Have you ever experienced a major, life-changing event?
If not, you are one of the few.
One evening after a successful morning turkey hunt I told Jeremiah, then 14, to mow the yard.
Stepping outside, I suddenly fell over backwards for no apparent reason.
A piece of wire the size of this line “ __” had been hurled through my neck at over 200 mph.
It punctured my spinal cord at the C-3/4 level.
All I could move was the small finger on my left hand.
Normally, this would mean living as a quadriplegic the rest of your life.
Injury to the central nervous system is irreversible.
You may damage a peripheral nerve and eventually recover. No one recovers from a complete spinal cord severe or an incomplete puncture; it’s not the same as breaking your neck.
The good news was that the cord was only punctured, not severed.
There was damage but the cord was still intact.The diagnosis was incomplete quadriplegic, not a complete quadriplegic.
The doctors were not optimistic, the possibility of walking again was slim.
Although severely crippled, I left the hospital 6 weeks later walking, barely, but walking.
From the neck down my body was damaged and the problems still exist today. My right side is totally different from my left side, somewhat like the effects of a stroke.
My left side functions but my entire body is still numb, like a giant scar.
My fine motor skills are shot, my hands and fingers are insensitive and difficult to use. It’s like wearing very stiff, thick leather gloves 24/7.
Even typing this blog is a pain!
My legs and feet are especially insensitive and difficult to control.
If I don’t fall several times while scouting ( like I did this past Saturday- into a mud hole no less) it’s just not a good day!
The pain? Well, just call me Dr. House, except I don’t take pain meds – too addictive. From day one my doctor said “suck it up”.
I could ramble on but let’s get to the point: Helping hunters with disabilities.
I have coined my own phrase – “It’s disability, not inability”.
You still want to do things, to live life. In the minds of many only those who can do nothing more than lay in bed are qualified as disabled.
There are those who abuse the system, no doubt, but it’s simply not true that unless you can do absolutely nothing you are not legitimately disabled.
To get back into the game you have to accept change and be willing to adapt.
For me, that meant learning to shoot left handed, I am naturally right handed. I learned to shoot my compound bow with my mouth and not my hand. I switched to using a crossbow – they are not as accurate and fool-proof as you might think.
I had to overcome the fear of falling and learning to use a climber safely.
It might seem silly but being out after dark without a flashlight would mean a night in the woods for me. I cannot walk unless I can see where I am going.
One of the toughest? Becoming dependent on others for help.
I’m very independent and used to doing for myself. Most of the bucks I kill are far from the beaten path.I’ve carried more than one whitetail out on my shoulders.
Now I have to depend on family and friends.
How can you help someone with a physical problem?
Here are a few tips for helping hunters with disabilities.
1. Let them do as much for themselves as they possibly can. No one wants to feel like a burden. I understand that people mean well but don’t rush in to resolve every issue. Wait until they ask, then help.
2. Empathy not sympathy. It helps to vent your frustrations to others. Don’t interpret this as a cry for sympathy. You complain too!
3. Be patient. Watching someone struggle to open a soda can may leave you frustrated. Just be patient, it’s just as frustrating for us too.
4. Treat them as anyone else.We’re still the same person we always were – don’t stare like we’re weird.
5. Help them adapt. You may have some great ideas for adaptation. My dad fixed up a homemade device so I could control the car accelerator with my left foot – dad is very handy!
6. Remember, you may not fully understand so don’t act like you do. It’s like a man telling his wife he understands how it must feel to have a baby – big mistake!
I have a lot more to say so I will continue these thoughts on Thursday.
Keep It Simple- J