Going from an athletic man to a disabled man on an airplane
When I first started flying on airplanes, in the 1980s, I was an athletic man. I always chose the emergency exit seat. I had the strength and flexibility that came from my years in High School gymnastics, and while I was never a big guy, I could move very well. I was never as muscular as Tarzan, but I could definitely swing through the jungle.
After my accident, many years ago, things suddenly weren't so easy for me. It was a massive double stroke (and no, I have no idea why it happened) and a good chunk of my brain disappeared forever. It took away my ability to balance, to walk, to move very well. I got the physical therapy to get myself up on my wobbly feet, but without the cerebellum that I once had, I would never be Tarzan again.
A few years ago, I reluctantly agreed to use the disability services at the airport. I didn't really need a wheelchair, but walking in crowded areas was absolutely impossible for me. For most people, airports are just annoying, for me they were a obstacle that I couldn't overcome. I tried to be cheerful about it, but I hated it. Using disability services at an airport turns out to be very easy, and the people were very nice. The wheelchair is a free service at any airport, and all it cost me was the tip (I gave $5). But the real cost was what I felt. It felt terrible. The last time that I had been on a plane I had been Tarzan, now I could barely walk. People didn't stare at me, but they sure weren't seeing Tarzan anymore!
In the past four years I've been struggling to ease myself out of disability services at the airport. The first thing I did was to practice standing, which I do a lot of every day. Standing is something that's annoying to most people, but for me, it was what I called "standing on the top of a flagpole". It was brutally hard, and I was desperate to find a place to sit, or lie down. But you have to stand in public. That's just the way it works, unless you're in a wheelchair. And I wanted out of that wheelchair!
This past year I got my Tarzan body back. Along with all of the other things I've been working on, I lost a lot of weight and have trained my muscles back into shape. I am now the most amazingly fit disabled person you could imagine!
So recently I flew to LA, and didn't avail myself of disability services. I stood in line with everyone, and it was a joy. I walked through Security, I walked around the terminal. I wish I could describe how delicious the feeling is! It's difficult, and painful, but it's so worth it.
I suppose this is who I'll be for the rest of this life, an athletic-looking disabled man. The parts of my brain that died that day so many years ago will never return, and I can live with that. I will not worry about what I've lost, I'll focus on what I have left.
Posted by Brad Hall