Let Me Wheel in Peace

So I have something called recurrent vasovagal syncope. Yes, it’s a mouthful, and it sounds like I’m dying because after all, it is a heart function abnormality. Most people in their lives experience at least one vasovagal syncope episode, but about 3% experience it regularly and recurrently, and voila, I’m one of the 3%. But really, it’s not a life-threatening illness. It’s just a fancy way of putting I need to have a sodium-rich diet, drink electrolyte-rich fluids, refrain from standing still for too long, and lowering my body when I feel symptoms of syncope. Most days I am just as healthy and fine as a marathoner. Except.. when I feel faint in the shower and injure my hip. Yes, it happened, and yes, I am in a wheelchair until I can limp again. 

Despite my current physical predicament, I decided to make the best of it. So I am wheeling around campus like a squirrel looking for adventure. So many of my good friends are volunteering to wheel me around so my poor fragile arms can rest for a bit, and everything is great other than the fact that I am in a wheelchair. But I started noticing things that I had never noticed before. I noticed how I have to take such long detours to get to classes, how wheeling up the ramps require so much physical strength and exertion, how elevators are hidden in corners of the buildings. I noticed how I can no longer go to my favorite lily ponds, and how it is nearly impossible to get to the gym. I noticed how most doors have no automatic functions, so I spend ten minutes alone opening a door and wheeling myself in while holding it open in place. I noticed how this campus, the once beautiful and accessible place, has turned into a giant unfriendly ordeal. And what has changed? I wheel now. 

This got me thinking. I am fortunately able to recover and walk out of this wheelchair someday, and the beautiful and friendly campus will return. But what if I have to be in a wheelchair for much longer? Would I ever be able to enjoy all the greens, the ponds, or let alone open a bathroom door in peace anymore? How does one go about wheeling out the dormitory to attend any social events when getting out of a building is like a quest to escape a maze? Other than the bare necessities like going to classes or to the cafeterias to feed oneself, everything will simply be “not worth the trouble” anymore — no more socials, no more dances, and no more working out. 

College campuses cannot preach about inclusiveness and embracement without making sure everybody is included in the definition. And that includes bodies with disabilities, whether that be temporary or permanent. It took me being in a wheelchair myself to notice that the beauties of my campus that I once admired were privileges. But really, they shouldn’t be. Everyone — whether walking or wheeling, — should have a right to enjoy and access the campus without so much ordeal.