On January 23, 2013 at approximately 0655 I survived a hemorrhagic stroke that initially shut down and paralyzed the right half of my body from the neck down and limited the peripheral vision of my right eye and the hearing in my right ear. While much of what I'm trying to explain predates that stroke by more than a couple decades, it's been exacerbated since the stroke.
As I've stated elsewhere, the simplest way to describe what really annoys me about people is laziness in thought and action, the mindset that believes "impossible" is an acceptable answer and allows the notion of “eh, good enough” to somehow be acceptable. I’ve worked with more people than I care to think about who took that attitude toward their job, yet they’d be among the first to gripe is something they were buying wasn’t to the specifications they needed or desired whether it be a piece of equipment, a repair to their car or something similar, or their meal in a restaurant whether it was fast food or a fancy restaurant. It was alright if they did it but Heaven help them if they were on the receiving end.
Because I had a stroke and my body doesn’t work the way it should, people seem to automatically assume that I’m somehow fragile like an eggshell. As a result, my capacity for being able to volunteer at Grandview Hospital would be limited to only performing data entry/clerical tasks (providing I'd be allowed to volunteer in the first place). While those tasks are within my working background (even if I am out of practice), those aren’t all that I’m capable of. The only other duties they have open involve a lot of walking. For me that’s fine as I need the exercise in order to get at least that part of my body working better. Unfortunately, simply because I could potentially fall (which was actually true even before the stroke) the “walking” positions are completely out because “the floor is harder than my head.” This both completely ignores and refuses to contemplate, let alone acknowledge, the fact that in 2013 I fell four times and I managed to regain my feet again without any assistance or suffering any injury. Two of those times involved concrete sidewalks which are both far from level (unlike hospital corridors) and are far harder than hospital floors, the third time involved going down (literally) a gravel path, and the last involved my own room. Granted, on November 9, 2015, I tripped while traversing an asphalt walking/bike trail approximately three miles from where I live and I broke my right wrist to the point of needing a titanium plate and a host of screws; but before anyone tries to read into that, I hit the ground so hard that I also broke the watch on my left wrist. All of which should demonstrate that I’m not fragile.
Then there’s the American medical complex and their simply getting people to “live with” whatever ails them as opposed to actually trying to fix the problem. This (combined with greed) is why we haven’t seen any real cures since polio. This also extends to rehabilitation therapy and the fact that the staff’s goals so often don’t match the goals of their patients. Doylestown Hospital’s Therapy Department is a prime example of this. My goal is to regain 95-100% of my physical capabilities. I realize that this isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. Unfortunately, the therapists I had only set their sights on a 50% improvement in this function and 50% increase in that function, and then were satisfied when I succeed in gaining 45% increase in one and 52% in the other. When you’re starting at only 30% of full functionality and their goal is for you improve by 50%, that doesn’t take you to 80%; it only takes you to 45%.
Sadly, while this isn’t the only hospital/rehab group that does this, Doylestown Hospital is where I also witnessed minor panic attacks any time I had a balance check (they referred to it as “losing [my] balance” which implies my having fallen over when I did no such thing) or the ridiculous insistence that I must use the handrail while ascending or descending their staircases, yet they themselves were under no such requirement. This also doesn’t take into account that stairways in public buildings (including hospitals) are nowhere near as steep as those found in houses and old buildings (e.g. the pub that I reside above).
There’s also the concept of “impossible” that I keep running into, especially in places like hospitals. Supposedly, I should accept that it may be "impossible" to fully recover from the stroke. Bullshit. All things are possible; it’s the probability that’s the tricky part. I acknowledge that the probabilities are not in my favour, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done. The probability of my being able to walk at all at the beginning of my second week of Acute Rehab was exceedingly low, yet I still did it. Prior to the 1950s it was deemed a certainty that the human body couldn’t survive speeds greater than the speed of sound, which is where the term "sound barrier" comes from.. And then the sound barrier was broken and planes like the Concorde and military aircraft like the SR-71 Blackbird that travel at speeds of Mach 1 or more that successfully carry humans faster than the speed of sound. According to the laws of aerodynamics it’s impossible for a bumblebee to fly, yet it does so successfully. (The supposed workaround being that the laws of fluid dynamics are used to explain this success.) Supposedly it’s impossible for anything to travel faster than the speed of light, yet tachyons are particles that travel faster than the speed of light. If tachyons can travel at those velocities, then it’s possible for other things to do so as well. All of which I had to point out to the nurse I had to deal with at Doylestown Hospital who insisted that “impossible” isn’t laziness. It’s nearly always considered impossible until someone succeeds in doing it.
And still we’re told as disabled people (handicapped, whatever) that we should "just accept" that we may never get our bodies back and/or our lives back and just live with our current situation being as good as it gets. That’s a load of crap! Disabled people should never be encouraged to simply accept what happened to them and then just live with it. "Just accept" really means "Just give up." Disabled people should be encouraged to do whatever they can to get back to where they were before whatever disabled them happened. Granted, some adaptations may be necessary to succeed in this in either the short or long run, but that shouldn’t be simply “good enough.” Good enough should never be good enough.
- by Rev. J.T. Smith
(Author's note: This was originally written in September 2014 for my psych therapist. It has been updated since).