Today is Independence Day. It’s a day where Americans celebrate their freedom as a country. As someone who has cerebral palsy, my independence is important to me. My first taste of being independent with my mobility was when I received my first walker at two years old. My parents took a video of one of the first times I used my walker. I was thrilled to be able to move around the house on my own.
I have always used a walker to get around, so I never imagined myself needing a wheelchair. Getting a wheelchair was not something that crossed my mind growing up. I had always believed that using a wheelchair would make me less independent. I feared that I would become dependent on the wheelchair. My medical team also wanted me to keep walking to increase my stamina.
As I have grown up, though, it has become much more difficult for me to walk long distances. I finally received my first power wheelchair in August 2013. I was apprehensive. At first, I didn’t know what to expect. However, I quickly realized just how freeing my new power wheelchair would become.
Initially, I only used my power chair when we were going on field trips at school. Once I entered my sophomore year of high school, I began to use the wheelchair full-time in school. My high school had multiple floors and was not easy to navigate in my walker. Using the power chair helped me conserve my energy while I was in school. Therefore, I was able to focus on my studies and enjoy school more.
When it comes to enjoying my leisure time, my power wheelchair has let me enjoy being with my friends and family in ways that I could never have imagined before. I can join my friends on walks and join people for lunch downtown. When it comes to indoor attractions, I can explore them more freely and more in-depth. I went to the Connecticut Science Center in May 2019. I was able to spend almost all day at the museum without becoming as tired. In the past, I only would have been able to be at the museum for maybe an hour before becoming too exhausted to continue.
One of the greatest gifts that my power wheelchair has given me is the gift of not having to worry about my balance. When I am in my walker, I have to concentrate on holding myself upright so that I do not fall, which takes more energy. Energy is something that I have to work hard to conserve. For me, tasks require more energy than they would for a nondisabled person. Tasks such as grocery shopping while in my walker can feel as if I am running a marathon.
My wheelchair also decreases my fall risk significantly. This means that I can go around stores on my own. Nobody has to keep an eye on me so that I do not fall. I can be more independent because of the wheelchair too. I can hold a glass of water without having to worry about spilling it on the floor. Because of my power chair’s seat elevator, I can reach high shelves in my apartment and the stores. I no longer have to rely on somebody getting things for me.
Despite my initial apprehension about getting a power wheelchair, I can now not imagine my life without one. I wish I had gotten a power wheelchair sooner. The wheelchair has opened so many doors for me that would not have been possible otherwise. I am thankful that I chose to get a power chair when I did.