I deal in hope : Carolyn R Scheidies

Blog It Makes Me Sad My Peers are Catching up

 I was a perfectly healthy child. In fact, while my brother and sister contracted the usual childhood illnesses, I never got sick. My mom even found I’d climbed into bed with my sister when she was recovering from chickenpox so we could play games. Mom freaked. I never got it. However, when I was 13, I contracted juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).

Within a short time, I was unable to walk, my joints drew up and I was in constant pain. I went from running to a wheelchair. I remained in that wheelchair for almost ten years. While God, eventually, provided a healing from the constant pain, the results of the disease left me depending on others and unable to walk. One rehab center helped me learn to take back some control, by helping me find ways to manage some care for myself—like dressing and pulling on socks. That assistance sparked my imagination, so I begin thinking of other ways to help myself.

Eventually, I had massive reconstructive surgery and relearned to walk, Still, my limitations meant many normal activities required new ways of doing things. My friends and family accepted me as I was, letting me do what I could and stepped in when I required assistance. I was thankful I could walk and do so many things, often with the aid of utensils, some of which I created myself or asked others to help me create.

I accepted who I was. I did not envy my friends for their health and had no wish for them to deal with my limitations. But time goes by. We’re older now. I don’t like to face the truth. Members of my family and friends now find themselves dealing with things I’ve dealt with most of my life. Some have had joint replacements. Many can’t walk as easily, don’t bend well, and worry about falling.

I can’t bend or stoop, can’t reach my hair, I have limitations with dexterity and strength. Early on I was given two sticks the physical therapist called “dressing sticks.” They had a large hook on one side and fashioners on the other end to help me pull up socks. The hooks helped me dress and pick things up. I took the idea further. I lengthened the sticks to three feet. Made sticks with different sizes of hooks. To everything not easy to pick up, including electronics, I added loops to make it easier to pick up with my utility stick hooks. (I drop things easily.) Those long sticks help me zip up boots—they, too, have added loops.

Before such things were available in stores, I added handles to dustpans. I could push things I dropped into the dustpan and pick them up. I bought grippers, the long-handled pinchers, in several different styles and have one in almost every room. I bought a super-duper one for Keith. I also have long-handled tongs and even use a back scratcher to pull things toward me.  

I’ve learned that often I can figure out a way to do something by using implements I already have on hand. All it takes is thinking outside the box. I wish those I know weren’t catching up to me in developing physical disabilities but am glad I can share what I’ve learned to do with what I have. I can also encourage them—regardless of our physical limitations, to appreciate each day and give thanks.

© 2022 Carolyn R Scheidies 
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