I recently wrote a column about trying something new, and I challenged readers and myself to get out of our comfort zones.
I’ve been trying many new things lately. Well, not brand new things, but things I haven’t been able to do since I fell in early October, such as walking up and down a flight of stairs, standing in the shower, loading and unloading myself and my wheelchair in the car, and of course, driving.
I’m finally starting to drive again, and it has been a rewarding and liberating experience. Although I have wonderful friends willing to drive me around anytime, it feels good to have increased independence in that area. I still prefer help when getting groceries, though, as managing my manual chair along with a shopping cart is not a smooth or peaceful endeavor.
I went out to my car last week to practice getting my chair and myself in and out of the car. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, and I had grown tired of being indoors after a few hours on the phone with my podcast partner, Kyle Bryant.
As you might imagine, getting in and out of the car wasn’t enough for me.
Surprisingly, loading was easier than I expected. After a few minutes of sitting in the driver’s seat and catching my Instagram followers and Snapchat friends up to date on my activities, I wanted to drive.
I twisted and turned my foot a number of times and applied pressure on my injured leg to mimic driving. Things felt normal, so I decided to test myself in public.
I drove across the street to a business park that is a personal playground to skateboarders, dog walkers, and new drivers, as it has endless pavement to roam around on.
Everything felt fine. After several minutes, I realized the challenge isn’t the act of driving itself, but rather the effort of getting in and out of the car, maneuvering myself to the rear hatch of my vehicle, and unloading and assembling my collapsible wheelchair.
It was starting to get dark, so I found an area in the parking lot that seemed well lit and wide open. I wanted to practice getting myself and my chair in and out of the car. After all, the entire reason I was in the car was to try something new and put my body to the test.
I parked, got out of the car, and managed to slowly get back to the tailgate and open the rear hatch. Just opening the hatch with one weak leg and the balance inadequacies of Friedreich’s ataxia is possibly the most challenging element of my physical abilities right now.
Everything was going just fine, and I was feeling good and proud. I happened to be on FaceTime with my roommate and explained what I was doing. I also had to reassure him that I was feeling fine and was only a block from home. He was worried that something could go wrong. His concerns were valid and I appreciated them.
I set the phone down, though we continued to converse. At the same time, I pulled my chair out of the car, sprung it open, and began to reach for the back support and seat pad.
With only one hand on the chair and one hand reaching for the other pieces to the chair, while talking on the phone with two feet planted like cinder blocks to keep from falling, and a manual wheelchair without its brakes engaged, things went downhill fast.
I braced my body against my car as I watched my wheelchair slowly roll about 30 feet from me — out of reach due to the slight grade I had parked on.
I instantly started to laugh as I realized the predicament I had gotten myself into. Naturally, as I showed my roommate my dilemma via FaceTime, he laughed, too.
Thankfully, the parking lot was empty and I was isolated. I made my way back to the driver’s seat and backed up to my chair. All was good again.
Now I know to lock the wheels. Had I not practiced in a relatively safe environment, who knows where or how that lesson would have been learned.
I don’t believe practice always makes perfect, but it certainly prepares us for better.
Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.