23 June 2015
Guest Blogger: Kylie Royal
Starting out in a career working in spinal and neurological rehab the thought of ending up with someone in a chair never crossed my mind. But when 13 years later I met my ‘perfect match’ and it turned out he was in a chair, I can’t say I was really surprised.
I met Paul through a mutual friend and initially went out for a coffee with the idea of making a new friend. I had been told he had a brilliant sense of humour and he certainly didn’t let me down! From that very afternoon I knew he was different and that my feelings were not really on the ‘new friend level’! When his accident happened Paul was an Ironman athlete having just completed the Hawaii Ironman in Kona finishing as the 10th Australian. He was also in his 6th year as a professional firefighter.
Life throws curveballs and sometimes they are big ones. For Paul it was a mistimed roll down an inflatable slide that changed his life and set his journey onto a different path. I have found that my background in rehab made adapting to life involving Paul’s wheelchair easier.
What I really never anticipated or may ever be able to adapt to is people’s reactions, lack of verbal filter and complete ignorance when it comes to a person being in a wheelchair or having a disability.
‘Can I get a ride’, ‘don’t drink drive’, ‘new asset?’, ‘oh easy way to get there man!’ as he rolls down a hill. They never seem to be around as he is going up the hill. The stares. As thick as your skin can get, they still penetrate.
The countless times Paul has handed over the money and I have been given back the change. Or worse when he asks a question and the answer is given to me… or more to the point the side of my face as I look at him, the perfectly intelligent human being who asked the question.
Sometimes I want to scream. It’s only his legs that don’t work not his mind!! Sometimes I make every effort to kiss and flaunt in public. To show he is mine and the ignorant continue to stare.
Curiosity is one thing. Rude is another.
For Paul, 10 years of dealing with these attitudes is still hard work and for me having just joined him, standing by his side daily experiencing and sharing these occurrences has been a real eye opener.
Sometimes people go so far out of their way to ensure we are 'ok' that it is just too much and the fuss makes you the stand out in the crowd!
Is there a happy medium?
Australian’s prides themselves on supporting and applauding the underdog, but is that really what occurs.