a little to reduce the fatigue and gets me off my sore legs.
Oh yes, the muscle aches and cramps are a constant for a person with my disability. In fact, I have never had a day where I have had no pain. The intensity of the pain is seasonal too. I personally experience so much more pain during the winter months. But one learns to try and switch off from the constant pain, or manage it using heat packs or different pain relieving products.
Despite the challenges that come from having my mild disability, I am so grateful to God that it is not worse. I know eventually it might be, but for the mean time I am thankful that I can walk even if it means I fall over and damage my shoes. I am thankful that I have one and half hands, so I can do most things by myself albeit slower or in a different way from ‘normal’ people. I am thankful to God for the means of grace He has provide in particular that I live in a day where assistive technology has been invented to help people like me with the daily tasks of life. But what I am most thankful for is the people God surrounds me with that are Jesus’ hands and feet to me, from the complete strangers in the community, through to the formal support workers and onto friends and family who help me overcome my challenges in life, so that I can learn to live the life that God has intended me to live, with legs that are unstable and one and half hands.