People are always asking me why I am in a wheelchair, so over the years I have developed an interesting story, that is a little bit more interesting than the boring truth.
I’m in a wheelchair because I was born with spina bifida, which means I’ve been in a chair my whole life. Spina bifida is a birth defect. It varies in severity from the very minor cases, where most people wouldn’t even know that they have it, right through to the very severe cases, where the whole body is affected and the person is unable to move many muscles in the body. I am very lucky as I am only affected in the lower half of the body, so my upper body is fine, I just can’t walk.
Some athletes I have met have some very interesting stories about how they came to be in a wheelchair, with the most common being a car or bike accident. Some are a little stranger, like people who have just been out on a bush walk and tripped over a tree root and bruised their spinal cord. Others have had a mid-afternoon sleep and woken-up unable to move due to a virus that has attacked their spinal cord.
Others like me have that “other” story of why we are in a chair. Mine goes a little like this;
One day while riding my kangaroo to school we came across a deadly brown snake, so my kangaroo jumped up to kick the snake with its legs and protect me. In the process I fell backwards off the kangaroo and broke my back. I try and tell it with a straight face so people believe me, but then I tell them the truth. It’s quite amusing that sometimes people still truly believe the kangaroo story is true. Some people want to know if I still have the same kangaroo and others want to know how many others I have, but in reality it’s just a story to help enjoy life and always have fun.
I have developed this story as a result of the many misconceptions about Australia and Australians that I have encountered throughout many international travels. So many people think we all have pet kangaroos and that kangaroos hop across Sydney Harbour Bridge. It makes you realise that you’ve always got to look on the lighter side of life!
Wheelchair athletes are happy to explain why they are in a chair and it often helps educate the able-bodied population that simple mistakes can have serious consequences. Most of us are more than happy to explain things if people go about asking it the right way. If someone comes up to me on the street and asks “why are you in a wheelchair?” I will probably not like it very much. However, if someone asks me if it’s ok to ask why I am in a wheelchair and they mean well I will always give them the time of day. Some people are afraid to ask. The important thing to remember is that its ok to ask, just do it in the right way.
Until next time keep searching the world for the dream.