This will be my first personal disability blog entry, so I will do a little back story. Pictured here is Gracie, my rollator, who has become my best friend and constant companion. This wasn't always so. Decades ago, I suffered two strokes from an accident. The effect was entirely on my forward and backward balance, but back then, 1956, they did not have the technology available for imaging that could have shown this. It remained fairly unremarkable for my first 50 or so years of life. For example, in my 40s, I took my grandchildren parasailing. The owner of the boat impressed upon me that upon returning to the boat, I must land with both feet and begin walking forward. Sure thing...no problem. However, upon landing, I could not co-ordinate that walking forward motion. I just sat down. Unharmed, and seemingly an excellent alternative, I thought little of it then. When cross-country skiing, I also fell into a sitting position at the bottom of steep hills because I could not co-ordinate that forward motion, putting one ski in front of the other to maintain momentum. This mattered little to me because, being a powerhouse, I got up as fast as I went down and my side stepping up a steep slope was unmatched in strength or speed. That side stepping skill came in handy in a ski marathon I entered, earning a bronze medal, and another race where I took first in my age group.
Fast forwarding 30 some years, all that changed. Hey, I knew things would change with age, but this change didn't seem like it could only be attributed to age. I had another accident at 69 years old, that resulted in a lot of brain imaging being done. That's when it was discovered that I had two strokes in the cerebellum at sometime in my life. Gracie had appeared in my life a few years before that to help with balance issues, but from this point on is where she became my constant companion.
Now that I've shared a little of my history, I'll share with you my the latest misadventure I had at the Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix this past December, where I was stuck in the middle. It was exciting to learn that Sky Harbor finally had a better way of getting from the airport to the car rental place, which was a short distance away. No longer the rickety old bus transport! A new, fast and sleek train had replaced the buses. Now is when someone may ask if, besides being 72 years old, what am I doing in a busy airport if I need a rollator (walker on wheels). I'm determined to be seen and heard as an older person who uses a walker without embarrassment and I'm hoping I will encourage others to engage fully in life no matter age or disability.
This was the 3rd day of operation for this train called the Sky Train. I'm not making excuses for them about what happened, but it is pretty obvious that not one mobility compromised individual was on the design committee for this train. We (my husband was travelling with me) found ourselves the only one waiting for the train at this hour of the day. A quick assessment showed me I can quickly enter with no obstacles to watch out for. Before rocketing off to its next destination, it also gave us enough time to find a seat, an excellent feature for a speeding train. Coming to our destination, we positioned ourselves in front of the door. My husband was managing the suitcase, I was managing myself. The train stops, the doors open, and I make my one or two second assessment for anything I should watch out for upon exiting onto the platform. Looks clear. As I'm pushing Gracie through the train's sliding doors, these doors close. Gracie makes it onto the platform unscathed. Me? Not so much. The doors now have a death grip on my wrists while I remain inside the train, and I could not let go of Gracie because she would still be on the platform with my husband. If I had, I would be on a speeding train without the ability to move forward or backward unassisted. And that voice I told you? She had now turned up her volume, saying repeatedly that something was obstructing the doors. Me. Stuck in the middle, like the title says.
We obviously lived to tell about it, but not without ill will toward whoever let this train go into operation with no regard to those that may have slowed due to age, have a mobility compromise, or both. The sooner that those who are older and those that are compromised in any way are included in the planning of public transportation, etc., the better the world will be, allowing all of us to share in the richness of life.