Video Killed the Radio Star
Updated: Jan 11, 2019
This is going to be a longer post because I’m going to try to make it informative for people with spinal cord injuries and I have some stories I want to tell. The last main area the hospital wanted to inform me on before I left was technology that was available for me so that I could gain independence with doing some everyday things. Things like using my phone, using my computer, driving my wheelchair, controlling my TV and other devices at home, things like that. The rehab engineering team would always be bringing in all types of different technology for me to try. Being an ACTUAL millennial (I feel like I need to give a definition what that means) this came relatively quick for me. Anything they presented to me I was able to pickup right away. After about 10 minutes with anything I was showing them how it worked and what was possible with it. By the end of everything I was supposed to decide which things I liked for which tasks and for a lot of it rehab engineering would be able to let me keep what I tried.
For my computer I settled with a thing called a jouse which is a joystick-mouse with a sip’n’puff that let’s me move the mouse, left click, and right click. It has the most fluidity in moving the mouse on the screen and the most freedom to do whatever I want at any moment quickly. There’s a ton of other features like morse code but I just use this part of it. It’s slow for typing but I use my phone if I’m doing a lot of typing (like this) since I’m quicker with my nose and stylus.
Then for my phone I use a similar type of arm that has a metal bar on it and I just Velcro whatever device I’m trying to use to it. It’s super versatile and let’s me use my phone whenever and anything else like the button for my room door or the doors at college, the remote for the tv, even our dogs training collar so I can take him for walks.
Although this was back in 2010 so technology was still evolving rapidly. Things they showed me back then even two years later were outdated and there were simpler ways of doing it. Now everything is pretty simple, you can do it all from any smart phone. Whenever I get a new device like a blu ray player or we switch to a different cable provider, I’m usually pretty confident they have an app to control everything. iPhones have the home app for any home appliances. There’s all types of stuff out there. Just know that anything you can think of that you want to do there’s a 90% chance there’s something out there that’ll let you do it or it’s on it’s way shortly.
My chair I chose the chin joystick first for the same freedom and versatility reasons but now I have a head array so there’s nothing in my face and it doesn’t always look like I’m trying to bust out in a harmonica solo. The head array has a lot of freedom to it now as well because I have a button inside the headrest that let’s me turn it off and on and I’ve adjusted the settings so that it’s pretty natural moving and I can move however I want.
One story I can tell is how the first day I got my joystick and could drive on my own was the first time they were letting me leave the hospital. I forget what the groups called in the hospital that tries to take you out but it was ran by a guy named Derek, once again not his real name. He was a big lovable gay guy and he was hilarious. Definitely what I would consider a bear. Derek got it so that we could go to the mall. So first day with my joystick, nobody controlling me, nobody with a hand up my ass like a puppet, I’m ready to go! I was in third gear cruising! While we’re going I see Paul Blart across the mall on a Segway and idk what comes over me but I just made a B-line straight at him and rammed into him. Why? BECAUSE I CAN!!! Look at him on wheels knowing damn well he could take his ass off and walk. But while we were there Derek did a great job with showing not just me but my family how to go about things now that I was in a chair. Things like seating at restaurants, finding ramps and elevators, and showing how things are out in public. It was a really nice experience early on.
The second time I left the hospital was with my brother. We snuck out of the back of the hospital at the maternity entrance because it was always empty and it was a clear path to UofM campus without being seen. I remember we were walking and he goes oh let’s cross the street right here! At this point I still wasn’t sitting up very much in my chair so I couldn’t really see what was right in front of me and I’m like okay! What I didn’t notice was the big ass curb! He says go for it, I’ll help you. So we bunny jump the curb! Now on the other side of the street, we had to go UP the curb. The chair with me in it was well over 500 pounds! Jr goes, I can lift it. So first he tried to walk it up one wheel at a time. That didn’t work as I almost tipped over and damn near fell out the chair. Then he lifted the front two wheels and got those on the curb. Then lift the back two and just shoves me up there and we continue towards campus. Later on there was a moment that I still remember vividly. We get to campus and we’re walking around the Diag. If you know Ann Arbor you know that’s pretty far from the hospital. I didn’t notice but Jr pointed out that people were staring. Then he says, I think they’re staring because you don’t look like you should be in a wheelchair, you look like a guy who’s just sitting. In that moment I don’t know what it was but that was exactly what I needed to hear. It made me feel good and confident at a time when everything was so crazy. THEN later on part of my chin joystick broke and we had to call dad and he met us on campus with duct tape so that I could drive back to the hospital. That trip was our first experience to many more where we’re hit with the unexpected over and over. Every time it does though we’re always able to get through it, and we’ll continue to get through it, no matter what’s happening.
Now there’s many other things that were huge parts of me coming home that I didn’t mention such as home renovations, transportation, life activities. I’ll definitely mention those more going forward but I wanted to talk about these three things first though because I feel like I haven’t talked about these in detail before and I see these as being the foundation that makes all the other things easier. As I go along through the years I want to keep an eye on how I was able to maintain these things, how they evolved over the years, and show how they can go hand and hand with each other. New technology that helps with your care or body health, and gif you can’t do things on your own you’ll always need somebody’s help to keep your body healthy and use that technology.