Mitch was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis over fourteen years ago. Three years into his diagnosis, he reluctantly began using mobility devices starting with a cane. Now a wheelchair user, Mitch's attitude toward assistive devices slowly began to change over time.
When Mitch’s wife asked him if a cane would be helpful for him to maintain his failing balance, Mitch knew the answer. But he didn’t want to admit it. A couple days after his wife’s question, Mitch recalls walking around downtown Portland, Oregon when he came upon a window display of hand-carved wooden canes. Much to his surprise, “They didn’t look clinical at all,” shares Mitch. So he decided to take one down and try it out – just for good measure. “I was shocked by how much it improved my walking,” he shares, and he bought the cane that day.
Still, Mitch wasn’t fully on board with using his cane every day, especially out in public. He was consumed with what other people would think when they saw him using the cane. But during a 4th of July celebration where he would need to walk a considerable distance, he had no choice but to use his cane. And again, he got a surprise. No one commented on the cane. No one even seemed to notice it. Soon enough, Mitch and his cane became constant companions.
“This marked the genesis of my attitude regarding assistive devices. Yes, I may have a disability, but I’m not ashamed of it, and look what I can still do.”
As time passed and Mitch’s MS progressed, he transitioned out of the cane to forearm crutches. At first, like with the cane, Mitch resisted upgrading to a more robust form of an assistive device, but once he put on the forearm crutches and walked across the room, “The difference was remarkable; I had so much more control,” he shares.
“It was unfortunate that I needed these mobility devices, but the day I started using them, life got so much better.”
Eventually the forearm crutches were traded in for a scooter, which in turn was traded in for what Mitch calls “the ultimate mobility device:” a power wheelchair.
And with each transition, Mitch stuck by his motto: “It was unfortunate that I needed these mobility devices, but the day I started using them, life got so much better.”
“Although the day I adopted each new mobility aid marked a milestone in my disease progression, the days prior were some of my worst, and the days immediately afterward were some of my best,” shares Mitch.
“When I resisted, because of fear of embarrassment or a feeling that I was admitting defeat, I missed out on life. When I accepted help, the world opened up for me.”
Mitch says it took him years to develop his healthy attitude toward mobility devices. Now he is no longer ashamed of the aid he needs to get around. He says, “Today I realize that I’m not confined to a wheelchair. I’m enabled by my wheelchair.”
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