Being a very fit disabled person
After my stroke, they immediately put me into physical therapy. I learned to walk again, and I had a speech therapist. I also had to learn to eat again. The day before my stroke I was a very fit man in his mid-forties, an instant after I was hit I could barely move. No one ever told me that I would never walk again, but I saw a lot of sad faces.
I got up on my feet, but I live with challenges. My neurologist calls them "nuisances". There are a lot of them, and it has kept me from being able to do some of the simplest things that I used to love to do. I live with pain, and vertigo. I fatigue easily. On the outside, I'm very fit, but the toll that the stroke took on my brain leaves me easily weak. I've never done anything as embarrassing as collapsing in public, but there were many times when I just prayed that I could just go home, and lie down.
What I can do nowadays, I do through sheer force of will. Nothing is easy, even walking up steps. I'm very strong, so if there's a hand rail I can walk up stairs, but most of the effort comes from my upper body. I tell people that if the world were designed for orangoutangs, I'd be fine.
My situation is similar to the guys who work out in wheelchairs, except that I'm not in a wheelchair. I have to work around my limitations, and in the past few years I've surprised myself at how fit someone like me can become. What started years ago as physical therapy, has continued for me as fitness, and muscle-building. And I'm in great shape. My blood pressure is fine, my muscle tone is excellent. I am an amazingly fit disabled person.
And it's a strange feeling to be disabled in a body that doesn't look disabled. When I'm out in public, you'd never know. My vertigo can make me stagger, but I watch out very carefully for that. And if I do lose my balance, or falter, I'm sure that most people would think that I've just had one too many beers, or that yesterday was "Leg Day" (people who do squats understand that).
When I get my picture taken, I sit down, or I lean on something. Because of my vertigo, I know that I sway a bit, and I've seen a few photos that make me look as if I were about to lose my balance, and I don't like that. So I ask people to let me get myself situated, like the photo at the top of this post. I know that I also grimace with pain, so I try to smile for a photo. I get "electrical shocks" that just shoot through me, especially my face, and there's no way to describe the pain. I just wait it out, and move on.
Yes, I'm lucky to be alive. And I can only do what I do with a strong will, and with the best muscle tone that I can have. The days of things being easy are gone forever. And if you see me, please don't tell me how brave I am, or how inspiring. Tell me I'm fit.
Posted by Brad Hall