The gripper slipper upper…

I have said it before that you do not know about something in life until it becomes an issue. I did not know anything about multiple sclerosis until it became a big part of my life. At that point, it became a mandatory matter in my existence. After my diagnosis, I knew nothing about wheelchairs until it eventually became a fact in my life. Now it is like putting on proper footwear with your suit before work.

gripI am pleased that I have not dealt with exacerbations in a very long time. Sadly my recent hospital stay that was caused by things going sepsis was not good for me in the least. That medical issue caused my grip strength to slip and weaken. It has also made my arms and legs weaker than I first thought. When your arms are your only source of locomotion even small issues can be life-altering.

It is truly disheartening that I have less strength in my body overall but especially my upper body. Specific movements prove this quite often so let me give you a few examples of “the great weakening” in action.

I was in the SUV of a friend of mine the other day. Getting out of a small SUV like this one was straightforward and took very few steps. I merely turn so that my legs are hanging out of the passenger door. Once my wheeled chariot is placed in the proper position things run rather quick and smooth. I set my feet on the ground, and as I stand my outside knee locks in place. This positioning allows me to stand and pivot to just above the seat, and then I do a controlled fall directly into my chair.

ledge sittingHowever, my weakening legs have not supported a tranquil transition like this for a while now. The muscles in my legs have been weak causing me great trepidation when preparing for the twist and drop. As I turn to stick my legs out and my chair is correctly under me, I hesitate as I feel my legs quietly quiver. I have failed at this movement several times before, and the memories build more deeply rooted terror causing more contemplation and caution. This thought circle creates enough fear that I consider staying housebound. However, I realize that it is a bad idea because I have been there before and it was not good for me. I know that my friend can read the horror in my face and she makes a few reassuring comments. With some assistance, this not so big-bad Marine makes it into the landing zone.

My hands and grip are usually excellent especially for picking things up like my book bag before I go swimming. I generally have no problem lifting my fully loaded backpack off the floor and slinging it over the back of my chair to hang. Brimming with all of my swim and shower gear it can be bulky and hard to handle for some. This bag of mine had not been a challenge for me to manipulate in an extremely long time.

packSince this Great Weakening has begun, picking up this monstrosity has become more of an objectionable ordeal. Now I must search for the proper position for my weak hands to grab this bulky bag. The little hand strength that I do have and the fact that it vanishes faster than fog in the summer sun means that I must work quickly. I must work without haste to hoist my bag onto the back of my wheelchair before my strength disappears.

Not to be left out of the picture my triceps have also become largely languid. Getting up from the floor, for the most part, had been an easy task as of late. I just set my rump on the footplate with my back to the seat. I grab the leg rests and quickly push downward launching my derriere up and back onto the seat. Repositioning myself to the proper place is the part that takes the longest.

Now, this troublesome task is irritatingly impossible. It seems that my triceps do not have the vigor that these muscles did before my hospital stay. I now arrange myself on the footrest to prepare myself for launch onto my chariot. After I rest for two minutes, I correctly grab the leg rests and forcefully press downward hoping to lunge my derriere onto the landing zone. Sadly there is not enough fuel in the afterburners, and I go nowhere. After trying for ten minutes, I get no lift and launch. So I end up using a different and slightly less challenging route to get off of the floor.

good fightThese are just a few examples of how this healing sepsis is still haunting my life. Sadly, I do not know how much my strength will improve or what I will gain back. My goal is to keep moving forward no matter how many hits I take because I cannot stop my life waiting to get better. No matter what any of us are going through we must trudge on fighting the good fight.

We must not wait for someone to save us, but instead, be our own hero.

Chaos cannot win…

thStaying organized in life is very important. It is beneficial to keep all of your doo-dads and doo-hickeys diligently divided so that you can reach them in an instant. The smart choice is to keep your selection of widgets neatly stacked for your convenience. It is essential to keep your entire calendar of events prominently posted for your perfunctory perusal.

As a person with multiple sclerosis, I like to stay obsessively organized. However, things have changed since before I began using technology to aid my memory and systematization.

post itsBefore the utilization of tech I was old school and the inside of my house showed it. Everything was coated in a thick layer of yellow post-it notes reminding me of everything like I was a retired senile scientist. These notes reminded me of the most mundane tasks because at that time depression made sitting on the couch my only priority. These inked notes reminded me of everything including brushing my teeth, meal times and when to check the mail along with many other just as ridiculous reminders. My bills were all piled neatly in three separate stacks. These piles showed what was paid and what was yet to be paid as well as what was still outstanding.

fingerThere is now so much technology to help you stay organized that excuses have gone with the dodo bird. Two point six million apps exist in the Android Play Store, and two million apps reside in the Apple app store reminding us that there is an app for that. These apps can assist you in things such as budgeting, household chore reminders or even when to throw that old app out the window. Gone is the day of tying a string around your finger to remind you of that task that you inevitably forget anyway. The process of writing that to do list on a piece of paper that you soon lose track of is a thing of the past.

goog alexaSmartphones, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple Home Pod, computers, tablets and even smart watches all make staying unorganized impossible. We MSers need to find what works best to keep our MS lives formulated and coordinated. Multiple sclerosis causes plenty of mind messes like shoddy short term memory. So we must be aware of our weaknesses and find assistive tools to help us to be the best us that we can be.

With organization comes empowerment.

Poison apple…

poison appleIf you have read any number of my blogs, then you have seen two common themes. First, that is evident is that I have multiple sclerosis. I continually try to let my readers view life from a MSers point of view. I put forth a concerted effort to make my blog informative and honest while allowing the reader to see the humor in life. I like them to be able to understand and maybe even to experience life through my eyes and laughter through the fear.

The second topic is the importance of friends for anyone in life. My blog called “My Untold MS Story” tells how my depression and lack of friends nearly ended my existence. I went through ten years of my life without friendships and can look back to see just how negative that truly was. I experienced the unfavorable impact that a lack of friendships has on an individual. Not having friends forced me to get dangerously close to the edge and almost to see the final curtain call. HOWEVER, that is in my past and never to be faced again.

28943Let us now steer this bus to the sunnier side of the street. A question was recently posed to me: how do I deal with toxic individuals. It is harder to find a definitive definition of toxic people then nailing fog to the wall. There are a plethora of interpretations through examples then there are actual dictionary explanations. Six early warning signs will alert you that you are dealing with a toxic person or ten behaviors toxic people display but no detailed dictionary definition.

Toxic-peopleLet me give you seven examples of toxic people so that you can keep an eye out and hopefully save yourself lots of trouble.
First, there is the Conversational Narcissist. It is all about them.
Next is the straight jacket who is someone who wants to control everything and everyone around them.
The third is an emotional moocher also is known as a spiritual vampire because they tend to suck the positivity out of you.
Next is a Drama Magnet who is one that loves drama.
A fifth is the jealous-judgmental person they are incredibly toxic because they have so much self-hate that they cannot be happy for anyone around them.
There is also the fibber as in liars, fibbers, exaggerators… it’s exhausting to have a toxic deceiver in your life
Next is the human tank who is always right and does not take anyone else’s feelings or ideas into account.

MS is mostly a hidden medical condition because bystanders cannot see many of the symptoms. Symptoms such as tiredness, weakness, and depression are most common, yet they are not visible. These symptoms can also change from minute to minute leading to more doubt, distrust, and disbelief.

I am blessed for lack of a better term because my MS signs are apparent. This conspicuous wheelchair of mine does not allow people to call me dishonest. So the question remains “how do I deal with toxic friends in my life?” Simply said these individuals are not friends and do not last long in my world. I do not have the time or energy nor do I have the desire to forge a relationship with a perniciously poisonous person.

Not only friends can be toxic but family members as well. I cannot imagine a family that is not trusting of another family member, but some stories that I have heard are unfathomable.

One story tells how a mom who meets another person with MS later says to their child who also has MS “why can’t you be more like them.” MS is not a one size fits all condition. Shame on that mother for criticizing how multiple sclerosis controls her child.

I know of children who refuse to see or understand how debilitating their father’s multiple sclerosis truly is. You should care about your parent and take a few minutes to learn even a little about what he or she is going through or what may be to come.

dontWe probably all know someone that is potentially toxic. These individuals tend to bring you down and affect your health and well-being. Do your best to distance yourselves from those who are toxic. Spend time with those who might be toxic less and less being in their presence as little as possible. When possible, surround yourself with positive, supportive people and who care about you. People who are full of sunshine and happiness can make any day brighter. They remind you that you are not fighting this medical condition alone and that your quiver of great friends is full.

Toxic people will pollute everything. Do not hesitate. FUMIGATE.

The fluidity of fitness…

It was brought to my attention that I should consider expanding my fitness horizon. This person recommended that I do both water fitness as well as land exercises. Instead of two and a half to three hours in the water, I should split my time amongst the two. Someone then suggested that I do an hour on land and the rest in the pool.

I was hesitant because there is a freedom for me as my body buoyancy is beneficial in the pool. There are physical limitations on land that vanish in this magical water. These restrictions become outright obstructive when attempting exercises in a wheelchair on land. Then I thought to myself why not at least check out my land-fitness options.

handcycleSo I decided to go and observe my options. The first piece of equipment that I looked at was the hand cycle. I would say that this mechanism is simplicity in motion. I do require someone to adjust the handle height for me since I am four foot tall in my wheelchair. This handcycle is a fundamental movement even for assistance needing person like me. All you need to do is pedal with your hands. This piece of equipment is mostly useful for cardio and endurance. The first piece of land equipment is reasonable and not a bad choice.

ropeThe machine that is directly next to the handcycle is called the infinity rope. It has a rope with some inline pulleys as well as a way to tighten the tension. This machine is also mainly good for cardio and endurance. My problem is that I cannot pull my chair close enough to get a good angle to make it useful to me. So the second piece of land equipment is a no go.

baldAfter those two pieces of equipment things continue to change for the worse for the disabled. At this point, most of the fitness equipment becomes as useless as a hair dryer for a bald guy for us who are wheelchair bound. They have a plethora of other equipment that requires bending, stooping or climbing that we cannot do. To use these devices, we would need several firefighters and a person to direct traffic.

They have a few free-weight dumbbells, but those and the handcycle do not make for a reasonable land fitness routine. Also, to make it more worth my time I would have to transfer to a weight bench, and that is not as easy as one would think. A weight bench is too narrow to be a stable surface.

freedomAlas, it is the pool that I will use for the entire time. It has very few limitations, and I can work around the exigous number of restrictions that do exist. There is a freedom that allows the disabled swimmer to be who he or she cannot be on land. This marvelous water makes it possible for even the ambulatory to move without the weight-bearing limitations of the earth’s gravity. Pool fitness is also better on the joints and in my humble opinion better for super circular heroes or the wheeled wonders.

Find whatever works best for you but do not stop moving your body.

There’s always a little toothpaste still in the tube…

I have come to the realization that I must carefully consider a quest for driving options. It will be a daunting task that will take a while to come to fruition as the Veterans Administration will be involved. There are a plethora of options and directions that one can take an inquisition such as this. Each of these extensive expeditions has its pros and cons. The cost alone will be excessively expensive whatever path that I make in this pedantic process.

drivingThe first task to find an accessible car is to know your specific requirements. The list of amenities that are available for your choice is excessive and abundant. Can you transfer from your wheelchair to the driver seat of a sedan and then back again with the assistance of no one? Now, is it possible to do all of that while from the driver seat tearing down your chair and putting the pieces in the backseat and then back again?

If the answer is yes, then your probe is rapidly concluding. Select the car that is easiest to transfer in and out of, and that is in your budget. Lastly, pick the hand controls that work best for you and have them installed. Your quest is over. You do not have to continue reading, but you should.

However, for the rest of us, this road is a marathon and not a sprint. Those of us who cannot transfer into a sedan one hundred percent of the time without assistance must trudge on. We need to decide two significant things before we take our next step.

The first is do we want a van, an SUV or a pickup truck? Personal style, preference and the size of your bank account will help you decide what kind of vehicle you will get. I am not a truck guy, so that gets knocked off of my list of choices. I am an SUV guy, but my wallet will not allow me to have one.

The second is what does your wallet depth tell you is the best option a new or a used vehicle? Each again has its pluses and minuses or positives and negatives.

Used accessible vehicle means expensive just in a different way when it comes to these adapted automobiles. Let me give an example to get my point across. I saw a 2001 minivan that had a ramp and hand controls for a wheelchair. Without the ramp and hand controls a seventeen-year-old minivan like that would cost $3000. However, this van with these few pieces of accessible equipment is selling for $20,000. Needless to say, used does not mean affordable. I refuse to buy a seventeen-year-old car with seventeen-year-old equipment.

Modification and customization is the name of the game when referring to a new automobile. These changes can range from the massive to the miniscule always depending on your needs and budget. I will give you a few examples of how they both play their role.

fold rampFirst, you must get from the sidewalk into the vehicle meaning you need a ramp. The less costly route is a ramp that you manually manipulate into place by sliding the door open and physically unfolding the ramp.

power rampThe expensive path is a power ramp that slides out of the floor with the push of two buttons. The first knob push is to slide the door open electronically. Toggle two propels a motorized ramp from just beneath the floor.

driving from chairNext, let us consider the driver seat for the person planning to use hand controls. The lower price point option is to have a bracket under your wheelchair and the other half mounted in the driver position. Once these two pieces snap together, then you can lock them in place with a lever, put your seatbelt on, and drive away.

The pricy option is to have a power captain’s chair. These motorized seats will rotate back next to the wheelchair user so that he or she can easily transfer to the driver seat. Once they transfer seats they push another button, and this marvelous mechanism moves them into position to drive.

vanThese brand new accessible cars are beyond expensive. If you purchase a new vehicle and then modify it you void the warranty. Several businesses buy vehicles directly from the manufacturer allowing them to change the cars and still offer a warranty. These vehicles can cost fifty to over seventy thousand dollars depending on the options you choose. These options can solve any issue and deal with any concern that you may have as the possibilities are endless.

With options galore, you can create the car of your dreams.