Hi, my name is Uel and pre-December 2011 I was an avid rock climber, swam in the sea a lot, gymed, organized adventure camps and helped out at church.
But in December 2011 i dived into a river and well, i didn’t end up winning any medals for my attempt but did unfortunately break my neck leaving me paralyzed from the chest down…..
I was air lifted to hospital where I spent 100 days, eish. The doctors didn’t have much hope for me regaining any movement below my shoulders and classified me a quadraplegic.
2 and a half years later I can now move my arms and my wrists, i have sensation in some of my fingers and recently my stomach muscles started working… hey, gotta do some crunches for summer.
Life is obviously more difficult now. I can’t brush my own teeth, I can’t scratch my own shoulder, i can only feed myself certain foods if I’m in a specific position, I can’t hold a glass, I constantly fight with my duvets (and they win) if my arms get tangled, I can’t speak for too long without getting out of breath as my diaphragm is weaker, I can only swallow food with my head in a certain position as my throat muscles are stronger on 1 side (weird right?), I pee in a bag cause I can’t walk to the bathroom, I can’t fight off spiders, I can’t stop myself if I fall over, I can’t brush my hair…cause my head’s shaved so I ain’t got any! HA! And the list goes on…..
I’m 6ft2 and so getting me into a car is super tricky and we don’t have a wheelchair friendly car. Because of that, I don’t leave home often but even when I do, after a couple hours my body is tired and I need a bed.
Going out to familiar places and not being able to do familiar things is tough on the soul. Like flying to Hawaii and staying in the aeroplane while everyone else disembarks.
Though going out is good at times but my parents need to carry snacks to feed me regularly so my blood pressure doesn’t drop too much cause then I faint. Oops. I’m not some strange hybrid Transformer creature with wheels glued to my behind. I’m just a guy sitting down in a wheelchair….for now so I’m not quite sure why some people stare at me like I have coodies and they may catch it?
Perhaps in this performance based world where in many countries, if anyone has a disability; they are left to die as infants, or cast out, or put in homes, or even hidden from the public as I recently found out happens in my own back yard just outside Cape Town. But I come from a loving family with the most wonderful people in my life so luckily I’m allowed out into the open and don’t have to live in a bell tower.
In my current condition, when I go out, I’ve noticed 4 types of people:
1) those that try to ignore you so hard that it becomes awkward (like people trying so hard not to look at a beggar).
2) those that stare and gossip.
3) those that act over friendly as a type of over-compensation.
4) those that act normal.
Just to let you all know, number 4 is the winner, do that more and it boils down to education. Not the school/university type of education, but just people skills and realizing that this is what life dealt us. Some are paralyzed, some are born that way, some have an extra chromosome, some catch a disease, some have a chemical imbalance and for some it was an accident but NOBODY chose it so let’s have a little compassion….not pity but the greatest of all – Love.
I think that all kids/teens (and adults) should be exposed to orphanages, homes for mentally disabled people, old age centers, cancer wards etc etc and you know what, you may just be surprised at the wonder and beauty you find there. Let’s stop aiming at producing *celebrities and pro-athletes but start aiming at creating caring people.
Many people in the conditions mentioned above don’t have the most love and support because they often get labelled as outcasts. So be a light in their lives and add a little more shine to this world.
Much love – Uel
*Disclaimer: I don’t have anything against celebrities or pro-athletes and none of them were harmed in the making of this