Monthly Archives: September 2013

Guest post: Pregnant in a wheelchair

Thank you to Meg Johnson, C-7 quadriplegic, for sharing her blog post about her experience being pregnant with SPINALpedia!

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What’s it like to be pregnant in a wheelchair?

No one has ever asked me this question, but maybe it has crossed your mind. I know that if I was able-bodied and met someone pregnant in a wheelchair, I’d want to ask. So I will answer the unasked question!
Being pregnant in a wheelchair:

No one ever asks me if I am pregnant. No one. I guess the sitting look is odd enough and the big belly just looks like, well, maybe a big belly.

If I offer the info and share that I am pregnant with someone I don’t know (met in grocery store, temple worker, etc.), the response is often a silent combination of confusion and disbelief.

I get light-headed a lot. I often have to stop moving and lean over my legs as much as my round belly will allow. I did black out twice during a speech once. I didn’t pass out and I could still hear myself speaking into the microphone so I just kept talking. No one knew!I have diminished lung capacity anyway so when the baby shoves her feet into my soft, squishy lungs she can take the breath right out of me. I can’t ‘stand up’ or move around a lot to try to get her to move so I’m left panicking and gasping for air. This has been the cause of several emergency pull-overs off the freeway.My doctors keep asking if I need a bigger wheelchair because of the weight they expected me to gain. So far, so good…The baby’s movement can toss me around. When she moves inside me, it feels like someone has kicked my wheelchair. Once when I was sitting on the couch, she moved and I fell sideways onto my brother-in-law and his food.

Shoulder pain. I guess other moms get it in their hips and back.

The baby grows every day and so I change enough every day to not know exactly how to do a car/couch/bed transfer.

I can’t reach stuff off the floor.

I can’t close the dishwasher.

The dog sits on my pregnant belly, wondering, I’m sure, why “his” lap space is shrinking.

I guess that’s about it. All in all it’s been a pretty low-key, event-less experience. I once watched “Paralyzed and Pregnant,” a documentary on a pregnant paralyzed lady and she had tons of problems and was in the hospital a lot. So I expected to be a little more challenged. Definitely counting my blessings!

Well, actually I totally didn’t count any blessings in this post, I just listed the stuff that was harder. Hmm. So to make up for it, here’s a quick list:

1. My husband goes to every single doctor’s appointment with me. Best husband ever award.
2. He will let me decorate the baby’s room any way I want!
3. I have an awesome crib.
4. I haven’t had any horrific pains that have sent me to the ER.
5. The baby is growing normally!
6. I can still do most household chores.
7. I have many wonderful friends who’ve been loving and supportive.
8. I haven’t had to purchase a single outfit. I’ve been given lots and lots of cute baby clothes!
9. “Nesting” has been fun with my husband. He works harder and faster than 4 regular people, it’s crazy.
10. My husband likes my round tummy, which helps me feel less plump.

Adapted from www.megjohnsonspeaks.com:

Meg Johnson is a motivational speaker, author, artist, teacher, non-profit founder, and extreme tuna fish eater. She always wanted to be a motivational speaker but after taking a few courses in college she dropped out because she simply “wasn’t passionate enough about anything” to speak about it. Fast forward a few years, Meg found herself at the bottom of a 40 foot cliff in St. George, Utah. Meg’s broken neck rendered her a C-7 quadriplegic. Though Meg lost most of her abilities, she found her passion as she struggles to keep moving forward despite her inability to walk. Meg now speaks on her motto, which, she says, is applicable for people of all abilities: When life gets too hard to stand, just keep on rollin’!

Blog reprinted with permission from: http://www.megjohnsonspeaks.com/1/post/2013/09/whats-it-like-to-be-pregnant-in-a-wheelchair.html

 

Guest post: Disability Breeds Creativity

SPINALpedia is all about finding the best ways to adapt to life with mobility limitations. Check out this guest post from Emily Ladau about her own adaptations!

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Celebrating Adaptive Uses of Kitchen Tongs and Ottomans

 

My family and I often joke that our house should have a sign in front that reads “Home Healthcare Store.” In actuality, our little joke isn’t far from reality; we own enough adaptive equipment that if we put it all in one room, it would look like we have a combination physical therapy office/rehabilitation clinic/medical supply store. We have a little bit of everything, ranging from items like weighted medicine balls and stretchy therapy bands to custom equipment such as walkers, braces, and wheelchairs. And while I could fill an entire blog post with a list of all the things that make my life a bit easier, I’d like to focus on the little things I use each day – both true adaptive tools and repurposed household items – to be as independent as possible. After all, it’s the little things that make the biggest differences.

adaptive equipment, reachers

Three different types of adaptive reaching sticks hanging on white hooks, surrounded by several multi-colored necklaces and a black and white flowered purse.

 

One of my favorite adaptive tools, a reaching stick, can be found in nearly every room of my house. They are strategically placed; you can see three different kinds hanging on the same organizer rack as the necklaces in my bedroom (I brought 2 home from college), another resting on a hook in my bathroom, and so on. If you’re not familiar with the wonders of reaching sticks, allow me to wax poetic about them for a moment. They are amazingly clever tools made of metal and plastic. Also known as grabbers or reachers, reaching sticks may as well be known as a key to independence for me. I’d say I drop things or knock things over at least three times a day, if not way more than that. While I’m lucky to be agile enough to bend down and reach larger items off the floor, I have elbow contractures that often make it difficult to reach the distance from my wheelchair to the ground, especially to retrieve smaller objects. Assuming I don’t knock over something like, say, an entire box of little colored beads from my craft drawer, or my entire bottle of multivitamins, it’s never difficult to pick up after myself with my trusty reacher. It eliminates having to rely so much on other people for help, and I’m sure my dad appreciates fewer exclamations of “Oops! Daaaaaaa-ad!” following the sound of a crash.

adaptive equipment, kitchen tongs, reachers, M&Ms

Using a pair of kitchen tongs to pick up M&M’s candies.

 

Of course, it would look a little silly to always carry around a giant reaching stick. I suppose I could refer to it as my scepter, since I sit on the royal throne of my wheelchair…But in reality, my mother, who is also a fan and frequent user of reachers, has come up with a rather inventive solution to avoid the looks one might receive when toting around a long metal stick with a claw: carry a pair of kitchen tongs instead! I mean, there’s nothing less silly than kitchen tongs, right?! (A word of warning for all novice adaptive kitchen tong users: be cautious not to bring them into restaurants with salad bars or house ware stores like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. You might end up having a lot of explaining to do if people think you’re stealing things!) In all seriousness, though, using tongs as a smaller version of a reaching stick demonstrates one of my favorite ideas: disability breeds creativity.

Because I was born with my disability, my life has always necessitated creative adaptations to make things easier or more accessible. Over time, thinking up creative solutions has become the norm for me to be as independent as possible on a daily basis. For instance, in most houses, you might find an ottoman near a big comfortable chair for people who are inclined to put their feet up at the end of a long day. And while I definitely love to put my feet up in the evening, you won’t find me using my ottoman to rest. While most feet end their days with an ottoman, mine start the day with one. I have a small ottoman right next to my desk in my room, ready and waiting for me when I’m about to put on my shoes.

adaptive, shoes, ottoman

Putting on my shoes by resting my leg on a turquoise ottoman!

 

When I was younger, I needed help putting shoes on every morning because I couldn’t reach my own feet. (I know, you’re wondering why I didn’t just use a reaching stick if this is a reaching issue, but alas, a reacher cannot solveeverything.) By the end of elementary school, however, I realized that I didn’t want my parents to assist me in getting ready every morning for the rest of my life. So, we problem solved, searching for items at the perfect height for me to lift my legs onto so I could reach to slip on my shoes. After lots of searching, we found a display of small turquoise ottomans at, you guessed it, Bed, Bath, and Beyond! (Don’t worry, we didn’t bring the kitchen tongs with us!) Now, I don’t have to give a second thought to the daily task of putting on my shoes, all thanks to a little creativity and brainstorming.

Adapting things to meet the needs of my disability is not always quite as simple as taking a quick trip to my favorite house wares store, but I embrace little victories and creative solutions. If everyone, disabled and nondisabled, took the time to consider the ways in which we must all adapt, and the ways that many barriers or obstacles are unnecessary and even preventable with a little creative thinking, this would be a fantastic step in the right direction for disability access and equality.

What are your favorite adaptive tools or ways to adapt things? I love to learn new creative ideas!

A bit more about Emily Ladau:

Emily recently graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Adelphi University on Long Island, New York, where she was born and raised. During her undergraduate career, Emily was actively involved in disability advocacy initiatives. She did a part-time outreach internship at the Suffolk Independent Living Organization and worked as a mentor for a student with Asperger’s syndrome. Emily’s areas of interest include encouraging all disabled people to become self-advocates and researching portrayals of disability in the media, a subject on which she just completed an honors thesis entitled “A Study of the Influence of Popular Television on Perceptions of Nondisabled People Regarding Physical Disability and Romantic Relationships.” She recently completed a summer internship at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) under the auspices of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) internship program. Emily is a passionate self-advocate and is pursuing a career in which she can use her communication and writing skills as a means of positive change for all disabled people.

Blog reprinted with permission from: http://emilyladau.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/disability-breeds-creativity/