Andy arrived on the 17th of August and left yesterday around noon to fly back to Salt Lake City. Our week together is very special to me. He is much more involved with the disabled community than I am. He is much more outgoing and gregarious than me. Many of those who know me would be surprised by the fact that basically I am quiet, shy and retiring. Having been an educator for over 34 years I am at ease speaking and interacting with groups, but on a personal level I tend to limit myself to a few close friends none of whom are disabled. Andy’s visit is much more unique for me than I believe it is for him. Since we share the same injury level, a very similar outlook on our situation and the love of all things outdoors we are closely bound together.
We always do some different things while Andy is here. This year he went with me to the Outdoor Adventure Day at Fort Drum (the home of the 10th Mountain division) where we manned a booth for Handihelp which displayed many of the adaptive equipment we have made and a lot of pictures of what those adaptions have allowed us to do. It’s always enjoyable to speak with the people who stop by and have questions about our lifestyle and things we’ve done.
With Smokey the Bear at Ft. Drum
One thing we do every year when Andy comes is participate in the Annual Quadriplegic Fishing Derby. In reality, it’s just Andy and me going fishing with our friend Dean of Dean Meckes Charters
and my buddy Steve Robinson or my son Mark. We caught a few fish, but that’s not the real reason we go. The time spent on the beautiful St. Lawrence River and the solitude of being out there is irreplaceable. The other annual happening is our visit with our friends Maia, Maddy, and Tonya Chamberlain for ice cream. It’s a chance for Andy to spend some time with Maia.
Andy with a bass
The most meaningful part of Andy’s visit for me is not the activities that we do, but rather the downtime at home when we can just talk about our situation, lifestyle and the mental and physical challenges we must deal with. This is the only time that I get to talk with someone who truly understands the ramifications of the challenges I face. While I do talk to my friends and my wife Marge at times, no one understands all the nuances that go along with being a quadriplegic. So, the time Andy’s here is like no other.
Andy comes to northern New York because it is much “easier” for him to travel than it is for me. However, we have begun discussing the possibility of my going to Utah and spending a week with Andy and his friends. The idea of it is very seductive.
Finally, I would like to thank Marge for her role in making this week possible and the others who helped make this week so special.
Andy, Maia and me
Posted in Ability, Attitude, Community Inclusion, Disability, Education, Fishing, Friends, Friendship, Nature, Reality, Recreation
Tagged fishing, Lake Ontario, lifestyle, natural environment, outdoors, physically challenged, quadriplegia, Recreation, relationship
I’m always looking for something different to do that will get me outside this time of year. The last couple years I went for a dog sled ride, but was hoping to do something different this winter. Imagine my surprise when two neighbors invited me to go ice fishing. I was excited not only for doing something different, but it also gave me the opportunity to work on adapting the equipment I would need to be successful. I’ve gotten to the point where I really enjoy the challenge of how to adapt the equipment so that I can use it. Add to this the anticipation of being outdoors in this weather as well as looking forward to a challenge.
Sunday, January 31 was the day. They went early and set everything up and then my son Mark drove to Lake of the Isles where we were going to fish. My Extreme X8 handled the ice really well. When we got there Tom and John helped set up my pole and get me started. Even though the temperature was around 42 there was a stiff breeze. We set up outside and fished for a while. After I caught some perch we decided to go in the ice hut where there was a heater. We also fished in the tent. Inside the tent you could see all the way to the bottom 10’-12’ down and watch the fish swim around.
Got a Bite
What a great day! Spending time with friends, who love the out-of-doors as much as I do, is awesome. Add to that the sense of the peace, quiet and serenity and it was unreal, especially in the tent. I’m a lucky man!
Out on the Ice
Posted in Ability, Adapting Equipment, Adaptive Technology, Attitude, Behavior, Community Inclusion, Disability, Fishing, Friends, Nature, Reality, Recreation, Sensitivity
Tagged adapting, fishing, inexpensive solution, Lake Ontario, life lesson, lifestyle, natural environment, outdoors, physically challenged, quadriplegia, Recreation, using your mind
Dean Meckes, of Dean Meckes Charters, Andy Dahmen, my friend from Utah, my son Mark and I went fishing on the St. Lawrence River today (August 7, 2014). Andy and I were lowered into our wheelchairs, which had been placed in the boat, by an adapted Hoyer lift at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton N.Y. We reached our fishing spot around 8:30. The river was like glass, with no wind and a bright sun. We had action almost all the time. In between it was peaceful and serene. Andy caught the biggest fish, around 4lbs on a homemade rig used to hold the pole for him while he reeled. All the adapted equipment we made worked great. We all had a wonderful time.
Posted in Ability, Adapting Equipment, Adaptive Technology, Attitude, Creative Ideas, Determination, Disability, Education, Fishing, Friendship, Reality, Recreation
Tagged adapting, control, creative idea, fishing, inexpensive solution, life lesson, lifestyle, outdoors, physically challenged, quadriplegia, using your mind
Posted in Ability, Adapting Equipment, Adaptive Technology, Attitude, Community Inclusion, Creative Ideas, Disability, Education, Fishing, Hunting, Independent Living, Reality, Recreation
Tagged adapting, control, fishing, hunting, inexpensive solution, life lesson, lifestyle, outdoors, physically challenged, quadriplegia, using your mind
Andy Dahmen, my friend from Utah, who I met online a number of years ago, is coming to visit Tuesday August 5th. Andy, who also happens to be a C6 quadriplegic, is better able to travel than I am so he comes here. This will be the second time he has stayed with us.
My friendship with him is like no other. So much of our situation is understood without any communication. I can talk with him about things others cannot comprehend. Even with the very special friends I have, no one can perceive my struggles and challenges like Andy. With such similar philosophies, beliefs and attitudes toward life we could have easily been friends, even if we were never hurt, but adding the fact that we are both quadriplegics make our friendship even stronger.
Last summer, we met for the first time. What a great time we had fishing on the St. Lawrence River, visiting the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, N.Y., and the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, N.Y. This year we will fish again on the St. Lawrence, Andy calls it the highlight of his visit, go to the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y. and several other places. However, what I enjoyed most last year and look forward to this year is just hanging out and talking.
Posted in Ability, Attitude, Behavior, Community Inclusion, Determination, Disability, Education, Fishing, Friendship, Reality, Recreation
Tagged fishing, life lesson, lifestyle, outdoors, physically challenged, quadriplegia
Andy, my wife Marge and me having lunch on the river
Andy’s visit was everything I expected and more. I have not written about it prior to now because of a health issue I began struggling with before Andy returned to Utah. I have not had a lot of personal interaction with other disabled individuals. I only know a few personally and none who are quadriplegics, so I was really looking forward to this time. If you read my last blog “The Visit” you know the story about how he and I met and the development of our friendship. I was amazed when Andy and I had a chance to talk how much more we had in common than originally thought. I had always been impressed by Andy’s independence and his fierce pursuit of the lifestyle he loves. While we are both C6 complete quadriplegics he is able to do a lot more for himself. It is obvious that he has taken good care of himself, has put on little weight and retains quite a bit of strength. My post-accident stature was pretty well summed up by Andy when the elevator door, in the airport, opened and he came wheeling toward me. He said “Boy you’re a big one” and while I’m not proud of it, it’s the truth.
On the boat
The time we spent together was full of laughing; sharing of information and some very serious discussions about the challenges we face daily. So many the struggles, frustrations and aggravations we experience were understood without ever communicating a word. As the guide, that took us fishing, said to me there isn’t anything in your lives that is unaffected. My opinion and respect for Andy did not change it only deepened. Unfortunately, because of the problem that developed, with me, and continued until now much of the mental stimulation of his visit has escaped me. I find myself sitting here searching for words that can convey what this special time meant to me but the words just aren’t there.
The first Catch
We shared days of activity followed by a day or two of rest and relaxation. I think Andy would agree that the day we went fishing was the highlight of his visit. Dean Meckes
, our guide, secured the use of a different boat so he could accommodate both wheelchairs. We spent the better part of the day on the St. Lawrence River moving from one scenic area to another, as Dean sought out schools of fish. We also visited the Antique Boat Museum
and The Wild Center
in the Adirondacks while Andy was here.
What will remain with me, from the visit and Andy’s attitude, is that despite a pretty serious disability it is possible to not only go on but to continue to pursue a robust and meaningful lifestyle.
Posted in Ability, Attitude, Behavior, Disability, Education, Fishing, Friendship, Reality, Recreation
Tagged adapting, fishing, life lesson, lifestyle, outdoors, physically challenged, quadriplegia
It started innocently enough. Neither one of us expected anything like this to happen. I sent a little article to a website and was really surprised when I received a reply. The reply was kind of interesting so I wrote back. For a while we remained in touch on the original website and then decided to share our email addresses and wrote each other directly. I was amazed at how much we shared in common. I felt a bond developing between us and that was okay with me. After a number of months we exchange phone numbers and were able to talk to each other. We began to share our unique experiences over the next year or so. Finally, we started to Skype and our relationship grew stronger and stronger. Even though I’d been married for 48 years, this new relationship was like none other I ever had before. Here was a person who not only knew and understood my situation but could share their own experiences, and communicate with me like no other.
You may be wondering where this all started. You will be surprised to learn that it wasn’t eHarmony, or Match.com or even Christian Mingle. This friendship began on the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation website. Our love of the outdoors, attitude toward life and our common struggle against the challenges of our disabilities have created a relationship like no other for me. His name Andy Dahmen and he lives about an hour from Salt Lake City in Utah. I live about 20 miles from the Canadian border in northern New York but our struggles with quadriplegia have drawn us together. Sometimes we are a coach, sometimes a counselor and sometimes just a sounding board for each other. The roles easily vacillate between us. Andy has also contributed a lot of information and ideas to Handihelp.
Recently, we agreed that we should spend time together and as a result Andy is flying here in the middle of August and staying for a week. We’re both looking forward to this special time together. We have made plans to go fishing on the St. Lawrence River, visit other attractions in Thousand Islands Area and in the Adirondack Mountains.