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It was a means to an end

Share Your Story: How I Made The Transition to a Wheelchair or Scooter

By Rena Schnaidman

Updated January 19, 2011

How long I have been in a wheelchair or scooter.

The first time I used a w/c was 4 yrs ago to get to my nephew's bar-mitzvah

I knew it was time for a wheelchair/scooter when...

I was able to walk but not long distances. The bar-m was on a Saturday when I do not drive and the synagogue was across town. I decided to take the plunge because it was a means to an end.

I've had other firsts- first time I used a cane, a walker, a scooter in the supermarket or amusement park. First time I used a walker was in the mall. Using the cane was taking a lot out of me energy wise. I was sitting on a bench every few minutes. So I once again swallowed my self consciousness and used a rolling walker. I thought surely everyone must be looking at me but you know what- they really weren't. I haven't look back.

The hardest part of a wheelchair/scooter was...

Feeling self-conscious, feeling different, feeling mad at this disease. My PT told me that she has patients who refuse to use a walker or w/c even intermittently and instead sit home. To me that was a much worse option and would surely have made me more depressed. I deal with it by being very practically focused. If I need the w/c, scooter, cane, walker in order to accomplish something I just swallow my pride and do it, I never regret it. I use my walker at home even though I could manage shuffling around the house grabbing on to walls, counters. But the walker with a seat is much more efiicient and allows me to function better as the person I want to be and not as a person who is overly limited by her disease.

Don't get me wrong. There are times I'm walking with my walker and I have to get through a crowd and it feels awkward to ask people to move. Or- they see me and as I like to put it "the waters part"- they give me much more room than I need to get by. That calls more attention to my disability and upsets me.

I use a wheelchair in the airport because the walking can be too much even with the walker. We use a lot of humor in my family to deal with it. My kids joke that they like to travel with me because we always go to the head of the line.

An important part of adapting to using an assistive device is accepting the fact that one has a disability. I have had MS for 20 years and the process of dealing with the disease has been long a varying. For the first 7 years i kept it a secret from everyone but my immediate family and 4 closest friends. I finally felt like I was choking on the secrecy. Once I was able to tell people it started me on a process of accepting my disease and realizing that I don't do myself any good by not accepting it and everything that comes with it- like using a w/c, scooter,etc. I am more able to view my disease as a part of me but not what defines me. I focus on doing what I have to do for my own good and for the good of my family and that gives me a lot of strength to use these devices which facilitate independence and really allow me to be who I am. Which is really what everyone wants, disease or no disease. Right?

Advice

  • Realize that the first time you try a device it is going to feel awkward and uncomfortable. You have to expect that. Maybe for the first couple of times use the w/c, walker, etc. in a place where you are anonymous and won't run in to someone you know. You'll be surprised by how much that might break the ice for you. *
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