Recently, I drove my son to the wheelchair mechanics to have his power chair tweaked. This is routine for us since Hunter was born with cerebral palsy twenty-four years ago.
While we were waiting for a technician to come out to the lobby, a couple walked in pushing a young man reclined in a wheelchair. I’m guessing he may have been thirty or perhaps in his late twenties. He was speaking inaudibly, but he was saying something. The woman smiled at me and looked at Hunter sitting up in his power chair working on his laptop attached to his chair, controlling the joystick to operate the onscreen keyboard.
She asked me, “What is his disability?”
I replied, “cerebral palsy from a traumatic birth.”
I consider myself a strong, seasoned and hardened parent of a child with a physical disability because I’ve been doing it for almost a quarter of a century. But when the woman pointed to her son and said just two words: “Drunk driver,” It took all my strength to fight back the tears.
While listening to this special parent, the only word that entered my mind was “nonsensical.” It’s makes “no sense” that a human being ends up motionless in a wheelchair because another human being drives a ton of thrusting force while intoxicated.
The mother of this young man asked me about Hunter’s laptop and what he used it for.
I felt an inner pride telling her, “That’s how Hunter communicates and does his homework for college,” while at the same time I had tears threatening to spill thinking her son may be incapable of using such a device.
Human beings, in the most dire situations, overcome many obstacles, and perhaps this young man will be able to use an eye gaze communication system one day, or power his own chair.
It’s rare that I react so strongly to another individual using a wheelchair, not just because I’m seasoned and hardened by it, but also because I’m unaware of what put them in one.
In this case I was told why and it broke my heart.