You are here: Home - disabled


Tag Archives: disabled

My Heart On My Sleeve: The 10 Year Anniversary

My Heart On My Sleeve: The 10 Year Anniversary 

Polaroids I took three months before the accident

Polaroids I took three months before the accident

In seventeen days, I’ll have been in a wheelchair half of my life. I knew it was coming when I turned twenty a couple months ago, but now it’s slowly starting to sink in. I think I was sixteen when I first realized that in a few short years I would clock in more time rolling than walking, and just the very idea really scared me. In reality, it’s just a number. What does it matter if I’m running or pushing, as long as I’m moving forward? But it does matter to me, because the piece of me that used to be able bodied and “normal” seems to be drifting further and further away with each passing year. This post is going to be pretty hard for me to write, but I recently attended a workshop where an author dared us to write down whatever we feel we absolutely cannot say, so that is what I’ll try to do here.

People often ask me if I remember what it was like to walk, to not have a disability. To be completely honest I don’t think I do. It’s one of those ‘you never truly appreciate something until it’s gone” kind of moments. I remember loving to play basketball at the Y with my friends. I remember going to the beach and my biggest worry being, “what if someone knocks our sandcastle down!” instead of worrying about being abandon by friends and stuck in the sand. I don’t remember what it was like to run up a flight of stairs, or put one front in front of the other and simply walk, but I do remember the joy I felt jumping up and down on my first “big kid” bed, and how happy I was to stand on a swing and feel like I was flying to the moon.

I don’t remember much about my time in the hospital either. I remember an abundance of gifts and friends and family always there, something I was so blessed to have. I remember keeping the tradition with friends from preschool and decorating Christmas cookies in the lobby of the in-patient unit. I remember painting my favorite animal (a manatee) on a ceiling tile with my best friend, and learning to push myself in a hospital chair while it beamed down over me. I remember sneaking out of rehab with my mom and some friends, riding a roller-coaster at some carnival in Miami, and for the first time in weeks feeling as if something was possible. What it was I had no idea, but I knew things were going to get better, and get better they did.

Our manatee ceiling tile

Our manatee ceiling tile

Decorating cookies with friends at the hospital

Decorating cookies with friends at the hospital

I rolled back into my fourth grade classroom forty-four days after I was paralyzed. I wanted to wear my favorite oh-so stylish Hawaiian shirt my first day back, but within the first ten minutes, I sprinted to my mom’s classroom and promptly threw up all my fears down my shirt and into the accessible toilet. I cleaned up and went home, but was ready to try again the next morning. I’m very lucky to have had so many awesome friends who saw me in the same light both before and after the accident. From then on the transition was so smooth. All my P.E and dance teachers were completely inclusive, and with the help of some very special people, the following spring I was able to walk across stage (wearing leg braces) and receive my fifth grade diploma. Life was definitely different, I absolutely hated the shots I had to take every morning (not the fun college kind), it took me twice as long to shower and go to the bathroom than it used to, transferring in and out of cars was a bitch, and most days during recess I preferred playing chess inside rather than watching everyone else champion the monkey bars, something that used to be one of my proudest attributes. But life was still really good. I went on field trips, had sleepovers, took the special “fifth graders only” pottery class, when to states with my Odyssey of the Mind team, I was one busy and very satisfied kid.

First basketball team!

First basketball team!

On the monkey bars in third grade

On the monkey bars in third grade

After that I had a blast in middle school, and an even greater time in high school, but that’s not to say I didn’t have my bad days. One morning senior year the only elevator at school was broken again for the third or fourth time that week. I had no way to get to my class on the second floor, and I was tired of asking my friends to carry me up (which they did many times because they’re such awesome people). The smart thing to do would have been to go to the front office and explain the situation, but I felt so helpless and insignificant in that moment, that I got in my truck and cried the whole way home. It’s the little things like that that put my whole world into perspective; where I jump to those horrible ‘what if’ questions that just lead to a spiral of more sadness. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Damn girl, it was just an elevator! Why get so worked up about something so small?”  But I guess the elevator isn’t just a machine to take me from one floor to another. When broken it’s a reminder that I can’t be independent and go wherever I want whenever I want. It’s a reminder that sometimes it feels like I’m shackled to this chair and the only way to freedom is a pair of legs that actually work.

Something that has helped me cope quite a bit recently is a psych class I was required to take for my social justice job that I will be starting in the spring. I enjoyed psychology in high school, but never had any plans to pursue it further in college; the word “therapist” has always scared me, just ask my mom! But this class has opened my eyes to the other minority groups, not just us “crips”, and it helps me keep my privilege in check and always remain grateful for so many of the amazing things I have in my life. I’m blessed with the opportunity to go to an incredible institution and receive a college education, I’m blessed with the most loving and supportive family a girl could ask for, I’m blessed with the best group of friends, ones I can laugh with, ones I can cry with, and ones I know will always have my back. I’m blessed to be training with arguably the best wheelchair racing coach in the world, and travel the states with an equally amazing team of professional athletes. I’m blessed to have two homes, Florida and Illinois (shout out to becoming the 15th state to have marriage equality what what!) full of memories I love. And I’m blessed to be living in a country that is making strides every day towards equality whether it’s LGBT rights, increasing locations with ADA accessibility, equal pay for the sexes, ethnic diversity in the workplace, protection of religious freedoms, or any other act that aims to make our country a better place, not just for the majority, but for the minorities as well.

So this Thanksgiving when I fly home (twelve more days!) I will sit at the table and choose to remember all of the good that I have received in my brief twenty years on this Earth, AND look forward to how much good is still to come. I have so many hopes and dreams for this planet, the only way they’ll ever come to fruition is if I just. keep. pushing.

Christmas the year before the accident (2002)

Christmas the year before the accident (2002)

Christmas after the accident (2003)

Christmas after the accident (2003)

 

Last Christmas (2012)

Last Christmas (2012)

For a bit of a back story and another perspective, you can read my mom’s awesome post about the anniversary here!…. http://kdrausin.com/blog/2013/11/10/remembering-accident-changed-lives/

 

Do I Inspire You?

Do I Inspire You?

post marathon

Inspiration. Thrown around loosely, this term can not only be offensive but hurtful in ways unknown to most strangers. Before I go into this mini rant (quite a topic for my first post!), I would like to include that the majority of people who use this term genuinely mean it out of the kindness in their hearts. But what they don’t realize is that their naivety to the connotations of that specific word sometimes does more bad than good. An example that immediately comes to mind happened only a few weeks ago when my team and I were in Peoria for a marathon. One of my awesome teammates, Josh (you can find his blog here…http://joshgeorgeracing.com/blog/), was being recognized by a great group of people who run to raise money so a group of kids with disabilities can attend therapy. Everyone at this event was extremely friendly, but when one young woman stood at the podium and said these words, my heart dropped.

“I just want to say that these kids are my inspiration, and I’m running this race for them, because they’ll never be able to.”

teambelieve

Hold up.

This is probably not something you should say to a room full of athletes with disabilities…

I felt a very strong urge to inform this woman that just because someone has a disability, doesn’t  mean shit.  Was she seriously going to victimize these children right in front of us? Not too long ago those kids were us, and if someone told me when I was little that they were going to run a race because I couldn’t, where would I be today? Probably not completing marathons and training with world class athletes, that’s for sure.
I was furious! I wanted to grab this woman by the shoulders and shake this awful idea out of her.  Of course, I kept my mouth shut, but it really got me thinking. How can I change the stigma that is placed on so many people with disabilities? I mean it’s practically engraved in the word itself that we are not good enough, not sufficient. “Dis” is a Latin root meaning “apart”, so literally it translates to “apart from the abled”. This is something I now realize I’ve been trying to deconstruct ever since my accident ten years ago.  Everybody wants to fit in, everybody wants to be loved, so why does society make it so difficult to accomplish these things just because you’re different, because you’re “apart” from the rest.

What I believe to be one of the most effective efforts to slowly adjust the public’s eye of those with disabilities is wheelchair athletics or adaptive sports in general.  Through sports I was able to change my identity from, “that one chick in the wheelchair” to, “that one chick in the wheelchair that runs marathons!” which sounds a hell of a lot better to me. Does the wheelchair go away? No, physically it is a big part of me and kind of essential to my mobility. But mentally, the wheelchair is NO part of me, and I wish that’s how the world would see it too.

Whenever someone comes up and tells me I’m an inspiration, a part of me is sometimes irked because are you, like that young woman, completely categorizing and labeling me initially as someone who is disabled and therefore not as good… Then “inspired” because I broke this stereotype and accomplished something you thought I couldn’t?  Or are you just impressed by my dedication and fortitude NOT as someone in a wheelchair, but as a human being? Inspiration is a tricky thing my friend.

I would like to hope that most people see me for my own achievements and not for my disability, but when you hear comments at least once a week like, “Wow! It’s great to see you out!” at places like the park or movie theater… it can really bog you down. My latest response is now to just reply “It’s great to see you out too, sir!”, and give ‘em a big ole grin. Maybe that will get them thinking. Last week I was literally hugged at the grocery store. I was in the frozen food aisle at my favorite health store, just minding my own business looking for my favorite Ezekiel bread, when this lady just freakin’ hugged me out of nowhere and said thank you for inspiring her.
I. Was. Looking. For. Bread.

This is not to say that it is bad to find people in wheelchairs or people with any type of disability inspiring, this is just me saying I really hope you’re inspired by what they can do, rather than how they look, or what they have “overcome”. Despite my disability, I wake up every morning just like you, ready to face the day (well except for a few extra cups of coffee than is probably recommended). I genuinely have a positive outlook on life, and even though I have no idea what the future holds, I’m not going to sit inside all day and wait for something to happen. I do, in fact, have a life outside not being able to walk. I have hopes and dreams and goals just like everybody else out there, and THAT is what I want to define me, not a piece of metal with some upholstery and wheels.

I really hope that this post doesn’t discourage anyone from seeing somebody as an inspiration (that’s not what I’m trying to do at all!!), but just maybe opens their eyes to a new perspective. A perspective of someone a little different from themselves, but essentially equal. Equal in heart, equal in strength, and equal in ability, because I am and always will be a firm believer of anything is possible.

beach chair