Category Archives: Simple Solution

I Went For a Walk the Other Night

The doctor thought for a minute or so and said it sounds like restless leg syndrome. Which at first seemed pretty bizarre since I am paralyzed. Those are the symptoms of restless leg syndrome he reiterated. They had begun back in 1999 when I was injured. Over the years they had lessened in frequency, but I still had at least a couple of times a week. If I didn’t take the medication right away it led to night terrors and panic attacks that would possess me for hours.

Going for a Walk

Going for a Walk

As odd as it seemed just his defining the condition led to a decrease in frequency. I had learned early on to take Xanax at the earliest of symptoms otherwise it was impossible to avoid the onset. The drug would usually put me to sleep for several hours and I’d a wake disoriented. The decrease in frequency was a blessing in itself and started me wondering if there might be another way to deal with it now.

For a long time, prior to my injury, I had used imagining as a tool in my life. I realize I have already written about it a couple times (Visualization Worth Looking Into and In My Mind I’m Going To Carolina), but this was another use for the powerful practice. In thinking about it, I decided if my legs want to go for a walk, then why not take them for a walk. Early one morning I woke up around 4:30 am. As the initial feelings started; my legs feeling like cement, tingling and then progressing to the overwhelming feeling to move them, I closed my eyes and visualized myself swinging my legs off the bed and onto the floor. Next it was step by mental step walking down the hall and outside. I could not believe how easy it was and how satisfying it was physically and more important mentally. Since that night I have gone jogging and even rode my bike. However, the greatest benefit is that I have not had a recurrence of the syndrome in a couple of months.

The mind is a powerful asset.

New Year—New Opportunity – The Fork In The Road

Since its creation in 2008 Handihelp’s objective has been to share information, with individuals who have disabilities which will help them improve their daily lives, reduce frustrations and help them return to the activities that gave them quality of life.

Nothing is as important as the mind set the individual approaches their new life with. A catastrophic event generally limits normal body function in some way, but what it also does, which I think is much more serious, is take away skills that the individual has been using all his or her life. The person, after the onset of a disability, will eventually come to a fork in the road when they wish to perform a task and are unable to use the skill they used before. Which road will they choose? One road could, over time, led to as sense of helplessness while the other to feeling of empowerment. The factor, controlling the decision choosing which road, is the individual’s attitude.

A Fork In The Road

A Fork In The Road

Parisians reeling from the terrorist attacks in November 2015 came to a similar crossroad. Were they going to allow the terrorist attacks to change their lives and lifestyles, because of fear and anxiety, or were they going to return to being the City of Light? The decision was decided by their refusal to be intimidated into changing the lifestyle Paris is known for. The decision was decided by their attitude.

Handihelp strongly believes that a person, who is disabled, can reclaim much of what has been taken from them if they approach their new life with the proper attitude. Just as the Parisians decided the terrorist attacks would not destroy what they loved, an individual with a disability, as Christopher Reeves stated should refuse to allow a disability to determine how he or she will live their life. Being motivated by the proper attitude can lead to the development of new skills to replace many of those that have been taken.

Critical to the development of new skills is the understanding that there are many ways to solve a particular problem. Historically, cultures tend to develop a few accepted methods to solve a challenge. These ways are often referred to as norms from the root word normal. After a while people come to believe that those methods are the only ones that can be used. Nothing could be further from the truth! When talking to a group I often use the example of catching a fish, but in reality the same concept could be applied to many of the tasks performed daily. If ten people were selected from a homogenous audience in the U.S. and ask to catch a fish, chances are most would grab a fishing pole and head to nearby body of water. Suppose the same challenge was presented to a heterogeneous group of dependents from the United Nations. There is a strong probability we would see a variety of methods which could include, but not be limited to, the use of nets (both casting and stationary), weirs, noodling, spears, spear guns, bow and arrow and even the use of other animals, such as cormorants which are widely used to catch fish in Far East.

So, when initially dealing with a challenge placed on an individual with a disability, many most often try to solve the problem using the same skill they used before their impairment. When the old approach does not work and it is repeated for other problems it can create extreme frustration and an acute awareness of the limitations created by their disability. This experience repeated a number of times can lead an individual down the wrong road. Accepting failure as an end result, over time, can easily lead to the belief of inability. Imagine a baby; if they had a concept of failure, deciding after months of falling down it wasn’t worth continuing trying to get up. The result is obvious.

Conversely, you only need to browse through the pages of Handihelp to see a number of different ways people have come up with to solve a common problem. To understand the likelihood of a solution is critical to developing the new attitude. Developing a new skill most likely will not come easy. It will take time, effort, thought, failure, persistence, trial and error… you get the idea. However, imagine the results when you find a new way to solve a challenge.
As Robert Frost wrote in his poem “The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

What Do You See?

The Dress
More than likely you are aware of the great dress debate which captured the public’s attention for a couple days last month. Some people saw the dress as gold and white (left) and others saw it as black and blue (right). The fashion police finally identified the dress as black and blue. What people saw, if I have it correct, was determined by light and certain sensory receptors in the perceiver’s brain.

It always amazes me how two people can look at the same object and see two different things. This happens quite a bit between my son Mark and me. As a result of his engineering training he usually has a different perspective than me. Fortunately, my disability has changed what I see. I’ll give you a challenge. Look at the picture below and tell yourself what you see.
Broom & Dustpan
Now this is a perfect example of how what I see has changed since my accident. Pre-injury I would have seen only a slightly different type of broom and dustpan. However, when I saw it a month or so ago I saw, a multi-purpose tool which had nothing to do with sweeping the floor. I did notice it was pretty inexpensive so, I ordered it!
When it arrived I was pleasantly surprise how well made it was. After some minor adaptions I had myself an extremely useful multipurpose tool which enables me to do something I’ve been trying to figure out a way to do for 16 years.

Just below you can see the adaptions I made and one of my new uses of the dustpan. It works better that anything I have made for picking up larger objects. Adapted DustpanHowever, the job I bought it for was as a tool which would allow me to feed the dogs when my wife is gone. A challenge I have been trying to solve since my injury. My nurse fills the dog dishes, before she leaves, and places them on the microwave. I am able to get them down on the kitchen counter and slide them onto the dustpan and then lower the dish to the ground. I feel smug every time I do it.

Looking at an object and seeing more than the obvious is a real asset. Oh, I can also use it to sweep the floor.

Handihelp Mobile

Handihelp Mobile is now available for Apple iPads iPhones and Android Smartphones, tablets and Kindle Fire. Also available from Google Play and iTunesHandihelp Mobile

I’m Fat and I Know It, Clap Your Hands

Fifteen Years LaterMonday, February 17 was the 15th anniversary of my “accident” on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. Last year, around this time, I wrote a blog entitled Lessons I Have Learned. Recently, I received a stark reminder of something that I hadn’t learned or at least had refused to acknowledge. The last blog I wrote was about a dog sled ride I took February 1st. It was a beautiful ride and a wonderful time, but in the context of that ride, I finally acknowledged that I had lost control over my weight. Not only was it affecting my wife and my caretakers, but it was also affecting my enjoyment of the things that I love to do. As I have stated so many times in my writings control is a major issue for me and probably almost anyone who has a disability. I prided myself on the way I had taken control of many of the frustrations and limitations that were placed on me by my quadriplegia. I knew I was overweight, but I had found reasons to excuse it. Such as, my condition limits my ability to exercise or I have greatly limited my food intake from what it was prior to my accident or eating is something that I can do that I really enjoy. But in reality all of these were excuses!

Summer before my accidentPrior to my “accident” I was very physically active and 6’5″ tall, which allowed me to consume a great amount of food and maintain a body weight between 215 and 220 pounds. During my struggle to survive, my weight plummeted to around 180 pounds. When I returned home after six months of rehabilitation I was still under what had been my normal weight. In the beginning, there was no need for me to curb my appetite. Quite the opposite I was being encouraged to regain the weight that I had lost. My weight began to creep up, but I was unable to hold it in check even though I made a serious effort to control the amount of food and portions I ate. Over a period of years my weight grew to over 260 pounds. A couple times I made an effort to restrict my caloric intake but was unable to maintain the effort for any length of time.

The problems I encountered on the dog sled ride caused me to realize my situation and make a mental commitment to change my lifestyle, reduce my weight and increase my physical activity. In other words, take control. This must be a change lasting the rest of my life and I know it. With the mental decision made I turned to a weight loss app I have used before.

Lose It, which I wrote about in an earlier blog Have I Got An App For You is already helping. While not designed for people with disabilities it is easy to adapt for people in unique circumstances. My activity level is increasing and my weight has begun to drop.
There is a great difference between talking about doing something and making the mental commitment to do it. \
Lose It

What A Day

The day started early for the participants in the Second Annual Fabend Bass Fishing Spectacular on the St. Lawrence River. Rhonda, my nurse, arrived around 5 o’clock so I could be ready for the rendezvous at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton New York at 7 AM. I’m not quite sure what time my son Mark got up for the hour and a half journey to our house from south of Syracuse. He did arrive at 6:30 and immediately went to work putting the adaptive equipment on my manual wheelchair. The third member of our little escapade, our friend and guide, Dean Meckes of Dean Meckes Charters was already at the Antique Boat Museum when we arrived. Several volunteers, members the Boat Museum staff also came in early to run the power lift that would remove me from my power wheelchair, swing me out over Dean’s boat and lower me into my manual chair. The Boat Museum does a lot of work with the Wounded Warriors from nearby Ft. Drum the home of the 10th Mount Division. These people are always happy to help and it’s a wonderful resource to have in our 1000 Islands community. Last year Dean was very cautious, in the beginning, about the speed of the boat not knowing how I would react to the bouncing around. This year, knowing I could handle the speed of the boat we headed for an underwater shelf about 2 miles upriver from Clayton.
Heading out 2012

We had a wonderful morning of fishing, conversation and camaraderie. My son and I rarely get a chance to spend time together and I cherish the special time with him. Except for the skills that involve a lot of manual dexterity such as putting the bait on, taking the fish off and displaying them I am pretty much on my own. I probably landed about 12 fish, however, the biggest one broke the line when he jumped out of the water and got away. The fish were not only biting but they were also fighting and I am happy to say I needed no assistance hooking them or reeling them in. If you’re interested in duplicating my equipment adaptations you can go to Handihelp and click on Fishing Set Up for a Manual Chair.

We had a great time. The aesthetics of the river are absolutely beautiful, I covet the time with my son and it’s wonderful to spend time outdoors and totally forget I’m in a wheelchair.
Mark and I brought these in at the same time

What Keeps Us Going?

Few, if any of us in the disability community, have easy days. Most are filled with challenges, frustration, and reminders of how our disability affects our daily lives. That raises the question of what keeps us going. I realize I can’t speak for all disabled individuals, nor do I want to, but I’ll venture a guess as to some of the answers they may give to that question if asked. Answers might include terms like fortitude, strength, courage, perseverance, beliefs, determination, attitude, or even anger. I know in my own life the thoughtfulness of others is an important factor, simple acts of kindness like holding a door open or a passing smile from a stranger. I’d be a millionaire if I had a dollar for each time someone has touched my shoulder to convey their empathy.

Several weeks ago I was reminded of the impact of kindness when invited to go fishing by a local fishing guide. On Monday July 23, 2012 Dean Meckes of Dean Meckes Charters, my son Mark and I went fishing on the St. Lawrence River. People at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York offered their lift to get me into the boat. Volunteers came in an hour before the museum opened just to transfer me from my power chair into my manual chair which had been placed in the boat’s cockpit. Once we were completely ready we headed out onto the St. Lawrence River.

The day was magical, a beautiful warm sunny day, a blue placid river and anticipation of an adventure to come. I had made a number of adaptions to my manual wheelchair and fishing tackle to help make me more independent, and I was anxious to see how they would perform. I didn’t have long to wait. I hooked a bass, by myself, shortly after we arrived at the first location. Reeling it in was no problem at all. From watching, Dean told me that I would be able to reel in a “big one.”

Dean was quick to try different areas of the river. At first, he drove slowly over concern as to how I would handle the jarring of the boat. Once we realized that was no problem, if there was no action where we were, we moved more quickly to another spot. We fished for several hours. My son and I caught a number of fish, which by the way, were all returned to the river. But I had caught way more than fish that day. I caught hours of serenity being on the river; concentrating on the tip of my pole watching for movement left little time to think about anything else and, in the end, I had hours when I even forgot I was in a wheelchair. There is no greater gift for me than that, which I received because of the generous act of kindness that day by our guide, Dean Meckes.