A tale of two lives

A butterfly

For anyone who has suffered a spinal cord injury, you undoubtedly consider your life as having two distinct parts: the before and the after.

Before

It’s early morning and the dreaded alarm disrupts your peaceful cruise through slumberland. You quickly find the blasted device and kill the racket. Eventually you summon enough energy to stretch out all four limbs, throw the duvet off and stumble out of bed. You nip to the toilet, and a hot shower dusts off some of the cobwebs. Then you scurry from room to room, caffeine fix in hand, multitasking between getting ready and checking social media, all the while cursing the dreary weather, the lack of sleep or that pointless meeting scheduled for 11am. Ready to face the trials and tribulations of the world, you step out of the front door.

Woman, happiness, sunshine
The ability to walk is pretty awesome

After

Your sleep is continuously interrupted by pain, stiffness and discomfort. You may even need someone to help you turn over in the middle of the night. The morning alarm sounds, but you’re awake anyway and realise you forgot to put the device in reaching distance, so you’ll just have to wait out the annoying noise. You desperately want to stretch out your stiff limbs, but your only hope is a caring partner (or anyone, for that matter). Getting out of bed is even less motivating as it means transferring into the hated yet essential wheelchair. You cannot be sure you need the toilet, but you had better go anyway because a long time has passed since you last catheterised. Taking a shower starts with an awkward transfer from the wheelchair into a specialised seat, and you are unable to feel the warm water on large parts of your body. You trundle into the kitchen for your morning cuppa, drinking it there because moving between rooms with a hot drink is akin to navigating through a bask of crocodiles in the Serengeti river. Getting dressed is slow and arduous, to the point where you’re more worried about actually making the 11am meeting than whether it’s exciting. Nervous and unsure of how you will cope in a world designed exclusively for walkers, you wheel out of the front door.

Person, ball and chain
A wheelchair is a ball and chain

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