Have you ever been confined to a wheel chair? Recently, I had to have surgery on a foot and the doctor prescribed no weight on the foot for a month. Easy enough, let me have those crutches and I will move around I thought! Then came the devastating news! I just didn’t have a lump removed from my foot it was cancer. I visited a couple of doctors for care and one took the cake for lack of patient comfort and bedside manner! Ok, this is an almost exact quote if not the exact words. I have to say I was in a bit of shock but I did have a witness. He said, “I do not know much about this cancer but tough it up soldier and just let them take off the leg”. I went in to the appointment thinking a bit more surgery on the foot and I am good to go! Came out on my crutches, scared out of my mind and wondering what the future held. My mind went wild with thoughts and of course I am a tough airman and I started thinking of all those Wounded Warriors with crippling loss of limbs in their prime of life while defending you and I! They gave me the strength to move ahead with lots of prayers and a strong faith that God is in charge. I had to face my mortality and the fact I might need to deal with something different including how to use prosthesis!
The “kind” doctor did a wonderful thing though, he referred me to a doctor rated #4 in the country for orthopedic surgery oncology (bone and cancer doctor) and off I went to a big medical center and my first experiences with a wheel chair. The plan had been for me to use a scooter that I could push with the good leg while resting the bad leg on it. It worked well until the great doctor ordered a biopsy of another lump found in my upper thigh. After 5 needles (it is a training hospital) into the tumor I was done pushing the scooter and we had more appointments that afternoon in multiple places and at multiple times! Into the wheel chair I went with my loving Air Force spouse pushing! Sit back and enjoy the ride Dale! Off to cardio next. Staff asked Deb to run some paperwork down and I am left alone waiting. Hmmm, is that nature calling? Alrighty, let’s try moving this thing by myself into the restroom! Ha, not so fast, the wheel chair and restroom door are tighter than some of those small LZs I used to land helos in. Ouch, crunch go those fingers! After a bit of grumbling I finally made it through the door and now I am in! Alright I can get into the stall but how do I get out! It is really narrow in there and my steering skills are beginner for sure and it does not seem to work for this very coordinated man’s hands either. I decided to “cheat” and hop to where I needed to go. Clearly the smart choice or I might have lost some digits while trying!
Deb came back to see me sweating at the waiting area and smiled and asked if I am in pain. I said no but I hate wheel chairs and told her about my adventures. We laughed and she agreed to stick with me and avoid any more “solos” till I was properly cleared by an instructor wheel chair operator! We were now off to lunch and a new revelation. Cafeteria/coffee shop displays are not meant for someone in a wheel chair. Frustratingly I can not see the food. I can smell it, I know how much it costs but I buy food based on seeing it too. The counter is way up there and I am way down here. Deb patiently describes the food but I get frustrated and finally say, you know what I like, please pick something out for me! We met some wonderful people that day including an MRI technician who used her special pass to get us through some short cuts as we left late at night and many of the normal routes were closed by security. Back at the car, I picked up the friendly crutches for the rest of the evening.
Since that experience I thought what it would take to make it easier for me to use a wheel chair and what the Wounded Warriors must face every day! Improvements to their homes, ramps to be built, wheel chair friendly vehicles, can they drive, is there someone to help them, facing the world in a wheel chair. We have come a long ways in treatment, many with lost limbs are returning to duty if they so desire but there is still a long ways to go.
My treatment has just started and I do face more surgery but the latest word from the doctors is that I will keep my leg and have surgery on the two areas of cancer and some reconstructive surgery to help retain the function of my foot. I have been blessed but my eyes have been opened! The old adage, walk a mile in my shoes, can certainly be said for our Wounded Warriors! Take a look around you and put yourself in their situation. Is there anything you can do to help? A friendly push of the wheel chair of life would really be appreciated I am sure!
We do have some great informational blogs on Wounded Warriors at MilitaryAvenue!
PS: If you decide to support a Wounded Warrior program with a gift be sure to check them out first. There are some very unscrupulous folks out there that will try to take advantage of any situation.
Photo Credits: MilitaryAvenue.com. Col K visiting Mejier Gardens in Grand Rapids MI while still confined to a wheel chair with family.