Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ain't No Mountain

Today, for the first time after two years of not being capable, hubby and I shared our anniversary date at our local fondue house.  We used to always have our anniversary dates there, but with the restaurant being located in a basement and all the physical challenges of the past few years, we just didn't get there.  We have been married 12 years tomorrow, and this is also the anniversary of the month I began to stand without help and took my first steps.  Today we overcame a hurdle that felt like it represented everything we've faced in our marriage so far, and emerged strong, united, and unstoppable on the other side.  Appropriately, it was a mobility hurdle.

It took us close to twenty minutes to find handicap accessible parking within a reasonable manual-chair-pushing range of our reservation, and when we found it, it was right on the street and required either stepping up onto the curb or wheeling down to the corner of the block to use the intersection curb ramps.  If we had owned an adapted vehicle, we could have extended a ramp from inside the car to the curb to avoid that issue.  This was followed by a two-block journey over every wheelchair warrior's favorite uneven pavement surface: bricks.  When we reached the restaurant, they were having some difficulties with their chair lift.  It got us down to the seating area, but it appeared to be incapable of making the return trip after our meal.  

The apologetic staff offered to let us exit through their back door, which would have put us even further from where we parked, but I had a different idea in mind.  I counted roughly twenty stairs up to the street level.  They were too wide to use the arm rails on both sides, but had a nice gentle rise of only about five or six inches.  I told my husband I'd like to give it a try, that I thought I could do it, so my muscle-bound hero folded up my manual chair and carried it up the stairs, while I went to the right-hand railing.  A kind staff member stayed just next to my left side to offer support if needed, and I began my climb.  I knew as soon as I'd passed the first two stairs that I was going to make it all the way to the top.  The last few steps were noticeably tougher than the first half had been, but overall it was not the Mt. Everest-style experience that stair climbing has typically been for me the past couple years.  The staff applauded when we reached the top, and my husband and I cheered and high-fived ourselves.  

Back home, resting in my hospital bed, new possibilities dance before my sleepy eyes.  I don't know how often I can pull off a stunt like what we did today, but I suspect it is more often than what I was previously giving my legs credit for.  I'm rather looking forward to finding out.  That reminds me, it's been a long time since I did a real distance-push walk, where we keep track of how far I can go and really strive to reach the limit of my legs' endurance.  Perhaps it's time to do that again.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Accessibility Woes

Last night, in a fit of wild hopefulness, I decided to take a quick peek at the local real estate market to get an idea of how many ranch floorplans are for sale, and what their prices are lately.  We're not actually ready to start seriously shopping for a new home yet, there's still things that have to be done to ours and strategy that has to be planned with our realtor before we re-list our townhome for sale, but I wanted to just give myself an exciting little taste of what's available.

What I got instead was a bad taste in my mouth.  First of all, unlike when we were searching for homes in 2012 and 2013, I couldn't find any real estate website that would effectively and accurately let me limit my search to only ranch-style, single-story homes, so I had to sift through lots of results that were completely impossible for me to live in.  Secondly, from what I could identify in the search results, there are even fewer single-story homes available than we had to choose from previously.  Accessibility has never been a great priority of builders, this isn't exactly news to me, but I find it increasingly frustrating that there are so few homes available to match my dream of having everything I need on the ground floor with me.

If money were no object, I would just buy a plot of vacant land and hire an architect to design the perfect accessible house with the 4 bedrooms we need so that someday our twins can stop sharing a room, with a basement for tornado warnings but laundry on the main floor.  It would have plenty of kitchen cabinet space and a master bathroom with a tub I can put a shower chair in, plus grab bars.  There would be at least one full garage spot, where we would park the wheelchair accessible vehicle of my dreams, and we would all live happily ever after.

But of course, for anyone with disabilities, money is usually quite an object.  I'm scared to even find out what it would cost to actually hire an architect, much less proceed from there to actual construction.  We don't have the knack for winning lottery jackpots, apparently, and short of that I don't see any custom building in our future.  Maybe someday more housing developments will consider the needs of people with disabilities.  I used to work in the construction industry and I know that the ADA has (forcefully) helped bring about more accessibility awareness and availability in multi-family homes and apartment/condo construction, but I've yet to really see it be a consideration in single-family developments.  We've been a marginalized group that architects have groaned about accommodating for too long, and from the teeth-rattling cobblestone/brick sidewalks in shopping centers to the universally inaccessible obsession with 1.5 story, 2 story, and various split-level home styles, modern construction needs a complete overhaul that embraces and celebrates the United States' largest minority group:  persons with disabilities.

This is not a beautiful sidewalk. 
It is the most painful kind of sidewalk 
I've ever wheeled over.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

National Mobility Awareness Month

It's shameless self-promotion time.  Well, promoting my husband, but if he's my better half then that would mean this is still self-promotion.  

It's National Mobility Awareness Month, and to help promote a better understanding of mobility issues and solutions, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association is having a contest to celebrate Local Heroes and awarding mobility-adapted vehicles as grand prizes!  I nominated my personal hero, my husband, and if you follow the link below you can read why he's my Local Hero, why I want to help lessen his load, and cast your daily vote to help make him a grand prize winner!

Don't forget, you can vote once every 24 hours, so please return to his page and vote each day.  Only the top 10% of entries by votes will get reviewed by the judging panel for a grand prize.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cooking with SCI

Today's episode of The Mobility-Challenged Gourmet features restaurant-quality Cheese Quesadillas with sour cream and fire-roasted tomato and corn salsa.  Delicious!  

For this tasty item I utilized a variety of mobility skills and tricks.  It required some bending to get the griddle from the under-oven drawer, as well as some brief standing sessions gathering ingredients from the fridge.  It's important during this stage to remember your energy efficiency priorities:  make as few trips as possible, but never carry more than you can safely hold and still maintain your balance.  Since the cheese and the tortilla packages were both fairly flat, I carried them together, then went back for the salsa and sour cream.

Next, I brought a fairly comfy office chair into the kitchen.  I assembled and grilled the quesadillas sitting down - always remember safety when cooking!  In front of a hot stove is not the place to be standing around and lose your balance, as there is nothing safe on that stove top for you to grab onto to steady yourself.  Sometimes I stand for a moment to get the proper leverage to flip the tortilla or check the color it's getting, but always with the chair right behind me so that I can just sit if there's a problem, without having to grab or touch anything with my hands.

Presentation tip:  a pizza cutting wheel will give you those beautifully clean quesadilla cuts without tearing up your tortilla or smearing cheese all over a knife.  Nothing really sticks to the pizza wheel, and often all it needs after cutting quesadillas is a wipe down with a damp paper towel - saves on clean-up energy!  Here's how the toasty tortillas looked before I dressed them in my favorite condiments:

Speaking of clean-up, that is certainly an aspect of cooking that can't be ignored.  Now, I have a husband in my life who has generously offered to clean up the kitchen after any cooking attempts I feel well enough to accomplish, but if you're on your own you will want to budget your time and energy to allow for clean-up as well as cooking.  Consider your total cleaning needs when you are planning your meal, and how best to achieve them.  You might need to rest after eating, and return to the kitchen later in the day with refreshed energy to clean, and in some cases planning pain management in advance will help you get through both your cooking and your clean-up more comfortably.

I hope you've enjoyed these tips for disabled cooking, and that you will always find ways to safely push your horizons and experience the things you love to do in the way that's best-suited to your abilities.  Happy cooking, and better yet, happy eating!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Prepping and Waiting

I'm not very good at waiting.  This will come as no shock to those of you who know me personally, but for those who don't I must confess to not always being the model of patience and tranquility.  Hubby and I like to claim that he has my share of patience, by way of excusing my lack and explaining his abundance.  Right now I am stuck waiting for surgery to finally be rid of this extra large kidney stone.  

Last week we saw the large stone specializing urologist, and were scheduled for extraction on Jan. 30, which seems so very far away.  Especially since the ureter stent they placed to help drain the kidney affected by the stone causes a lot of bladder irritation and pain on evacuating.  I've finished my course of aggressive antibiotics, so there's only the phenazopyridine to fight the discomfort.  I'm diligently fighting off a cold, constantly hacking and coughing and blowing my nose so it can't settle into my chest.  There's not much else I can do to try to be ready for surgery.  

But there's plenty to help me pass the time in between.  Like seeing my endocrinologist last week, and being thrilled to confirm that my blood sugars have been in great control, my A1c value decreased from the high sixes to 6.3, and getting permission to drop from four glucose checks a day to two.  It's fantastic to get some good news for a change.

A trend we will hopefully continue Monday, when I see my oncologist for those all important blood tests, that will, I'm sure, continue to show NO signs of any dangerous changes to my tumor or the rest of my system.  The lab will also be running some tests ordered by my endocrinologist to keep an eye on my somewhat questionable thyroid hormone levels.  Let's hope that turns out to be a non-issue.

Meanwhile the kids are all doing excellent in school, all A's and B's, so we took them out to celebrate their report cards last night, and to spend some of their gift money on the toys of their choice.  The weather took a break from sub-zero wind chills to make that a pleasant afternoon, and I never forget to be grateful that I can still go and do those types of things with my family.  If I'm going to spend a couple more weeks waiting for surgery, at least they will be good weeks.