Scared of stairs

One inch. That’s all it takes to stop me in my tracks, bring my wheelchair to an instant halt, and fling me forward and potentially face plant on the ground. In those first few weeks after my accident, while I was still in the hospital and learning how to maneuver myself in this rolling contraption that I hate so much, going over the smallest bump or gap would send shooting pain through my neck and spine. Just getting in and out of the elevator or the front door of the hospital to get some fresh air was an adventure as I could feel every jolt through my entire body and I would beg whoever was helping me to encounter these tiny bumps or rises as if I were off-roading over huge dirt mounds.

I’ve come a long way since then with my wheelchair as I no longer have much pain, but as I’ve gotten stronger and more able to go to new places, I’ve become more aware of where I walk…I mean….roll. Considering how much I already hate being shorter than everyone around me because I’m always sitting (see a previous post), it’s frustrating to  have to always keep my gaze at the ground and be on guard for any change in surface that will maintain my safety.

As a healthy and active person before my accident, I never thought twice about the entrances to homes, stores or restaurants. I lived on the top floor of an old San Francisco Victorian, with a bunch of stairs and no elevator. Many of my favorite restaurants and bars were situated at the top or bottom of a narrow flight of stairs. In a city where space is scarce and any kind of real estate costs a small fortune, there are few residences that are accommodating to someone in a wheelchair. As a result, to this day I can rarely visit my friends in their apartments or homes. “We’d love to have you over but we’re not sure if the stairs are doable” is something I hear frequently. To my friends’ credit, I have been able to bypass some seemingly sketchy entrances with some creative use of plywood ramps combined with some strong bodies pushing, pulling or even carrying me Cleopatra style.

I constantly fantasize about how monumental it will be for me to just make that first transition out of this wheelchair. Even if I have to use a walker or crutches, having the ability to go up a stair or two will open so many doors for me (literally and figuratively). I’m sick of always worrying about the smallest bump in the sidewalk or an elevated driveway or the unexpected stair and thinking how exactly my wheelchair and body would travel through the air if I were to encounter these foes without the utmost caution.

It is the biggest understatement when I say I can’t wait until I begin to get out of the wheelchair, which I refer to as my savior and worst enemy. I know I need it for now but I like to think that my hatred for it, combined with my love and driving desire to stand and walk, will lead to an imminent change in how I get around, and will lessen the feeling of being scared of stairs.

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24 thoughts on “Scared of stairs

  1. I can only imagine how limited and frustrated you must feel being unable to visit friends, restaurants etc. I only hope that one day you find the freedom to be upright again. No doubt your upper body strength is improving all the time now.

    It’s not really a wheelchair friendly society is it, although all new buildings in my country of Australia must meet wheelchair and disability access requirements now.

    Even the new kitchen in the office where I used to work was built with a space under the kitchen sink (to fit a wheelchair) when the building was built 10+ years ago.

    Some Doorways must still pose a problem for a wheelchair though.

    1. Yes it’s the same in the US. They passed a sweeping act a couple decades that mandated that all public buildings and streets should be accessible for disabled people but some older establishments are grandfathered in without having to comply. That and all previously existing homes and apartments don’t have to comply so that’s the big challenge. Doorways are definitely a challenge too. -AB

  2. I am dumbfounded by the feelings you evoke within me. I too am disabled, not to your degree. I’m not in a wheelchair, I can walk, but I still must watch every step I take or that neck wrenching will land me in bed for days, weeks, or months in agony. I am so glad for you that your pain is less. Continue to be brave and cautious of re-injury. Prayers are with you. And for the record, I’m only 4’10”, not much difference between standing and sitting. I so hear you when you say you hate being the shortest one in the room. One day you will tower again!

      1. Yea. I once worked for a university. One of the staff was in the coolest wheelchair I ever saw. It elevated him to, I was going to say eye-level but that may not be accurate, but he was definitely taller that me when he boosted himself up! So, jejeje, someone’s eyelevel 🙂

        Now that I live in DR, I’m actually taller than quite a few people, even some men! 😀 I likey!!!!

        Hope you are feeling better and that you see improvement daily!

      2. Yeah I’ve seen one of these wheelchairs. It’s amazing! The person can just stand up any time while they’re in the wheelchair. Truly amazing -AB

      3. Yea 😀 he used to literally tower over me. The great thing about it was that he could have it at whatever height he wanted. He was a quad and very limited, brilliant man. Absolutely brilliant, so much so that even though I admired him greatly, I found him to be rather intimidating.

      4. Arash, it is you who is inspirational! You are sharing your trials with us. You open eyes! You open understanding! You open hearts! You give … hope! My wish for you is that you will once again stand tall, and be all that you want to be.

      5. I have no idea I’m having that effect but if that’s the case then I’m really happy about that. I too can’t wait to stand tall and share some of the lessons from this journey with others. So glad we connected in the blog world -AB

  3. Such honest expression in this great post my friend. You have had to adapt so quickly to a situation that is so “not you”– This is just plain hard – and I just don’t get why bad stuff happens to good people. I hear all of what you have expressed here – and know how much you want up and out of the chair. Especially now, if your pain levels are down – it has to be a complete tease to be limited this way.
    Whenever I begin to feel a bit better I think, now I can conquer the world – and then am usually shown otherwise . For you – each moment, each day, each milestone — celebrate wherever you can to align with as much positivity as possible. Try not to think about the voids too much, and rather focus on where you want to be. Yes – fantasize about that day that you just get up and go!!! I I will be envisioning it for you as well, and it will be a celebration for us all!
    Love to you dear one ~ Robyn

    1. Such beautiful words Robyn (but honestly, would I expect anything less from a gifted writer like you??). Your point to focus on the positive is a great one. It is easy for me to sometimes just focus on what I want to do or what I can’t do instead of focus on what I can do. It’s hard I admit to think that way but I try as much as I can. The progress is so slow but I admit I can see it little by little. It’s always tough as I’m living through the day to day (much like you are I’m sure) and so I don’t always see the step by step progress myself. I fantasize about so many moments and I just can’t wait to start realizing some of those moments soon. Can’t wait to celebrate together soon! -AB

  4. I had my first dream with you in it last night where I turned around and you had surprised me by getting up and walking over to me! It was so vivid that I was sure it was more than a dream. I think it was a prophecy 😉 can’t wait for us to go for a walk together again one day, all the faith I have tells me we will.

    1. You are a prophet! It makes me so happy when I hear of people having dreams with me walking in them. I can’t wait to realize those dreams and prove everyone right. I’m looking forward to that walk we take together too. -AB

  5. Just another part of your journey that the rest of us probably don’t think about. I’ve been to San Francisco a couple of times and all I think about when you mention your wheelchair are the ups and downs of the sidewalks. I can’t imagine the struggles you are facing, but I am inspired by the courage you have shown and the conviction you are carrying forward. Sending good energy your way!

    1. Much appreciated. Yes I hope I can provide just a bit more info on those aspects of the journey that are not noticed as much. People sometimes may look at me and think not much is different, I look the same more or less but they don’t always realize how many things are a struggle that they didn’t think about. -AB

  6. I know how you feel, living in Pittsburgh many of the houses, apartments, restaurants etc. all have stairs making it very difficult for me to visit my friends as well. If it makes you feel any better, and the 2 1/2 years since my injury I have only fallen out of my chair once. All because my push glove got caught in the spokes of my wheel and pulled me out onto the sidewalk. It was actually pretty funny.Although, I too find myself constantly staring at the ground making sure I stay away from rocks or cracks that could throw me onto my face at any given moment.

  7. I know what you mean! When I was in re-hab, and someone would bump me accidentally, not realizying how discomforting it is to sci people. But additionally, watch out when you brush against things with your legs/feet because you can feel any scrapes when they occur.

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