Saturday, 14 December 2013

I Drop Things

I am getting clumsy. No, that's not true. I have become clumsy. I am clumsier now than I have ever been before. I am more likely to drop things than I ever have before. The neurologist tells me I haven't lost strength in my hands yet, but my legs were plenty strong in the early days of ALS and now I have lost them completely.

Things fall out of my hands. I drop things, large and small. I seem to be unable to keep things within my grasp which once were there, firmly locked in place. Of course the ability to drop things has always been within my repertoire. I have, on more than one occasion, been know to drop large and expensive things into the ocean, along with small and inexpensive things. The sound of "ploop" often followed by some from of expletive has not been unknown to me.

It's not that I am dropping things. It is that I am dropping them more often, more consistently. Of course part of this is being in a wheelchair. You might not see the connection at first, but how you hold on to something is in large part a function of your overall body mechanics. Try this. Pick up something off of your table or dresser and while doing it, try to pay particular attention to your body stance and the muscles in your back and legs. You'll see very quickly that picking something up, or putting something down, or moving something from the fridge to the counter requires the use of more than your arms and your hands.

Notice your height adjustments as you do this. You'll see that your body adjusts for the elevation of the retrieval surface, not just your arms. You don't just pick up something with your hands, you pick it up with your whole body, one part adjusting to the elevation of the surface, the other part stabilizing the rest of your body as you focus on the picking task, and yet another part visually coordinating the process, trusting that the parts not seen are under the control of your brain.

This doesn't happen for me. In addition to the loss of ability in my legs and the coming loss of ability in my arms, there is the general exhaustion that continually runs through me. It means I am already tired when I pick something up. Then I only get a part of my body involved, the part that mostly works for me still. I cannot trust the unseen parts that my brain is trying to control. Finally, I cannot readily see the surfaces involved, most of them being at chest height thanks to my reduced stature in the wheelchair or requiring a rotation in the chair meaning my hands are distracted.

Life is a complicated thing. So is picking up an apple or a laptop computer or a set of keys. The problem for me is that my body no longer works the way I want it to. Automatic patterns and reactions developed over a lifetime no long work the way they are supposed to work. Things that seem simple on the surface take on whole new difficulties as I adjust from mobility to immobility. In short, I drop things.


  1. That could be a big problem for you when you are alone Rick, or are you almost always alone these days with RIcky working.

  2. Not really, Mom. I just pick things up more often.