For most of us wheelchairs are disturbing. They mean illness, disabilities, problems and limitations. They represent our fear of a different world. And it is kind of normal. Few of us have been surrounded with them and we have been taught not to look.
However, my chairs on wheels saved my life...by giving me
It wasn't a foregone conclusion though. It took me more than a year to accept my first wheelchair. In my mind, I had to battle. Not give in to anything. Even if moving was hard, often beyond me, I couldn't accept to adapt. I was scared it meant letting the brain injury win.
I was also scared of what others would think and even of innocent remarks about the fact I use a chair despite my ability to walk. However, I needed it.
My first chair was a classic hospital wheelchair. More built to be pushed than self- propelled. Despite my initial resistance, its use quickly brought opportunities. It wasn't slowing me down, but actually helped me move forward. I was able to go shopping with my carer. Go for walks with friends. Have trips to the swimming pool - impossible without the chair as my brain cannot deal with gravity when I get out of water. Go on holidays. And simply move around even when I am tired.
The use of the chair didn't slow down my rehab, but rather helped me improve. Instead of battling none stop I can give time for my brain to rest.
Since then, my walking continuously progressed. Instead of compensating my gait difficulties by dragging my right side along, I can now roll when I am tired and walk correctly when my brain is up to it.
The increase in movement - without the difficulty of walking (being stood up, balance, nausea, head control, etc.) - also massively increased my eye coordination and my brain capacity to deal with passing movements. All positive in a life where little victories can make the difference and where the dream of riding my bike again keep me going.
As my chair slowly took its role in my daily life, my love for all things on wheels slowly came back. I started to consider it as a new bike...just a bit different. And as with all my bikes, I needed to make it mine by modifying it. All irrelevant (to me) medical elements such as the anti-tip (safety) wheels had to go. The handles were replaced with Danny McAskill bike grips. Green bar tape and scooter front wheels were mounted to add style and manoeuvrability. In short my hospital wheelchair became a reason to be proud.
I had my chair for about a year when we took the decision to get another one. Even though my first chair gave me loads of smiles and helped me to enjoy little adventures with friends, its main drawback was that I couldn't ride it by myself. I needed at least one person with me to help push. It was time for motors and thus the BatMobile came into my life.
With its big rear wheels, electric motors and two batteries, my new chair was the perfect weapon to rediscover the joy of being alone - with a dog - in nature. Whether on the road or on the tracks of the Swiss mountains, and in all weathers, it allows me me to enjoy the fresh air. Even when my legs can't walk me. And I can't start to describe the independence it brings to me every day..
Even though my Batmobile is an exhibition/display model from a Chinese brand, that we could buy for an amazing price, I couldn't enjoy the freedom it offers without all the donations I got through the #myBrainmyRules campaign.
Thank you everyone for your support. ❤
A few months ago thanks to the progress of my eyes and my right side in rehab, I started to see my manual wheelchair in a new light. It wasn't only a way to get around...but a toy on wheels!! I can't explain what this idea didn't come sooner. My brain probably wasn't quite ready. However. suddenly I wanted to do wheelies, go up and down curbs and skid. The feeling being pretty similar to unicycling, basics came fairly easily. Even my right side, a bit lazy at first and responsible for a few little crashes, caught up quickly and improved. I have found out that to rehab my brain...
....I need to have fun. 😎😎😎
Quickly my playground moved to the Skate park of Bagnes and its pump track. I had tried before to come back here with a balance bike. It ended up in tears and despair, as I wasn't able to ride. You can then imagine my level of happiness when I realize I could still have fun on wheels. I just needed to sit... Add to it the challenge to learn something new, and you have me hooked!
Unfortunately this more active riding quickly showed the limit of my manual wheelchair (which lost of few bits here and there). Thanks to the generosity of sisters Anita and Caro Gerhig however, I got a new more active chair. It was like replacing a family saloon with a sports car. I am a lucky girl indeed!!
Today, my three chairs have their place in my life. My first one is still my favourite when it comes to social activities. The BatMobile gives me independence, the freedom to choose where I want to go and to enjoy the nature around me. And I test the limits of my new chair every time my brain has enough energy for it.
Something died in my when I had my accident. But thanks to my chairs I have found the joys of rolling again and a bit of happiness is back in my life.☺