Since Rutgers DT Eric LeGrand was paralyzed last week during one of their football games, I have browsed through quite a few news reports on his injury. Because spinal cord injuries are hard enough for the injured person to understand, let alone some third party reporter, I’m always interested to how the injury is reported in the media. This one particularly caught my eye:
Stories of recovering from spinal cord injuries can be both inspiring and devastating. Some, after years of therapy, are able to regain some motion. Others never move again and are at risk of life-threatening infections.
Now, I’m sure the author here is talking about the fact that some people are never again able to voluntarily use their brain to move their arms or legs, but I really do think there are some who think that those of us paralyzed with spinal cord injuries really can’t move at all and have very inactive lives. I can actually relate to this a little bit. This is a little embarrassing, but I remember when I was in middle school when Bob Dole was running for President in 1996 and, knowing nothing about paralysis and what that meant, I stupidly wondered, “how does he get his arm into his shirt-sleeves if he can’t move it!?”
In truth, the paralyzed limbs are still capable of being moved around and everyday people with spinal cord injuries live perfectly happy, healthy, active lives, even those with high level injuries. We work, drive, travel, play sports, cook, clean, date, marry, even have babies, to name just a few things. And many of us, depending on level of injury, are totally self-sufficient.
Life in a wheelchair has been an incredible lesson in humility in more ways than one. While I talk a lot here about accepting human weakness and limitations, what I’ve come to find after 10+ years in a wheelchair is that, often the hardest part about living with a disability is not coming to terms with what I can’t do, but dealing with the perception that I am more helpless than I really am – especially when people really go out of their way to try to do something for me that I could very easily to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate their generosity, but, having so many limitations as it is, I tend to take a little bit too much pride in the things that I still can do for myself, especially when I’m around someone who is not familiar with me and my situation.
Related: Life…”in a Wheelchair”
Good news: I heard on College GameDay this weekend that LeGrand has gotten some feeling and movement back in some of his extremities. See post: Prayers for Eric LeGrand