“Why would someone do that?” This is a question that I asked myself a lot over the past 24 hours. When you have mild Cerebral Palsy (CP) as I have, it’s each and every little thing done to help make your life that bit easier and fluid that you remember the most. Such as it is, when something happens that takes that takes this away and brings you back to an often harsh reality with a bang, this becomes the only thing you can focus on.
The “thing” I’m talking about here is the cruel action of someone very harshly stealing a wheelchair that is a necessity in my life. I’m fortunate in that I don’t rely on the chair 24/7, and I can get up and walk around, but be that as it may, I can’t ever be without one in my life. They aren’t easy to come by either. If you want a fully functional wheelchair that is specifically adapted to your needs and particular mobility issues, these are costly and can take months to obtain. So, you can’t just walk into a shop and pick one out. Such is life; it’s never usually that simple.
ICYMI: Overcoming Anxiety
So when I awoke on Friday morning to find that my wheelchair had been snatched by now whom I now know was a few kids “having a laugh,” I was hugely upset. I had enough ‘normal stuff’ to be thinking (and worrying) about without this to add to the mix. What would I do if I tripped and fell and simply had to use the chair as has happened a few times before? How would I manage with any long distance walking? My body just isn’t able, and any physiotherapist will tell you my knees will give out even if I’m trying to will my body to keep going. (I’m a self-confessed worrier. I worry about things that haven’t even happened yet, such as falling, etc.). It was a cruel gesture and made all the worse because it meant nothing accept a bit of fun to those who stole it.
I’m proud to say that I have a thick skin and can deal with a lot, having been diagnosed with CP at just 18 months old but even this was hard for me to digest. With a chair, there are things I can do, things I can “kinda” do and without one, things I just plain can’t do, no matter how much I may want otherwise. So you see my dilemma.
My much-needed wheelchair was stolen last night. It's old but essential. If anyone sees a wheelchair around Swords please let me know!
— Jennifer McShane (@Jenny_McShane) June 12, 2015
My solution for dealing with this in everyday life is finding a common middle ground, and where possible, using a combination of the wheelchair, a nifty walking frame and unaided walking to get around as independently as possible. I simply must have a wheelchair and a frame on a day-to-day basis, there are no two ways about it. So of course, without a chair I was pretty stuck. You just can’t plan when you might need one, not in my case anyway. I then instantly felt angry. Who on earth would take something for a joke that (young or not) you know someone is dependent on? Why would someone do that? I just couldn’t get my head around it. I still can’t. It’s not as if wheelchairs are uncommon these days. As a frequent user, I know there are so many wheelchairs around and, as a result, kids are exposed to that type of situation more often. I just think it is not acceptable that this can happen. I know this isn’t the easiest if a bunch of youngsters are together and egging each other on, but am I wrong to think it should be the norm that even younger children know that you shouldn’t ever take a wheelchair? I don’t think so.
Now, I know having a wheelchair taken isn’t the worse thing that can happen in life, there are of course many more reasons to get upset. I’m not sick, I have a job that I love and wonderful family and friends, and I’m lucky that I don’t depend on it 100 per cent as some would. So I know it could have been worse. But it’s all relative I think. It’s still pretty awful, and it’s the action of taking a wheelchair that can massively influence the affected person’s life.
— Ronan O'Brien (@ronanob) June 12, 2015
@Jenny_McShane i have a spare wheelchair in town if you can't find your own one. Its on Ormond quay, just let me know
— Mannix Flynn (@mannixflynn) June 12, 2015
I naturally wanted the wheelchair found (it was, thankfully) so after phoning the Gardai, I took to social media to spread the word and was instantly heartened by all the positive messages I received. I couldn’t believe the support and response I got; it was truly heartwarming. People responded with lovely comments, adding that they were disgusted by what had happened. I had maybe thought it was wrong of me to get so upset, but seeing the reaction of others reassured me. When the chips are down, and people (most of whom are strangers) rally behind you, it is the most uplifting thing. I can’t describe it. It’s a true testament to just how generous and thoughtful the Irish are; we don’t have a reputation for being a kind nation for nothing. The word spread quickly (faster than I’ve ever seen something take off) and many got in touch to say they’d be more than happy to help spread the word by writing a story. Two people even offered to give me a chair in the event I didn’t find mine. I was stunned at the generous gestures, and it was thanks to social media that the chair was spotted and found. So, despite the day starting out the way it did, it ended on a high, thanks to the efforts of others and I just want to thank everyone for trying to help, the wheelchair wouldn’t have been found without you.
It really is the little things that make the biggest difference in life, and I made a note always to appreciate that even if things are bad, they don’t stay that way for long.
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