The Boston Marathon a journey beyond disability

In the two weeks since the Boston Marathon bombing we have learned a lot. For many of those 260 runners and spectators who were injured, it will be the start of their journey beyond disability. While running a marathon is a journey in itself it is done intentionally. Now they will be running a journey not of their choosing. This is a journey no one takes by choice. It is the journey through disability.
In my last blog I talked about preparing for such a journey and how we don’t do it intentionally. But that the things we do to prepare ourselves and our children help us to prepare for this journey. These skills fall into two main categories emotional skills and social skills. The self-discipline and perseverance necessary for running a marathon will help the runners.
These skills become tested when we have to journey through disability. The first challenge with a disability is accepting the disability. Neither self-discipline nor perseverance will help with this. For people who lost limbs in the bombing it will take them a while to remember that they don’t have 2 feet or two arms. For the last 10 years, I have not seen well yet in my dreams everything appears crystal clear. I imagine for those injured two weeks ago their image of themselves will at times remain intact.
Learning to adjust to a new body will have its humorous moments as well as its tragic moments. When I look straight ahead I see nothing to the left of midline or below horizontal. My wife is short and on several occasions I have turned around and try to walk through her. She is big enough that we laugh about it, but when their small children around I fear kicking them across the room. I joke that my white cane is a kid catcher.
I did not initially think I needed a white cane, and I am sure that those injured in Boston will take a while to accept new ways of doing things. When I went to rehabilitation for my lost eyesight I focused on computer skills and using a white cane was an afterthought. I realized later that a white cane would be handy. When I was coming out of a meeting one evening, I found that I could not see the stairs. They were poorly lit and did not have a contrasting lip. I learned to use the cane but did not carry it regularly until I missed a flight of steps and had to take a flying leap. The white cane has saved me on many occasions since then.
Before we can get to the work of learning to live with a disability there are many other questions we ask. The world is asking why the Boston Marathon bombing occurred. Those injured will also ask themselves why I was the one to be injured. They will always ponder the question and may note that in their moment of triumph they entered this world of disability. Completing a marathon is something very few people do. When I tell people I ran marathons they react in dismay. For those injured in Boston that triumph will bring back the tragedy as well.
The tragedy is that after all their hard work and success they ended up with a damaged body. What was a victory became a loss. Many will not be able to run a marathon again. Actually they will not be able to repeat it the same way. People have run marathons with prostheses and in wheelchairs. But they first had to accept that they were not who they had been. There strong and vital bodies are no more.
For those of us who find ourselves disabled we do not initially want to accept it. If someone might have said I should be using a white cane from the beginning, I doubt I would have listened. I was afraid to carry a white cane and admit I could not see well. I feared others would take advantage of me. I have found that fear could be ungrounded. I have yet to have someone take advantage of me. People readily go out of their way to help me. My faith in other people has grown immensely because I now carry a white cane. I hope those injured in Boston will Find people who will help them confront their fears.
If you or someone you know would like to share their story of how they came to accept their disability I would love to hear. Please comment or share as you feel appropriate.
In All Ways, Seek Joy,
Coach Dr. Dave (MD)

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