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The Chair & Me

I find myself writing a lot more these days. Maybe that’s because I find myself doing less of the things I used to do before I got sick and am now, hopefully temporarily, stuck in a wheelchair.

This condition would be a lot worse if I were some kind of jock whose whole life revolved around physical activity. Fortunately, I was not so inclined.

I am basically a writer and have been for about the last 60 years, the last 50 of which I could call myself a professional writer.

Plus it’s winter, and I have never really been much for trudging around in the snow, freezing my ass off just to get a little fresh air. I can do that easily enough just by wheeling over to the front door and opening it for about 30 seconds. That will do me just fine.

The fact that we have a plague going on doesn’t really get me all excited about going anywhere either. I may not be a jock, but I am a hard-core survivalist, and right now, limited exposure to other humanoids is the key to that.

I wasn’t always this way, because once upon a time I was a hard-core sport boy. I played every sport you can imagine playing. I was a pretty decent goalie in midget hockey. A damn good first baseman in baseball and a pretty solid receiver in football. I played golf all summer and got to be a four handicap on the course I worked at and I was the club pro’s caddy and went to all kinds of tournaments with him. And I was a bike rider. I rode everywhere, all the time. Didn’t actually get my driver’s license until I was married and had one kid. I was not big on driving anywhere I could ride to.

The bike riding has been put on hold for the time being. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get back on a two-wheeled bike, but there’s also a three-wheeler out in the shed that I can probably handle. We’ll check it out in the spring.

The reason I am in this chair is that I got an E. Coli infection and it nested in the upper part of my spine. I was pretty sick for some time and finally had to have surgery to remove the infection. The operation was a success but my legs were the casualty. They aren’t paralyzed. They just don’t really work so well. After my surgery, I spent four months in rehab and was able to do some real distance with a walker. But after I got home, I had a fall and tore a ligament in my arm, and had to switch to rehabbing that, and was advised not to try and use the walker until my arm was completely healed.

So every day, I have a whole routine that I have to repeat a couple of times. Half goes to making sure the range of motion in the arm stays full. The other half is for the legs to keep them strong till I can get back up on them again.

Fortunately, I have a great coach who I am married to and am well enough off that I could buy a van to ride around in and re-model the house a bit to accommodate my chair.

I’m also lucky enough to live in Ontario, where everything I went through during my 4 months in hospital and three months of outpatient rehab, cost me a grand total of about $30. The government even paid for 75% of the cost of my wheelchair and I get a $10,000 yearly deduction for the rest of the stuff I need. You can complain all you want about socialized health care, but I would easily have been a million in debt if I had been an American without private health care coverage, and even then I would have to be fending off insurance companies who would want to make me pay for as much of the costs as possible.

I can’t go everywhere in my house,  but I can get at anything I need easily and am almost totally self-sufficient.

But it is a whole other world, this living in a chair. When I do my standing, which I try to do for several minutes every day, I feel like I’m close to 7 feet tall. It’s quite discombobulating.

It may turn out that I won’t be able to walk unassisted ever again.

Nobody knows for sure about these things, and the human body is pretty amazing at healing itself. But the people who took care of me in the rehab hospital told me to learn how to be the best wheelchair jockey I can be and if I can do more, that will be the icing on the cake. These people were always honest with me. And except for the occasional meltdown, mostly from the frustration of learning my limits, I’ve come to terms with living this way and try my best to make the most of every day.

You never know what life is gonna throw at you. I had 72 really good years. Only saw the inside of a hospital to visit people and to have my tonsils out when I was a kid. So I have had a pretty good run.

As long as I stay healthy, eat right, and avoid doing stupid shit, the rest of my days will be OK.

I have gone back to work and have three clients that I’m doing creative work for, and I have started a passion project, a blog to promote businesses in the renewables sector because these are the people who are gonna save the human race. So it’s not like there’s any shortage of meaningful stuff to do.

The wheelchair, believe it or not, is quite comfortable, and next to my wife, it’s my best friend and companion.

I don’t spend any significant amount of time feeling sorry for myself or frustrated at the things I can’t do. Instead, I just focus on getting really good at the things I can do.

One of the things I have learned about life from this experience is that it’s constantly moving you forward. If you can’t go back, there’s really no use whatsoever in wishing that you could or beating yourself up because you can’t.

You just have to keep moving forward and see what the next minute, hour, day, and year will bring you. Right now all I am envisioning is getting mobile and agile enough to get into and out of my pool in the summer. Because I love swimming too and am pretty sure I can do that in my present condition.

Jim Murray
Jim Murrayhttps://www.bebee.com/@jim-murray
I have been a writer since the age of 14. I started writing short stories and poetry. From there I graduated to writing lyrics for various bands and composers and feature-length screenplays, two of which have been produced. Early on in my writing career, I discovered advertising. While the other media have drifted in and out, communications writing and art direction have been the constant through a 20-year career senior positions in Canadian and multi-national agencies and a second career, which began in 1989, (Onwords & Upwords Inc), as a strategic and creative resource to direct clients, design companies, marketing consultants and boutique agencies. Early in 2020, I closed Onwords & Upwords and opened MurMarketing which is a freelance strategic development/copywriting/art direction service for businesses working to make a positive difference in the world. I currently write long format blogs in 4 different streams, encompassing, entertainment, marketing, and communications, life in general, and the renewable energy and recycling industries. These are currently published on beBee.com. I have, over the years, created more than 1500 blog posts. I live with my wife Heather in the beautiful Niagara Region of southern Ontario, after migrating from Toronto, where I spent most of my adult life. I am currently recovering from spinal surgery and learning to walk again.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Jim — So well said and a good reminder to keep on my desk: “One of the things I have learned about life from this experience is that it’s constantly moving you forward. If you can’t go back, there’s really no use whatsoever in wishing that you could or beating yourself up because you can’t.”

  2. Jim, after reading and just sitting in quiet mode thinking of what I would like to say, it just was “Pray for this determined soul to get better and continue to enjoy life as he can, leaving me with a certain admiration for your perseverance. God is right there beside you, and sitting in silence having conversations with Him, is therapeutic and beneficial for the health of one’s body and soul. God Bless

  3. Thanks for the comment, Cynthia. What you are describing is something I do keep track of, including pushing myself in my (very heavy) chair, backwards over a forty foot run between my office and the dining room. I started with 10 several weeks ago and am now up to 60 lengths.
    Also with the standing I try to add a few seconds each time, and a few repeats each week with the arm stretches. It his a good way to both build strength and gauge progress.

  4. Jim, thanks for sharing. My experience with being in a wheelchair after surgeries is that the tiniest teeny things you do make a difference. It adds up over time. Might even say compound interest. For example, you list one thing that works well for you now. I encourage you to continue that momentary “standing up” exercise that as you describe it seems to work well for you. Add *one* second today. If that works, add a few more tomorrow. Then back it off. Then add seconds back in. Back and forth, testing what works NOW on a day by day basis. Find what fits. Then back off of it, and as you sway gently back and forth, you may well discover that your zone of comfort may grow. It is a long journey – and yes you are blessed to have good health coverage with your system.

    blessings,
    Cynthia

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