Thursday, July 31, 2008

Let's hear it for therapists who crip!

Isn't it great when philosophy is actually a basis for real life? I often heard in women's studies that the personal becomes the political and vice versa. This disability-friendly motto once again showed its applicability last week when I went to the infamous wheelchair clinic. Now those of us who know anything about being fitted for a wheelchair know that the experience can all but drain you of all your sense of disability-groundedness and pride. You may enter the portal with all your personhood in tact, quirks and all. But the minute you enter the threshold of the examining room, a metamorphosis takes place right before your very senses. You literally become a diagnosis, a pathology, a criteria of deficits and incongruencies of the human body. Having gone through this experience several times, I brace myself by letting all the disability studies theories about normalcy run through my mind. At one point, I was so into my own head that the wheelchair vendor had to snap me out of my DS trance and say "Carol, did you hear what we said?" Upon which I replied, "Oh sorry, I wasn't really listening." From this point on, I tried to focus and give credence to these onlooking men and women who after all did go through six years of college to get various degrees that would serve them well in critiquing my body as well as many others.

I have to however humble myself and admit to the error of my ways. Skepticism has its place but it should never monopolize one's faith in the possibility of change. The young therapists sat patiently as I did listening to the pontification of the vendor as if he were God him or herself, who had created me and knew every intricacy there was to know. After we heard the commandments of proper seating and the type of chair that would miraculously enable me to sit as erect and normal as possible (I don't think I ever used the word normal in stating what I wanted). Anyway, the two novice therapists looked at me with a very coy but all-knowing expression and simply said "Carol, what do you think? How are you most comfortable and productive in your sitting?" I explained to them and even showed them what they termed as the quad-sling (that's when you drape one of your elbows over the back of your wheelchair) along with being very sleek looking, it is quite comfortable. After my demonstration, the therapists who have the power to prescribe said to me "That's what we thought, Carol." If I could have, I would've given them the biggest high-five and I think they know that.

It was such as great day from thereon in because I realized that somewhere in the world, mainly in the city of Philadelphia, there are two therapists who get it. The body is not void of its own peculiarities and the disabled body is a wonderful example of resisting the norm and inventing a style, functionality and fluidity which has an intergrity that cannot be defined or captured by scientific or medical principles.

10 comments:

therextras said...

Thanks, Carol! An excellent post covering both ends of the 'wheelchair clinic' experience. It made my day to hear that the therapists were the heroes that day. Different professionals take the role of pontificator in those clinics. I like to think the therapists rarely sink to thinking they know more than the patient.

The therapist has no financial gain in what is ordered for the patient - only securing the best possible function and satisfaction for the patient.

Mike Dorn said...

Carol, thanks for sharing the story of your recent sojourn to the wheelchair clinic. It sounds like such an adventure for all concerned. This time there was some mutual recognition and a new term to roll off the tonge: "quad-sling"!

william Peace said...

Wow, this brought back memories--none of them good. I have used a wheelchair for 30 years and gave up dealing with wheelchair vendors 25 years ago. I found all of these people rude at best and incompetent at worst. I farm out my wheelchair to various people. The frame and powder coating is done by a motor cycle company. The bearings and wheels by the local bike shop and the upholstery by a boat company. I assemble the wheelchair myself. Each company I deal with treats me with respect--something I found no human selling a wheelchair ever did.

Kay Olson said...

Nice explanation of how it usually works. And great story about how this time someone got it. Thanks.

Grace Young said...

Hi, I enjoy reading your blog. Happy to read about the newbie PTs who realized that we who have lived with disability all our live really do know what's best! I have a disability (post-polio syndrome), use a scooter, and have more than three decades working in rehab as an OT. My blog covers a lot of disability issues that I learned from experiencing disability from both sides.

I hope you can include my blog, www.graceryoung.com on your blog.

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