Monday, 8 September 2014

Nature's Ice Bucket

I have to go do a driver's test. After 45 years on the road, the last 35 without any road accidents and that one only a very minor thing with no damage, it is now deemed necessary that I prove that I can drive my truck safely. I understand this. After all, there have been substantial and costly modifications to my truck to put in the hand controls and the lift system. Now it is up to me to prove that I can operate them in a manner that doesn't put the public at risk. This is the job of government, to keep all citizens safe, to prove that I can safely be on the road in my truck.

Of course the fact that I have driven nearly 70,000 kilometers with these controls matters little. In fact, if anything, it demonstrates that I have been driving far too long without submitting to this safety evaluation. I don't blame this on government; I blame this on ALS. It is this disease that has stolen my legs, my ability to walk, to drive like a normal person. This test is just another of the hidden costs of ALS.

So off I go to the testing location, into what is one of the nastiest September days that Calgary has seen in a long time. The clouds above are delivering a mix of rain and snow onto the roads. It is near freezing outside. This won't bother me in the test; I am used to far worse. Where it gets nasty is in the embarking and disembarking from the truck.

When I get into the truck, I have to open the door, transfer to the lift seat, remove my cushion from the wheelchair and then fold the chair up. Once complete, I open the rear door and, using the controls, swing out the wheelchair crane arm. With the arm in place, I hook up the chair, lift it with the crane, and then swing it back into the back seat using the controls. All of this takes place while I remain exposed to the weather. Once complete, I lift myself up with the seat and transfer into the truck, drop the lift seat back down, fold it into place and then, finally, close the truck door.

Getting back in is a reverse of the above process. It takes a few minutes in total, just enough time to get wet from the snow and rain mix falling on me. Often, in a cruel twist that only nature and my friends could find funny, the rain and snow will fall into the back of my neck as I lean over to connect the wheelchair to the crane. It's stimulating. I need that, right? It's nature's own ice bucket challenge.

Some days it seems that if it weren't for bad luck, I doubt I would have any luck at all.

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