Patience and Love for Paraplegics

And Everyone Involved

Reading time: 5 minutes

Summary

If you’re in a wheelchair, or not, the purpose of this post is to help you realize that you should try to never complain and view life with patience and love.

Something I’ve seen more than I’d like is people complaining. Myself included, but I reckon I’m more careful/aware than most people.

In general, people don’t like to be around people that complain. In certain cases, people will tell me, because I’m in a wheelchair, that I’m allowed to complain. I don’t ever think that I’ve earned the right to complain or something like that, and no one should.

Everyone has problems, and for them, it could be a big deal but seem small when compared to others’ problems.

I’ve had conversations where a parent would tell me that once their kid started to complain, they told them to look at me and see that I’m not complaining and my issue is larger than theirs. The issue here is that everyone has a self-importance complex and the problems that affect them is a big deal.

The big question is how can we, in wheelchairs or anyone inconvenienced in life, stop complaining and have more patience and love?

I continually glance back at these wise words by Churchill to put me in check and stop complaining.

A man is about as big as the things that make him angry

Winston Churchill

What does it look like to live with patience and love? Here are some select stories.

Story 1

I’m meeting chatting with two guys in a wheelchair, I’m not particularly enthusiastic. Nothing to do with them in a wheelchair, but they’re just not exactly my type of people. Luckily, I have tolerance and unparalleled acting skills, so I stick around, listen and talk if a question is tossed my way.

 We’re in the US and each of us has dealt with snow, so the topic migrates to dealing with snow in a wheelchair, a task that isn’t particularly pleasant.

One thing to point out is that a person in a wheelchair wouldn’t necessarily talk to someone not in a wheelchair about the problems in snow. The issue with this is that when 3 of us in a wheelchair got together, the other two only complained about wheelchair specific things.

So as the topic migrates to snow, the other guys talk about how annoying or how much they don’t like the slushy snow and when it sticks to the wheelchair tires and then when they get in the car, it gets all dirty.

That’s a small problem, something that most people have with their shoes. A topic that I don’t care to partake. It’s a car. Just a car and cold, muddy water. In 10 years, I won’t care or think about the little problems. Even tomorrow I won’t think about it.

This is an example of how it’s important to avoid even the smallest complaints, because those are the ones that really don’t matter and take away from a good conversation. Especially when they really don’t matter in the long term. The truth is that if you’re in a wheelchair or not, no one wants to hear about your tiny problems.

Story 2

I’m on Instagram and I looked at someone’s profile that recently followed me. I notice they’re in a wheelchair, the motorized type that tends to be bulky – more than a manual chair.

They posted a picture at Starbucks (in the US) of one of the tables that has a little handicap symbol, a table meant to be adequate for people in wheelchairs and probably follows some dimension standard based on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

Because of their bulky wheelchair, they actually couldn’t fit at the table, their chair had armrests with controls to move the chair and the table wasn’t high enough for them to go beneath. This person was ranting about how terrible Starbucks is and how inaccessible the table is.

As I see it, I’m just happy that Starbucks even did anything. They tried. Nothing is universal. It’s a common mistake made by people in wheelchairs to think that the world needs to accommodate them completely when it doesn’t even do so for people that aren’t disabled.

Should we not have anything high on shelves because some people are short? Should we flatten any hill because they can be steep and hard to get up? The answer is no.

Patience and love are needed. Patience because the world isn’t going to cater to you immediately and if you just make people aware (in an understanding demeanor) then all you need is patience and soon enough, that table could be raised.

Love. Have some love and appreciation for the people that tried and thought of you. Even if the table doesn’t work for you.

Story 3

Here in Australia, a country that doesn’t have ADA, I’ve come across more than a few little issues as I’ve explored. There are many buildings with a step or two to get in and no ramp or sometimes the ramp is insanely steep and not possible without a little help from my friends. In the gym, none of the water fountains are accessible.

Having patience and love is important when it comes to raising issues, because what we fail to realize is that the world is not against us. No one put those steps there to spite you. Most people are good and want to help, they just need to hear your perspective.

At Curtin Uni, here in Aussie, there was a medium sized issue. The walkways are brick and the bricks had morphed into what could be considered brail for the jolly green giant. It was so bad in fact, that I would need to go very slow and be very cautious so that I wouldn’t hit a brick and fall forward. It’s almost happened a few times.

I brought up this issue, that the pathways are a high risk point for me to fall as well as literally anyone, who could easily trip.

I didn’t complain or attack with hate. I knew that it’s only natural given the number of trees in the area and I also knew that the uni cared about me and took it seriously. I just told them about the problem in the same way a consultant would if they hired one to find issues.

Nothing happened for a few months.

Patience was inhibited.

Some construction fences come up and after a few weeks, the path is smooth.

Going along this path is what made me want to write this. The point I’m getting across (ideally) is that when there is an issue of accessibility, realize that the world won’t accommodate you entirely, but if you kindly bring the issue in light and have patience, it very well may get resolved.

Here’s another quick-ish story.

There are a lot of hills at Curtin and all over the world. While at Curtin, I would be going up a hill with some friends and they’d mention something about how bad these hills are with a kind of “how dare they” tonality. Not really with hate towards the uni but just saying how inaccessible the hills are. And they are rather steep and getting a push always helps. But my typical response is that I don’t mind.

Sometimes hills do get tiring, but that’s the same for 99% of people (probably animals as well).

I don’t expect the world to level itself for the likes of me, I’d be upset if it did so. I love the world and if there are hills, then let there be hills.

All I need is patience to get up the hills, as well as a bit of strength or an amazing friend. The latter I’ve had the great fortune of having many of in my life.


Immediate action items: The next time you have something happen that you might complain about, remember the quote and if you can’t fix the issue by bringing it up or doing something yourself, then just have patience.

Summary: Don’t complain about little problems. Bring issues to light and they will likely get solved if you have patience and don’t demonize the rest of the world. Approach people with love and understand that they’re trying to help you, but they sometimes forget – as we all do.


Overdeliver: Start looking at little problems as a challenge or something that will make for a good story. When everything goes swimmingly, the water in uninteresting.

The Paraplegic’s Guide to the First Time in the Gym

Reading time: 9 minutes

Substance:
Pre-Gym
At Gym
Post Gym


Being fit and healthy is crucial. Every single person in a wheelchair needs to workout and stay healthy. There are many reasons. Making a good first impression, being able to do what you want, having self-confidence, keeping your mind sharp, becoming more successful, being happier, living longer, and most important of all, being independent. If that’s not enough, read this.

As you should know, I’ve only been in a wheelchair for a small fraction of my life. When I was a kid, I was super into skateboarding, then I moved to basketball, after that I got into boxing. Included in the boxing phase came weight lifting. I started getting more and more into it and the next thing I remember is somehow finding myself on stage competing as a bodybuilder, winning my division and best abs, going home with a sticky coating of spray tan and then turning 15 the next week.

Since then, I’ve been working out with a substantial amount of competitions tossed in the mix. I proudly have this website bookmarked.

Although I’m not certified by any means, through experience in the gym, self education and getting plenty of unsolicited advice, I know enough to merit giving advice on going to the gym for the first time in a wheelchair or otherwise.

My first workouts after getting injured were in rehab and more functional than to build muscle, though that’s also an aim. We did a lot of shoulder exercises and lots of reps with lower weight. With my reliable tenacity, I refused to use any weight lower than 9lbs and mostly used 10lbs, which were the highest the weights went. The strength and function that I gained over those 4 weeks in rehab lead to my rapid recovery.

Since I was a little more strength oriented, I was able to muscle my way through most things and figure out how to do it with grace later.

I loved doing any type of workout, most of the time I’d just smile from how great it feels to be working out and sweating. The feeling of progress and growth.

Sadly, when I left rehab, all that bravado and eagerness for the iron had taken an unannounced vacation. I didn’t go to the gym for a while. I didn’t even know how I would do it. I kept telling myself that I would go when I wasn’t as busy. To be honest, and that’s what I always aim to be, I was fucking scared.

I used to be king of the gym. I leg pressed 1000lbs+ when I was in highschool. People used to be amazed that I was 15 when I talked to them at the gym. When I was 17, they thought I was a college student. I grew into it and it became less unique and now I was about to go back in less than agreeable circumstances.

Going to the gym for the first time is a bit intimidating for anyone, but when you’re in a wheelchair it’s a little more so. Since I didn’t feel confident to go back to the gym, the inertia became a vicious cycle. It was’t easy the first few times, feeling like the king that had fallen off.

Even the man was scared to go back to his own kingdom!

I obviously did go to the gym, I adjusted rapidly because I planned out and used the basic tactic that I’ll be describing below.

If you find yourself getting worried or scared about going to the gym, then you’re in the same place I was. I did have a lot of prior knowledge, but all you need to do is watch a few hours of credible videos and you’ll know the fundamentals. Just remember that even me, the guy who was the guy in the gym was scared to go back.


For and before your first time at the gym, there are checklists. They’re pretty much mandatory. Unless you don’t want to make rapid progress, in that case you can just stop reading this.

Before we even get to the gym, we have to wax on and wax off.

We have to do our research.
We have to prepare.
We have to have a plan.
We’re going to cover all that first and then we’ll talk about exactly what to do during our first time in the gym.

Pre-gym:

Before we begin going to the gym, we need to have a clear goal. Having goals for the gym will motivate you, keep you on track, keep you focused and give you a purpose in the gym.

As a former bodybuilder, I know more than ever that having goals/desired outcomes and a plan is the way to be successful in the gym. If you go in without a plan, you’ll come out without progress.

Here’s what we need to do BEFORE going to the gym:

First, assess what you can do.

  • What muscle groups can you work out? Any muscles that you have control over can, should, and will be exercised.

Split these muscles into groups

  • For me, this is Chest, Back, Arms, Shoulders/Traps, and Abs.

Have a clear vision

  • Next, take a look at yourself and envision what you want to become. Do you want to be stronger? Leaner? More muscular? You have an ideal body image, that’s your goal, and you will reach it.

Write out your goals for each muscle group or workout

  • Over time, you’ll be raising your goals as you get closer. I like to always keep my goals out of reach so that I keep moving forward. For me, I chose specific workouts for each muscle group and created a weight and rep goal with a timeline.
  • An example would be to do 50 dips. I started around 25 and every other chest day I would do dips until I dropped and wrote that number down to see how close I was. I reached 50 after about a month.

Find a gym

  • Now you need to do your homework, find a few gyms nearby, call them and ask them how accessible their facility is.
  • If you’re deciding between gyms, some important factors are: the weights/machines they have, the entrance/parking lot accessibility, the locker room, and how helpful the staff are (probably the most important).

Do your homework

  • Once you have a gym to go to, you want to make sure that you show up with some knowledge.
  • Study the basics of the muscular system. Watch some videos explaining how each of your muscle groups function

You really need to know this because in the gym, we have to get creative and that means using some machinery in an innovative way. The best way I’ve found to be innovative in the gym is to master the fundamentals and after that, I can find unique ways to use anything in the gym to help me in working out a certain muscle group or doing a certain workout.

Here are the fundamentals, though I highly encourage getting more detail from another source.

  • Chest is a pushing forward motion
  • Back is a pulling in motion, squeezing your shoulder blades together
  • Biceps are a curling in motion
  • Triceps are a pushing out motion
  • Shoulders are any motion with stiff arms
  • Traps are a shrugging motion
  • Abs are a crunching motion
  • Lower back is a curling of the lower back to lift your torso up

Know your wheelchair

It’s good to know about how your wheelchair reacts to movements as well. An example of when its good to know is the case of doing overhead extensions – having a substantial amount of weight above and behind your head will cause you to tip backwards and fall if you’re not quick to react. The solution is to back up against something so that you can’t tip over.

Knowing how the muscles are exercised means that you can look at anything in the gym and visualize new ways to use it for different muscles. This is absolutely crucial for success in the gym. I’ve been complimented many times for my innovations in the gym.

Learn about the basic workouts

  • There are going to be at least 10 workouts you can find for each muscle, after seeing those, you’ll be able to sieve through and find the one’s you’ll be capable of doing. It helps to know which workouts exist so you can avoid wasting time discovering them on your own (or never discovering them).
  • Knowing what machines the gym has will be helpful in figuring out what workouts you can do. I have a list on my phone of all the workouts I can do for each muscle, half of them are unconventional and definitely not the intended purpose.

Build up strength to workout

  • Once you’ve learned about how the body works, you should really do home workouts. Before going into the gym, you need enough strength to lift the weights, re-rack them, transfer to the machines or benches, and have enough strength to use the machines and weights.
  • It’s also about safety, you’ll end up hurting yourself if you try to do too much weight, and if you can’t do a lot of weight, you’ll probably do too much just to keep your ego intact.
    • All you need to do is search for home workouts (normal ones) and then go through them and see which ones you can do or get close to doing. Knee push-ups, crunches, planks, etc.

Pay close attention to form

  • Once you’ve built up strength, search up the basic workouts such as bench press and learn about proper form. Having proper form is another very important aspect of going to the gym. If your form is bad, you’ll hurt yourself, which could have catastrophic results if you have issues with your back or injure your shoulders.

Don’t go alone

  • Find a gym partner(s). Ask a friend to come to the gym with you, or if you know someone who goes to the gym, ask to have them join you or if you can join them.
  • You can go to the gym alone, but it’s much more helpful to go with friends and have people you know at the gym. My first time back at the gym, I went with friends and it really helped me. Correction, *they* really helped me.

This looks like a lot, and it is, but don’t be afraid to choose only the ones that you want to do and add things you think will help. This list is all-inclusive and is meant to help you build up the momentum so that you can smoothly and confidently transition into the gym, if you have gym buddies already or have a favorite gym, then obviously you don’t need to figure that out.

First time at the gym:

This part is important. All of this is important, but when it comes to the first time at the gym, you’ll want to make sure to follow this.

Your first time at the gym, you won’t be working out.
Cosmo, you’re crazy!
Yes, I believe I am, but for your first time back in the gym, don’t plan on having a full work out.

This is possibly a new gym and even if it isn’t, the circumstances are new.

You will do some exercises, but not a complete workout. Your first time at the gym will be to scope out some potential workouts you can do and learn the lay of the land.

When I first went to the gym, I did a tour of the whole gym, twice. I looked at every machine, then quickly went through each muscle group in my head, and then analyzed what possible workouts I could do.
This is why you need to know the basic mechanics of how your muscles work and what workouts exist.

After tour de iron, you and your friends will loop back around to a few promising workouts, maybe the bench press or some machines. Having your friends with you, or a staff member, will not only give you confidence to try some new things, but they’ll help you with transfers or other things.
Trying out as much as you can is crucial for you to build up your list of “known-to-work” workouts.

While at the gym, go through your list of muscles that you can (and will) workout. Try to find 1 or 2 workouts for each muscle group. Give each one a try and then move on to the next.

It’s also a good thing to tell your friends about this process before they come with you so that they know that this isn’t going to be a real workout. Having your friends or staff members help you will also add to the creativity, with everyone pitching in ideas.

Take note of what workouts you discovered and for what muscle groups.

Post gym:

Now that you’ve gone through the gym, and you know what workouts you can do, we plan.

Write down each of the muscle groups and the workouts below. This is the foundation for your gym plan.

For each day that you go in, you can now take these workouts, mix them up, and add how many sets and reps of each workout you want to do. It’s much easier to do this when you have an objective.

Remember we talked about goals? For each of these workouts, you need to set a weight, rep, and timeline goal. I prefer using workouts as the goal because they’re very measurable, body weight likewise.

Keep a separate list of those goals and track where you are at least once a week so you can measure your progress.

This is how you’ll motivate yourself in the gym and to keep going back. I like to have end of month goals. I track where I’m at right now and then I’ll have about 3 weeks to reach the next goal.

Now you’re ready to go and dominate at the gym.

And if you want to see some workouts, tips, and trick in action, check out this amazing playlist I found on YouTube. (more will be added).


Immediate action items: Pick the steps you presume you’ll find most helpful, and go through them.

Summary: Lots of things to do before, during, and after your first time at the gym.

Overdeliver: Look at other people in the gym for ideas. Some of my best workouts are from seeing other people doing a workout.

Remember to stretch!!!!!

Paraplegic Gear/Tools of the Month: Going for Speed

The Best Bearings for Your Wheelchair

Reading time: 4 minutes

Alright. Another month has passed and here we are with more life improving gear. for my favorite month – July – we’ll be looking at my favorite mindset. Going faster.

The problem we solve here is going slow. I really don’t like going slow. Another way to frame it is reducing the friction, so you use less energy and go faster and further.

I really don’t like working against friction. Right now, as I’m writing this in Australia, my bearings are completely shot. Rusted and broken. I’ll be heading home in 18 days, so I’m just camping out in the slow grounds until I get back home and address this monumental issue.

When my bearing are either broken or just the standard ones that I got with the chair, I feel like I’m pushing against some force. I actually am. Even when going downhill, I’ve noticed that I hardly pick up any speed if at all.

Having the least amount of friction allows you to exert less energy to go faster. It means that one push takes you further and you’re more agile. You’ll be surprised at the difference from the gear below.

Solutions:

  • Front wheel bearings
  • Back wheel bearings

The bearings that came with my chair, when I had them in the air and gave them a spin,they spun for only a few seconds. Once I upgraded, they spun for minutes.

Front Wheel Bearings

Front wheels in a wheelchair, I believe they’re called caster wheels, typically will be compatible with your everyday skateboard bearings. A very good thing because there’s a big market for skate bearings. The technical bearing size is 608.

You can either go all out if you’re serious about having the best or go decent if you want the minimum best.

One thing to note is that most skateboard bearing packs come with 8 total bearings, 2 for each wheel. Wheelchairs only have 2 front wheels, so this is like buying double.

Starting at the minimum end. Probably the best bearings you could get at the lowest price. Anything less than these shouldn’t be considered.

The recognized standard bearing. Reds. These will give you what you need and might be good enough if you want to go fast.

Pros

Cons

  • Will rust over time
  • Not the absolute best you can get
  • Other Bones Bearings have cooler stickers, but that’s an opinion.

Before we get to the top two bearings. Here’s a good in between option that I found.

Pros

Cons

  • Not widely known, not by me at least
  • Will also rust over time
  • Might not come with a sticker

For those that live in the fast lane, these two bearings are for you. On the expensive side, but commonly known as the fastest bearings around.

First up:  Bones Swiss Ceramic

Pros

  • Literally the very best
  • Super fast
  • Bragging rights
  • Super cool sticker to brag about
  • Ceramic doesn’t rust
  • The best

Cons

  • Only the balls are ceramic and the casing could rust
  • Expensive
  • Made out of toilet

Second up: VXB Full Ceramic

Pros

  • Individually sold bearings (can buy 4 instead of the pre-packaged 8)
  • Full ceramic to go even faster (less friction)
  • Not so expensive
  • Uses black ceramic balls

Cons

  • A ceramic case can crack, which will ruin the whole thing
  • Not skate rated like Bones
  • I couldn’t even find an ABEC rating
  • No sticker

Back wheel bearings

The bigger wheels on wheelchairs are much like (if not exactly like) bike tires. Luckily, bike (bicycle) bearings are also an existing market that we can dip into, and the water is warm. I’m back after eating dinner and doing more research, the water is luke-warm but erring on cool.

Bike bearings are few and far and they vary. I recommend taking off your wheel and checking what bearing you have. This is what mine looks like:

Cosmo’s wheel bearing

As you will struggle to see, it says “R8 2RS.” I also struggled. After some searching, I found that this bearing is 1/2 x 1 1/8 x 5/16 (inches), which is also, 12.7 x 28 x 8 (millimetres). Also called an R8ZZ or a 6001 bearing.
The measurements are Inner diameter x Outer diameter x Width

There aren’t any big players that make Swiss bearings of this size, or anything of distinct caliber like Bones.
I’ve found generic or ceramic.
Generic will get you medium results – probably better than the bearings that came with your chair but nothing mind blowing.
Ceramic (with a metal casing) will get you the results that come with ceramic, faster and better.

Here’s what we got. Keep in mind these are both individual bearings, so you’ll have to buy four.

If you want to look for another size bearing and you figure out the metric size or the name (6001, etc.) filter through this page to find a good bearing.

To make this process much more efficient, here are some amazing tools

Bearings are as hard to take out as

Bones Bearings Press Puller

To take off your caster wheels, you’ll need some hex keys (also used for bike maintenance)

Texas Best Folding Metric and SAE Hex Keys


Overdeliver? Absolutely.

There is a next level of speed, not the drug, and it involves some sauce. Don’t get lost in the sauce, you can actually use too much.

Bones Speed Cream Skate Bearing Lubricant

How to Ask Paraplegics About Their Injury

Reading time: 3.5 minutes

Talking to someone with an accent. We all hear it, but should we ignore it or mention it?

If you’ve been somewhere that considers the way you talk as having an accent (obviously its normal where you’re from), then you’ll have experienced that the first thing almost everyone says is something about your accent.

How do I know this?

I was in a coffee shop and saw someone wearing a hoodie with my – our – uni logo. I went up and said hi, we talked for a while and now we’re the best of friends (based on my analysis). We were having lunch or something and were talking about the first time we met and she mentioned that in her mind, she thought, “he didn’t mention my accent, YESS!!”

I definitely noticed it. I just didn’t think about bringing it up. But of course I was curious, and after talking for a while, I learned that she’s from Joburg (South Africa), not from asking about her accent, but in casual conversation about whatever and anything else.

With a name like Cosmo Socrates, rivaling names as unique as Elon, throughout my childhood I’ve gotten praise and jokes. I’m acclimated to being asked about my name and where it’s from (Greek), most people can’t refrain from vocalizing some observation about it. Seinfeld.

These two seemingly irrelevant examples – accent and names – are all to put in perspective the question of how do you talk to a paraplegic? How to strike a conversation with someone in a wheelchair, properly.

Some people have mentioned that someone once said “so, you don’t look like you need to be in a wheelchair,” and that can invoke some anger (it did), but really, I see it as someone who just doesn’t know what to say, wants to be nice (a failed compliment), and are interested.

In my experience, the best way to begin asking about someone’s injury is always with “If you don’t mind me asking,” and then followed by “how did you get injured?” or something in that discourse locale. Even though I personally never do mind, it’s polite and shows that you understand it could be a sensitive topic – respect.

It may have been a traumatic experience, and by definition, won’t be pleasant to recite and relive every time someone is curious. So that’s where the “if you don’t mind” part becomes important.

The environmental context is probably second only to trauma – that is, is it even appropriate to ask given the longitude latitude?

If I’m in the gym, I probably don’t want to tell you all about how I got injured, the details and my life thereafter, I just wanted you to spot me and then tell me I look good. Similar for being in the store or parking lot and about to get into my car.
I don’t mind the interest, but similar to someone with an accent, it becomes trite, sometimes inconvenient, and irritating to a point – having to explain how I got injured to everyone and their mother. This is one of those arguments of my time isn’t more valuable than yours, but equal and I just don’t want to say this story again.

The story doesn’t always have to be long. I have my one word explanation – “skiing.” Which leaves a lot to the imagination but resolves the curiosity. Likewise, I just say, “Greek.” if someone asks about the name. If you get a one word answer, that’s probably code for, I told you and let’s leave it there.

If you do find yourself post-mortem of saying something that pluck a nerve, you can always save yourself and say, “sorry if that’s rude/the wrong approach, I’m just interested.” People love when other people are interested in them.

Mystery isn’t a dreadful thing either, after all, satisfaction is the death of desire. If the probability of seeing someone again is likely, then leave the story for the second, third, or never time you see them. It will come up in conversation at some point and you’ll be able to focus on the most important exchange – learning about who they are as a person. You might think of it as dialing a wrong number, but not awkwardly. Just talking and learning, you have no face for that voice – no body either.

If you get to know the person first, they may be similar to me and have a website and YouTube where you can read/watch/listen to the story and relieve the mystery itch on your own.

Short answer: The best way to ask or bring up the topic is to just get straight to it. One thing you can be sure of is that it’s not the first or last time they’ll be telling the “what happened” story (results may vary).

Personally, I’ve never has anyone ask me about my injury in a rude way.

For those reading who are in wheelchairs, though there are rude and creepy people, most people who ask about your injury, whether it’s an elegant or off-putting performance, at its core it’s just someone who’s interested in you. It may well be the first time they’ve talked to anyone in a wheelchair or asked someone. Don’t mistake ignorance for belligerence.

There it is. My two cents. A while ago you could get a ride on a horse while your mom checked out at the market. Now, it’ll get you much more. (results may vary)


Immediate actionable items: If you’re in a wheelchair, it’s a good idea to have the short, medium, and long version of your story or a scripted way of saying “no” when asked. If you’re not in a wheelchair, maybe practice with leaving some open loops in your conversation, give mystery a chance.

Summary: When it comes to talking to someone in a wheelchair, there are best practices and considerations. Starting with “if you dont mind me asking,” is always great, being aware of the fact that your curiosity is not more important than the other persons time and it may be best not to ask depending on where you are (in the gym and places like that).

Overdeliver: I can’t think of anything. Usually I leave something out and put it here if it doesn’t fit like clockwork. I suppose it’s also important to know that people in wheelchairs are just people sitting down and you should take some interest in them before their injury, otherwise it’s quite one-sided – your interest and just their trite story.

The Importance of Health and Fitness for Paraplegics

Reading time 2 minutes

Fitness is extremely important. Of course it is and you know that. But do you really know?

I could go on and on about a lot of things and you would diligently listen and say, “Yeah, I know that,” or “That makes sense, I can understand that.” Something I believe (and it makes sense) is that you don’t really know unless you’re actively practicing.

Here’s an example. I was talking with a new friend and we found ourselves talking about personal development – something I’m always learning and doing – and I was telling her about how important it is to journal everyday and I gave some familiar examples such as Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci. My friend doesn’t journal, but she said something like, I know journaling is important and has many benefits but… and even you reading this right now, you know journaling is important just as you know that being healthy is important. Eating the right foods for your mind, body, and soul as well as the right exercises.

So although you may know that fitness is important, are you actively practicing?

Why not? Why should you start being more active and healthier?

Seriously answer these, write them in your journal. Write down 3 reasons why you don’t eat healthier or exercise more and write 3 reasons why you should. (at least make a mental list if you won’t write them out).

If you’re already working on fitness and living healthier, you can skim through until you reach the resources at the end.

There’s a high chance you’re in a wheelchair or know someone in a wheelchair. Or you’re my family or friend and thank you for supporting me ❤

When it comes to being in a wheelchair, being fit and healthy becomes super-duper extremely important. Think of why that might be. Then compare with my reasons + explanations below.

  1. You can do more. It sounds simple but think of all the obstacles you face in a wheelchair. If you’re not fit, then people can’t help and lift you up. If you’re not strong, then you won’t be able to lift yourself or even get up a hill.[YouTube link for hill]. If you go to my YouTube channel, you’ll see that being both fit (low body fat) and strong allows me to get into airplanes along with getting carried up stairs by others. Going up stairs without help is hard. I’ve done it many times and I sweat on every occasion because of how difficult it is, even when you’re very strong.
  2. Self-confidence. A lot of people have low confidence as they are, then put them in a wheelchair and it’ll get a lot worse. Personally, I don’t have this issue and that’s in part because of my high fitness and health. I see this in other people and if you’re not healthy, then you’re naturally going to not be as happy as you can be, you might be scared to take off your shirt in public and now you’re impinging on what you do.
  3. Independence. When it comes to being a long wolf, it’s a lot easier if you’re strong and fit because you can easily help yourself. Also, once you reach a certain level of strength, people see that and they won’t try to take advantage of you, which can be a concern if you’re in a wheelchair and go out alone.
  4. Recovery. I’m not sure about you, but I’m going to recover and when I do I’ll  be ready. When it comes to the future, its completely unpredictable. We can sure try, but all knowledge is based on the past. We can make a prediction, but it never becomes more until it’s proven, which would mean it’s part of the past. You may not recover, but then again, you just might. The best we can do is just improve the odds. Improve the chances of recovery. Being healthy and fit will definitely improve your chances of a successful recovery. That includes stretching.
  5. Live longer and feel good. Sure there are people who are unhealthy and live long, but again, improve your chances of a longer, richer, and more fulfilling life by leading it with health and fitness. When you eat the right foods and exercise frequently you feel good. Scientifically speaking, its been proven many times and told so many times that it’s almost been dismissed and taken for granted, but if you’re feeling a little under the weather, go for a walk with nature.

So now that we know the importance of being healthy, how can we put it into practice?

It starts with diet. Then building up the habit of exercise. And you never stop. You should exercise every day, but if you need to take baby steps, try 3 times a week and build up.

The best advice I’ve gotten when it comes to introducing new things into your life is to only do it for as long as you want. Meaning that if you go to the gym, don’t force yourself to be there for an hour if you only enjoy the first 45 minutes, only do it for as long as it’s enjoyable, otherwise you’ll begin to dislike it – the opposite of what we want.

When it comes to diet, the best way to have discipline is to avoid needing discipline. You need discipline to not eat candy or unhealthy snacks only if they’re in the house. It starts with only buying healthy foods and having them be all that’s available. As a personal rule, I don’t eat any fast food, drink pop, or eat chips and most other snacks.

I’m not certified in any field of fitness, but I am a bodybuilder and I actively learn about health and fitness as well as put it into practice. I’m just sharing what’s worked for me (above and below). If you aren’t able to do certain workouts, always just do as much as you can.

Here are some resources for health and exercise to get you started. And remember to always challenge what you hear, but accept it if you’re wrong.

My favorite health podcast

My gym playlist

First video in the series of gym videos from my YouTube channel

Also, when it comes to staying healthy, massage therapy is another great thing to look into.


Immediate actionable items: Start leading a healthy life right now. Get rid of any unhealthy foods in your house and around you (not by eating them) and make a weekly plan for exercise. Such as walking every morning or evening and going through a workout routine at a set time each day or every other day.

Summary: There are 6 big reasons why fitness is important. Even more important is to start implementing a good diet and exercise right now.

Overdeliver:  As a little self-confidence boost and something that is entirely NOT my idea, but I was doing it before I realized it was common advice: ask for a discount. You might’ve heard this before, but just ask for a discount. Sometimes I’ll jokingly ask if they have a wheelchair discount or a handsome man discount. Student discount if you’re a college student. It’s fun and helps build up confidence.

The Benefits of Being in a Wheelchair

On the bright side

Reading time: 9 minutes

When you first get injured, there’s no doubt that you’re flooded with a white water rush of those negative thoughts. We’re almost wired to think about the bad things in life, if not from our primitive roots, it’s definitely been inhibited through our comparisons on social media and a generally gloomy world, maybe not totally but more than the peace, love, no war 70’s. If you’re really into psychology, there are some very persuasive explanations for why we’re more gloomy than before.

While the grey skies clouding our sun, adding a truly life altering injury doesn’t exactly bring out Mr. Blue Sky. Or does it?

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you use your injury to your advantage or let it use you.

Because I’m feeling good, I thought I would inform you or remind you that being in a wheelchair can actually be a quantum leap to heights that would otherwise take a lifetime. In short, this is a non-exhaustive list of the benefits of being in a wheelchair. So, if you’re new to the game and you’re not sure what to expect other than negatives, here are the positives that outweigh it all.

In a list + experience format, here is a short list of the grand benefits that answered the door when my caffeinated mind knocked and asked, “what are the benefits that make being in a wheelchair so nice that I almost want to stay. Almost.”  (and that I wish I could tell everyone who’s in rehab).

  • Parking – starting out with just something that has always bugged me. It truly drove me bonkers when I had to spend 10 minutes winding through a parking lot, just to get stuck by a car ahead of me waiting for a spot and then eventually find a spot in the back.

    I’ve had some problems with parking even with my handicap pass, but 95% of the time, I can pull into the parking lot, go right to the front and get my executive slot. We’re spoiled, but we deserve it.
  • Skip lines – every now and again, we’ll be able to skip a line. Typically, this doesn’t apply at Starbucks, but in airports – where the worst lines in the world exist – it’s absolutely unparalleled. After traveling almost too much, I have plenty of stories, but I’ll spare you. All I’ll say is that I’ve saved hours of waiting time, and this perk is very enviable when you’re flying international and another added benefit is your entourage gets to tag along and reap the benefits.

    I’ve actually been invited to events just so that the group I went with would get to share my benefits with me and sometimes I’ll also be the one to drive the group.
  • Extra care – people will heed you, unless you’re among a sea of wheelchairs, you’ll most likely stick out like a Goldfinger. When I went to EAA Oshkosh, you would not believe the presidential treatment I got, the parking especially. I got so close to the ground that it was almost unfair.

    When I was waiting for the theater to open so I could buy tickets for Phantom of the Opera, the security guard and I made respectful eye contact and he opened the door in front of me first. This was a student rush, where any college students get to grab the misfit, loner seats at a bargain and everyone waits outside the doors in the cold just to rush in and try to get the best low hanging fruit, they open one door at a time. People will also, in general, be most attentive and caring for how they could best help you, be it at a restaurant or the gym.
  • Moral high ground – this one is an ace up our well fitted sleeves. Only to be employed where it’s appropriate because with great power… We always have this card. The ability to shame someone and take the high road. Usually this is when there’s an ever so slight inconvenience or a major one, if something isn’t working you can almost always win an argument or get something. Of course, this is something that can make you look like an unwiped asshole if you’re not careful.

    An example of a time I could’ve made a scene was when I went to a restaurant with my extended family and they sat us at a high table. I simply just ate on my lap or from the table, but it was at chin level. The owner came up and apologized too many times because this of course is normally unacceptable, however it was thanksgiving and they were quite crowded, though I’m not sure they even made much of an effort to find us a new table. In summary, being in a wheelchair gives us the option to take the moral high ground twice as much as the average dude, maybe three times as much.
  • People are nicer – some people will be rude, but a lot more people are nice. It can make the difference when someone decides to have a nice chat with you. People are more receptive as well, at least in my experience. So, the world seems to smile at you a little more. Just a few days ago (at the time of writing), I was going for a walk along a beach side path, from a pier looking over me and into the Indian ocean, there was this child, a girl about toddler age, or whatever age that kids made comprehensible sentences and she screamed out in excitement, “LOOK a man IN A wheelchair!” It was pure excitement, as if I were Brad Pitt. She said that same sentence many more times, boasting to those around her as if she were Indy and discovered something so mystical, it belongs in a museum. I waved and couldn’t help to laugh a bit at her amazement that she saw a man in a wheelchair, she didn’t even wave back, she just kept telling everyone to look. It was nice.
  • Able to inspire much easier – anyone can be inspiring if they do something inspirational. How about going to college? Everyone does that, so not really. How about a college with extreme snow and a reputation for being especially difficult? Still, there are lots of students at that college. So how would that person inspire others? Even getting a 4.0 and doing a sport isn’t unheard of, it’s definitely inspiring, but not all that rare anymore.

    Being in a wheelchair adds the extra edge to make you an inspiration with almost anything you do, so long as you’re challenging yourself. I was a pretty average college guy. I stood out a little bit and caught the attention of the people that were around me for a while, but I wasn’t entirely prominent. Now, being in a wheelchair, I have the same extreme ambitions, plus some, and I’m suddenly inspirational. I don’t deny it, but for me, I’m just picking up where I left off, and adding some things. But I’m still going for the same things I was initially after. So, if you have the ability to make the world better and inspire someone else to do something great, then you have to. It’s the law. If I can prove to be an inspiration to others when I’m getting into my car during the snow, something that wouldn’t be inspiring if I were walking, then you can definitely inspire others – it’s a great feeling.
  • Become a unicorn – like I mentioned above, you have the rare opportunity to become a unicorn. Like a black, female astronaut in the 1920’s (I know astronauts weren’t a thing, which makes it all the more impressive). Whatever you do, being in a wheelchair adds the horn to the horse and thus I knight you as a unicorn. Everyone wants to be different. We’re all the same at least in that we all think we’re different, but now we have a true testimonial to our belief.
  • Scholarships – if you’re in college or will be going to college at some point, you are now able to get scholarships that are wheelchair or handicap specific, which can be a great advantage. I’ve applied to many scholarships and programs that require the applicators to be in a wheelchair, it shrinks the competition, albeit the competition becomes all unicorns.
  • Uniqueness/pattern interrupt – when I showed up to a formal even, with all the attendees wearing dresses or suits and ties, I wore a button up shirt and my sexy jean jacket. Show up different, be a pattern interrupt. I always imagined myself, as we all do, as the center of a film. For me, whenever I walk into any building, or go anywhere, I see myself as James Bond. In reality, like the Churchill quote, no one was thinking about me at all, they were absorbed in their own self featuring silver screen. Now, no matter what you wear or do, you’re interrupting the pattern just enough that you become, at the least, a supporting character in everyone’s first person plot. It gives you that seasoning, the sugar and spice, the dish at the potluck that was cleaned out first. Some people don’t like attention, but they all want to be special and remembered.
  • You have a story – a story people want to hear. A peel from the same banana above, when you go somewhere, you have a little mysterious aura around you. You’re in a wheelchair and there’s definitely something that happened. I’ve been working on mastering my story telling, you don’t have to be extreme, all you actually need to do is write out the long, medium and short story of what happened to you and once you have your story sorted out (you’ll stumble over your words if you just go from memory without writing out once), you’ll be able to tell a captivated audience a story they want to hear, probably an inspiring one.
  • People wanting your perspective – it depends on who you are, but more likely than not, your opinion is now held a little higher, maybe a lot depending on who you are. You have a new perspective and people are interested in that. This is more conditional that the rest of this list because you have to present yourself as (and actually be) intelligent and astute. For me, when I was working at Kimberly-Clark for an internship, a lot of people wanted to know any recommendations I had for helping them improve and be a disability forward company. I was never good at giving great advice because everything was actually really good, but I was still asked and when people seek out your opinion, you feel and are important. Not many interns were asked the same amount of perspective questions as I was, or at least not of the same nature (I was the only one in a wheelchair, a true unicorn).
  • Opportunities like crazy – the best for last to end this with a big explosion. Once more for the cheap seats, this post is for anyone in a wheelchair or in any unique situation that seems like a disadvantage and I’m giving examples of how to look at the positive side of life, which makes life all the better.

    So, through many opportunities given to me, which I may map out one day, I find myself at a Disability:IN conference. I find myself talking with an especially important woman, who has become a mentor of mine, the CEO of Disability:IN! Because of looking on the positive side, having my story, my ambitions (being a unicorn) and wearing a jean jacket along with many other factors that hindsight can’t even discern, my life took an imperceptible turn for the best. It brought me 10 years into the future. If I weren’t in a wheelchair and never had gotten injured, my ambitions would’ve been close to the same (a little less) and it’s very possible that I would’ve gotten to where I am now in terms of success, measured by my own goals and their progress, but it would’ve taken a lot longer than just 8 months.

Although I love to brag, I hate to be boastful. That doesn’t make sense but it sounds good.

What I mean is that none of this is me just telling you how great my life is, although it literally is, the deeper meaning behind this is that whether you, the reader, have just gotten injured and you’re in dire need for something good to look forward to, or if you (the lovely reader) are going through any obstacle in life, you can look to my experiences and notice that everything I focused on, down to the small stuff such as parking, is all positive. I don’t neglect the negatives, I deal with them sternly, but I don’t let them take over my mind. I choose to focus on what is good in life and I’m giving you the exact things you can likewise focus on (if you’re in a wheelchair).

If my past self, in rehab, could read this passage and realize that being in a wheelchair will give me an extremely favorable advantage, it would’ve helped me out immensely.

The world is grand because it’s yours for the taking.


Immediate actionable items: Write out some of the positive things that are going on in your life as a result of something that may have been an obstacle, failure, or perceivable set back.

Summary: Being in a wheelchair have insane benefits. Focusing on the positive will make everything even more positive. My list of some of the benefits I’ve had along with some examples are: Parking, Skip lines, Extra care, Moral high ground, People are nicer, Ability to inspire, Unicorn, Scholarships, Uniqueness, Story, Perspective, and Insane opportunities.

Overdeliver: When you catch yourself focusing on the negatives, write them down and next to them, write out the benefits and opportunities that can or have come from them. If you can’t think of any, look at the negative and complete the sentence “This is good because ______!”

Paraplegic Gear/Tools of the Month: Wheels and Tyres

Reading time: 4 minutes

Today’s Gear: Tire pump, tire changing, tire technology!

There are probably more tools and gear that I’ll discover over time, but here are a few great tools and some gear that you can start implementing now.

Tire Pump

Starting off with the issues we face in the tire pumping department. It’s not easy to find a pump to use on wheelchair tires if you’re doing it yourself.
Problems:
You’ll most likely have to get out of your chair, which isn’t always easy to do.
Once you get out of your chair and ready to start pumping up your tires, then comes the issue with actually pumping them up.
If you’re not wicked strong or maybe you have trouble using your arms, it’s difficult to actually pump up the tires. I keep my tires pumped up at around 100PSI and it takes some energy to get up to that number.
If you do find a tire pump that’s easy to use, it probably isn’t travel friendly.
You can see my first tire pump here and the difficulty that comes with it

I found a few variations of tire pumps, some are manual, some aren’t. Some are travel friendly, some aren’t.

1.
If you’re tech forward and want a travel friendly and simple tire pump, this right here is what you need: Oasser Air Compressor Portable Mini Air Inflator Hand Held Tire Pump (left)

If you’re a stay at home type of person, then the version on the right might better suit you:
TEROMAS Tire Inflator Air Compressor

2.
If you’re skeptical about the electric pump but still want something that you can use without having to break a sweat, then you’ll be best using this sexy tool: Mini Bike Pump with CO2 Inflator

This even comes with a mounting set that, depending on your chair, you could attach to your chair!

3.
If you still want to pump your wheels by hand, you’d be defeating the purpose of me showing you cool gear and tools that you can use to mitigate this problem. However, if you must, this hand pump is still a lot more portable than the first tire pump that I bought and it comes with a repair kit!

Vibrelli Mini Bike Pump & Glueless Puncture Repair Kit

Tire changing

Now that we solved the issues that arise from having to pump up our tires, whether at home or traveling.
Problem:
What are we to do if the tire is beyond deflated and actually needs to be changed or patched? It’s hard to take off the wheel and replace the tube, especially if you have limited hand function or aren’t at home.
What about decreasing the chance of having to change the tube?
This right here is a 2-in-1 gear. Not only is it useful as a tire repair kit, but it doubles as extra storage space!

1.
The WOTOW Bike Tyre Repair Kit not only has the tools needed for on the go tire repair, you can fix other small nuances with the multi-tool provided. If you have an inflated seat cushion, the repair kit can also work to patch any holes you might get.
If you dont really need the tools – maybe you already have them – then the bag itself can be useful and it’s up to your imagination as to where you can attach the bag.

2.
If you want to minimise the chance of getting a flat tire, then you can get the Slime Self-Sealing Smart Tube, of course, the size will differ and you’ll need to check your tires to see what size tube will fit your wheels.

3.
If you’d like to have a more advanced tire repair kit that will make the tedious and frustrating process of replacing a tire tube easier, there aren’t many options.

Typically, a tyre repair kit will come with flimsy plastic tools that have bent and broken when I used them.

A more permanent tool to add to your bag would be the Tragoods Premium Bicycle Tire Lever

As a little bonus, if you’re only interested in the bag for the purpose of storage, here are my top two favorites:
Aduro Sport Bicycle Bike Storage Bag
Rhinowalk Bike Bag

Tire Technology

This is something that I recently stumbled upon and I see huge potential for it, not only in my arsenal of awesome, but in the homes of many people who are in wheelchairs and love to travel and explore against the odds.

The problem we solve here is that if you live in an area known to get a surplus of snow and you plan on going on a trail in the outback the following month, then you’ll have to carry around tyres and a kit along with a resentment for having to change your bike tyres so much.

The solution is presented here and best speaks for itself:

The ReTyre Modular Tyre System.

It comes in at a reasonable price considering the benefits.

As a hearty conclusion to this months gear/tools, you’re mind might be busy at work with new ideas and or excitement to use these products to improve your life. It’s worth remembering that wheelchairs are, to some degree, a bike that just got bent and twisted. A lot of bike tools work well for wheelchairs and our tires are basically bike tires with a bar on the side. I look around the cycling community and often adopt some of what they have.

If you haven’t ventured into the possibilities, these products above are just the beginning of how those of us in wheelchairs can be creative by using what exists in new and great ways.


PS, I have plenty of gear/tools to write about, I might post more than just one a month, but we’ll see about that.

In case you’re eager for more cool gear or tools that I’ve uncovered during my internet archaeology, here’s something that you’ll see featured in a future post that’ll be talking about EDC:
Beer Bike Keychain

Getting Your First Wheelchair: Everything Paraplegics Need To Know

Reading time: 17 minutes

Featured photo is my brother, mom and me just a few weeks after I got my new wheelchair

Getting your own wheelchair. It’s very important and can be done very wrong if you haven’t done it before. I was almost entirely on my own when it came to getting my wheelchair. I wish I knew more. 

This is everything you need to know about getting your first wheelchair. There might be some details that are different for each person, so be sure to ask a lot of questions as well.

I’ll be giving you a list of questions to ask along with some information about what to do or expect when you get your wheelchair. 

We’re going to go through my experience as I remember it and I’ll tell you what I did and what you should do, whether it be the same or different. This information is aimed mostly towards those in rehab. 

During rehab, I didn’t know anything about wheelchairs. I could’ve asked or looked some things up, but I had different priorities and it never occurred to me to ask. 

One day, as I was nearing my departure from rehab, I was given a week’s notice for my wheelchair appointment. This is where I would get my bespoke chair with anything I wanted. 

It was scheduled for an hour. Much, much too short of time. As soon as you can, ask about your wheelchair appointment and have it be AT LEAST 2 hours. I went over my one hour slot and still needed more time. As a result, my chair is pretty good, but far from what I wanted and what I need. 

When you’re in rehab, or at least when I was, a lot of the details are figured out for you. I have insurance, so the insurance company worked with my therapists and the rehab facility to find out what wheelchair supplier I would be working with.

A wheelchair supplier is the company that you work with when you get your wheelchairs. They are similar to a market. You go to a store (the wheelchair supplier) and you want to get something (wheels), you look at their selection and notice that it’s not infinite and only has a select number of brands. 

Ask to be notified when the wheelchair supply company is selected. For me, this was a cross between who the insurance company would work with and who the rehab facility worked with. 

Once you’re notified of the supply company, IMMEDIATELY ask for a catalog! 

This was my biggest mistake. Not even a mistake, it took me over a year to discover that catalogs even existed. Honestly, this infuriates me even today because I could’ve been much more informed and subsequently gotten a better wheelchair.

Because this catalog is coming from your new wheelchair supplier, this will be all of what they can supply (sounds about right). You can talk to your nurses, friends, family, therapists or anyone in rehab about what they think of different parts for your chair. This is both for style and usefulness. 

When it comes to deciding what things you want on your wheelchair, it gets down to what type of person you are. 

For me, I’m a minimalist and do almost everything on my own. So, I didn’t get push handles or arm rests. I made sure to get a seat belt, though. I also have a carbon fiber wheelchair, so it’s lightweight, which makes doing all the crazy things a little easier. 

Look at different parts and ask about their purpose and ways it could benefit you, or hold you back.

Do your research!

The one bit of advice I got from someone before my wheelchair appointment was to request that they make it slim because they typically make the chair a fair bit wider than your hip measurement. 

When I went in to my wheelchair appointment, they had a few tester wheelchairs based on my measurements taken previously in rehab. In rehab, it’s kind of like a car rental, you get measured and they go to the used car lot and try to find the best fit they have for you. I think I went through 2, maybe 4, different chairs. 

We spent a lot of time talking about wheelchairs because I actually knew nothing. Everything they said, I questioned. You should do the same. 

I’ll include questions at the end along with a description of the questions’ purpose. 

Anyway, during the wheelchair appointment, remember that these people are here to help you, but you have to help yourself first and be informed on what you want. I made the mistake of telling them “I just want the best.” That’s a lofty request, they don’t know anything about me other than the few things they learned in the first 45 minutes of talking. 

In order to help yourself, you need to really think about what you’ll be doing. It’s hard to know the future, but for me, I’m extremely adventurous and I was already planning a trip to Germany just a month or so after I got out of rehab. I knew I wanted it to be lightweight, extremely durable and minimal. It will help if you’ve gone through catalogs. 

When I was getting measured, I told them to make the wheelchair slim. Spoiler: they didn’t. 

Something I should’ve done is gotten more involved, look at the measurements they’re taking of your body and then look at what sizes they’re writing down for the chair to be. Ask them how much space they’re adding to either side of your hips. This space can prove to be useful, if it’s a rainy day, I can fit an umbrella in between my hip and the chair. However, with this extra width, I struggle to fit through certain doors and maneuver in tight spaces. As an adventurer, I value my mobility and ability to access more places more than I value having extra space to hold things. 

Really make sure that you’re getting involved in the measurements they’re taking. Ask them to show you what it might look like. If they plan on ordering a back rest at a certain height, have them take a measuring tape and show you on your body where that is.

Be intrusive. This is a one time thing. You get one chance to do it right. Once you get your chair, if you want something changed, it’s a near impossible task to get it changed (in my experience). 

I was told that most insurance companies view the lifetime of a chair to be around 5 years. Meaning that, on average, my wheelchair supplier has seen insurance companies approve of people getting a new chair once every 5 years.

The same chair for 5 years. Let that resonate. Think of how much you’ve changed in the past 5 years.

This chair will be with you for 5 years, you really need to make sure you do this right. No pressure.

Over the next 5 years, you will do more, probably more than you can begin to imagine, if you did know, then you’d be psychic, and I know that you aren’t (because I’m psychic). So, even if you haven’t learned to ascend stairs or do tricks, you will and you need to be ready. 

Make sure to get your chair with skills in mind, skills you have now and skills you’ll have in 5 years. 

Imagine you’re a kid. You go to the store and you get to buy 1 shirt. You’ll be wearing this shirt for the next 5 years. You’ll get bigger, your style will change and you want it to survive 5 years of use. Every. Single. Day. For. 5. Years. 

You want to buy a big shirt, a shirt that you can grow into, not out of. 

Don’t get a wheelchair only to have it hold you back from living your life the way you want. Don’t get a wheelchair for yourself now, get a wheelchair for yourself in 5 years. On Team Cosmo, we hate being stagnant. We love trying new things, exploring and being adventurous. If you want to go do something, your wheelchair should be your last concern. When I want to go on an adventure, I don’t want my first thought to be “I probably can’t do this because my wheelchair isn’t made for this, I wish I got one that was built better.” 

While I was getting my wheelchair, we had to be cunning. In the room was the representative from the wheelchair supplier, a therapist who worked at the rehab facility, and me. We all talked and laughed pretty much the whole time. We all worked together on finding me the best chair possible. It comes down to what you know or what you find out by asking. I asked a lot of questions but not enough and not all the right ones, my limited knowledge limited what wheelchair I got. 

While in the room, with every part of the chair, it needed to be medically necessary. For insurance purposes, since insurance was paying, every time we talked about what I wanted for the chair, we had to think of how it would be medically necessary. This is where the cunning part comes in. In many ways, the insurance company is the enemy, maybe not so much a villain but rather extremely stingy for its own interest, so there will be many battles.

For most of the chair, medical necessity wasn’t even debatable. Things such as my body measurements that dictate the dimensions of the chair. But for things such as carbon fiber, is it truly medically necessary? 

This is where we get into the area of making great arguments, something I’m particularly keen on. Make sure to work with everyone you’re with, get an attorney if you need to, and push for getting what you want, because it will ultimately make your life better.

My chair is K5. A quick lesson in lingo: wheelchairs are classified by K-numbers or K-levels. They basically define what the chair is made for. It tells you about the weight class, durability and so on. Similar to how Apple has the iMac or the iMac Pro or Macbook Air or Macbook Pro Air. Those names tell you what performance you can expect from the product.

So, while I was in the room, we were talking about what options I have and the therapist was filling out a form for the insurance company. I never saw it, but I know that it documented every part of the wheelchair that I was getting, all the specifications and the reasons that these were medically necessary. For carbon fiber, well, I have my own car that I get in and out of and I do a lot of traveling. I’ll surely injure my shoulder if my chair is made out of anything heavier than the lightest material available. I also like to test the limits, which means there is always a chance that my wheelchair could break in some way. Even if something is just cool, that right there is mental health and having more self-confidence if you’re chair was to be a certain color. For most things on a wheelchair, there is a viable reason for getting it, you just have to find out why.

Once our allotted time had passed and the appointment was nearing its end, the form was sent to the insurance company. 

In my experience and I’ve been told this is the standard, the insurance company will take many months to review and approve or deny specific parts of your chair. Some employee at the company will review each part that you’re ordering and approve or deny it, on the grounds that they want to. This is where you need to hold your ground. It could end up taking a year, a miserable year, but don’t just give in. If they reject one of your proposals, fight it and make sure you get what you need and want. Everyone is on your side except the insurance company, we all want you to succeed and have the chair you want, but damn does it get expensive, and that’s why we’ve been paying for insurance our whole lives, right?

Once the insurance company confirms all the parts of your chair, the wheelchair company will order them, which could take about a month for all the parts to ship. Remember, this will probably be a hybrid chair, with different brands for a lot of the parts, so they’re coming from different places at different production rates.

Once all the parts of your grandiose chair are delivered, they only take a few hours (I was told between 2 and 4) to be pieced together. 

Then, the hardest part comes, getting your wheelchair. Because this is soon after you got out of rehab, there’s a high chance you aren’t driving yet. It took me 4 or 5 months to be able to drive (it only took me a few hours to relearn, but the formalities take a long time), but that’s another post for another time. 

For me, circumstances couldn’t be more against me. I was at college, I couldn’t drive, and I was taking classes. All my friends were also taking classes, most of them busy everyday. I was also about a 6 hour drive from rehab, which is where I needed to go to get my new chair. On top of that, they were only open during the weekdays (this is even worse if you’re working a full time job) between certain hours. 

Because of this, it took nearly a month from when I could’ve had my wheelchair to when I actually got it. This is a problem I encourage you to talk about towards the end of your wheelchair appointment. For me, the wheelchair appointment was the first and last time I saw the representative and discussed my wheelchair until I went and got it. So, if your experience is anything like mine, you have one chance to meet in person and talk about this before it’s too late.

Discussing what will be done when the wheelchair is ready for you and figuring out where you can go. The company that supplied my wheelchair has locations (they call them branches) all around the US, it’s worth asking if you can pick up your chair in a location closer to where you’ll be. Some people travel across the country to go to certain rehab facilities, so having to go back isn’t easy, especially so early on. 

In my case, I had flown home and back to college and then gone to Germany and back, all while I had my loaner wheelchair (4 flights total). Loaner wheelchair is the name for the intermediary chair you’re given when you leave rehab and before you get your own chair. 

With my loaner chair in Germany

After Germany, I finally had my wheelchair appointment and then I had to find someone to drive me 6 hours to Chicago for a 1 hour meetings and then 6 hours back.

After many inquiries, I found a friend who could drive me to Chicago on a weekday. I had my car up at college with me, so we drove that, leaving later that day, finding our hotel, which was very hidden, then waking up early, going to the appointment and then leaving right after to get back for class.

We were on a very tight schedule and I put my friend through a lot. 

There were many times that the restrictions set by others on the things I needed to do carried over to not only inconvenience me, but also my friends who were still gracious enough to help me regardless. It’s extremely important to have friends that are willing to help you in this way. They’re the only reason I am where I am, without them I would’ve had to wait months or even years just to get my drivers license (for using hand controls). 

When I finally got back to rehab and went into the room where I got my chair, I was stunned. Almost frozen, as if my mind was so occupied with comprehending the shock that I had no room left for any motor functions. The backrest was HUGE. It was much bigger than the one on the loaner chair I had and it was way too big for me, medically and comfortably. Because I have full core and lower back control, I don’t actually need a backrest other than to keep me from sliding off the back of the chair. 

In the room where I first saw my new wheelchair

A little detective Cosmo tip: when you look at someone in a wheelchair, the height of the backrest can tell you their level of injury or how much control they have. If the backrest is mid/upper back, they probably don’t have much core control and the top of the backrest is about where the injury level is. This is a rough estimate but you can make your prediction, ask the person and then see how right/wrong you were.


The chair was also much wider than I wanted. I actually had them measure the base of the new chair against the loaner chair and they were the same width. I was not happy about that. When I had gone home, in the loaner, I wasn’t able to get through many of the doors in my own house, the chair was too wide for me and for the doors. 

I do like the chair that I have and I’m grateful for it, but this is an account of my experience when I first got my chair, and because I’m honest, I’m telling you how I felt and the problems I had so you can avoid them.

It also looked pretty sleek. But I have to admit, the imperfections casted a shadow on my excitement. There weren’t many, but they were the type that made all the important difference. 

My biggest mistake, and I urge you not to fall prey to this all too common psychological bias, was that I accepted my chair anyway.

I regret few things, most of them involve me not speaking up. I was caught up in the moment, tired from being in the car all day and, on some level, probably just wanted to get out of there because I had already put my friend through enough. I remember signing some papers confirming that I’m taking the chair. I don’t remember what they were exactly, but I think it’s safe to assume they were saying that I agree to take the chair as it is and confirm my approval.

Do not do that unless the chair is exactly how you want it. I should’ve told them that I wouldn’t take the chair until the changes were made. I didn’t. And now, as I’m writing this over a year later, I still have these imperfections on my chair. Of course, I’m still alive and I’ve made it this far, so it can’t be all that bad, right? Sure, but it’s possible that it could’ve been even better. I also could’ve taken the time to get these issues fixed, but I didn’t because of my values. 

Stay firm on what you want and if it doesn’t meet the standards of what you want/need, don’t settle. Team Cosmo doesn’t settle. I’ve experienced it, it’s not fun and now I’m here to tell you, so you can avoid making these mistakes. 

Well, that’s my story and now, as promised, here are the questions to ask at each stage.

When you talk to therapists from start to finish

  • In the beginning, ask them to teach you about every part of your wheelchair. What the parts are called and what purpose they have.
  • Ask about some common upkeep that you’ll need to do. 
  • Ask to be shown how to address common or even uncommon problems. Ask if you can take a video for personal use or take notes.
  • Ask if they have any other types of wheelchairs or parts that you can look at.
  • Ask how soon they can set up a wheelchair appointment. Having one where you just talk and learn/ask questions is valuable and will make the second appointment (the one where you actually order the chair) go faster.

When you find out who your supplier will be

  • Ask for a catalog from the company for all their wheelchairs and parts (that apply to you). This might be a huge catalog, it might be digital. 
  • Ask if there are any other wheelchair suppliers that you could work with and why this one was chosen. It’s good practice to question everything so that you can have the opportunity to make a better decision

When you find out when your appointment will be

  • Ask for the appointment to be at least 2 hours. If they can’t do that, ask for 2 appointments, and have the first one sooner.
  • Ask about what the general procedure will be, so that you can be prepared to talk about what parts you want.

During your appointment 

  • Ask the wheelchair supplier a lot of questions about their service, such as:
  • Do you have any branches near me?
  • What times are you open? (make note that if you plan on having a job, their open hours are important)
  • What is the procedure if the insurance company rejects one of my parts? (and how to fight back and not give in)
  • What is the procedure for getting my chair after the insurance approves it? Where will I pick it up? What times can I pick it up? (think about how this might affect you if you have to travel the country to get your chair on a Wednesday morning)
  • (if you don’t know what to get) Based on the things I plan on doing, what have you seen similar people do/get?
  • (when they take measurements for the dimensions of the chair and the parts) Can you show me what this might look like on me? (they could outline a square to show you the size of your seat)
  • Which products have the best warranty?
  • Which products are known to not work or be the best? (this is important, the brakes that I have on my chair are known to be terrible)
  • Which products are known to be the most durable and or require the least amount of upkeep?
  • Ask if there is a place to see reviews for some products.
  • (after choosing all the parts for your chair) How familiar are you with these products/brands? Do you know if there might be any better options that require less upkeep or are more durable? 

After your appointment

  • Keep in contact with the supplier and ask for updates on the approval process and once the items ship, ask to be notified when all the parts have arrived.
  • As soon as the insurance approves the parts, the time they arrive after being ordered is unknown, still, ask to talk about setting up a time to get your chair.
  • Talk about where you can pick up your new chair, make sure that it is at a branch location close to you and at a time that works for you.
  • I recommend buying some fast bearing for your front wheels, the bearings that come with the chair are cheap and slow. Have a look at these bearings and bring them with you when you pick up your chair.

When you get your wheelchair

Once you arrive, look over the chair and make sure it meets your standards and expectations. If anything is wrong with it, immediately tell them and ask what can be done to make the changes.

  • If all the parts are good, ask about how it was built and what tools were used, i.e. what tools you should have to do maintenance.
  • Ask about how to fix certain issues, such as if the front wheels become loose and start to wobble when you go a little fast. 
  • Ask about how to change the wheels in the front and how the chair comes apart. 
  • Ask how to fix any of the parts if they break and keep the chair from disassembling properly.
  • Ask about the procedure if the chair breaks in a major way and needs to be professionally fixed.
  • Ask about the procedure for getting new parts if one of them breaks prematurely. 
  • Ask about possible modifications that can be added to the chair.
  • Ask them to measure the chair when it’s assembled and weigh it when all the parts are on it. Take note of this, it’ll be important for travelling.
  • Look at the bars on the wheels that you use to push, if they’re too far out, ask them to be moved in to make the chair a little slimmer.
  • If you remembered to bring your bearings with you, ask to have them put in.
  • Ask for the warranty information for the different companies that correspond to each part. That way, if a part breaks, you’ll know which company to call to claim a warranty on it.

I really hope all of this helps. It’s a lot of information, but this is one of those times that you get once chance to do it right.

This is how my brakes were just a few weeks after getting the chair.

My brakes clearly not working when I was on a slight (very slight) decline in a parking lot.

Immediate action item: Write these questions down in your notebook and start asking right away!

Summary:My experience when I got my first wheelchair was less than perfect. Luckily, I learned a lot from it and now you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did. Basically, you have to ask a lot of questions. The right questions. And take a lot of notes!

Overdeliver: One thing you might not think of is the backrest. When it comes to the backrest, you need to really consider what you’re getting. Think of the material, if it’ll be breathable during the hot summers or not (mines not). Think about whether or not it has lumbar support to help you avoid back problems. Another big part is the height. How high up do you really need the backrest to go? I recommend challenging yourself to get it just a little lower than you need so you build up some strength. Another important thing to consider is whether or not the backrest goes to the bottom of the chair. You absolutely want the bottom of the backrest to go down to your seat. If there is a gap, you might be showing the world more than you want to, and in the winter, cold winds will get to you. Make sure to get your backrest so that it only goes up as high as you want and it goes down all the way.  

Paraplegic Gear/Tools of the Month: The Belt

Read time: 3 minutes

I’m part of the lululemon collective and will receive a commission if you make a purchase through the links below

Hey!

Every week, I look around and see what type of gear I’m using or anything I’ve come across that’s cool and useful. Something that has made my life easier and solves a problem I’ve had for too long.

I’ll be keeping these fairly short with one tool/gear item that I’ve used and I’ll talk about how it’s useful (solving some problems).

There are many ways to use everyday items in a unique way. As an engineer and minimalist, I like to use what I have and see if I can make it work. It’s a fun little challenge that keeps my brain sharp.


Today’s tools are belts, created by Arcade and lululemon. We have two styles, two problems and infinitely great ways to use them.

The problems we solve:

  1. So, I have a strap behind my legs that keeps my feet from sliding off the back of my footrest, but I spend my entire day pulling my feet back on the footplate after they’ve slid forward as a result of bumpy pavement or sidewalk cracks.
  2. Pockets. Pant pockets are near impossible to use while you’re in your chair. I often go out for a walk and need to carry my keys, wallet, catheter and phone, but they’ll either fall out of my pocket or wont fit. Keeping them on my lap becomes a bit much and they easily bounce off.

    Luckily, we have a solution for these problems, it’s more than a solution. It’ll tell the world that you mean something, that you’re on your way to success! (and you’ll feel as amazing as you look)

Contrary to popular belief, I’m a man who cares about style and presentation. Even if I do wear the same few clothes over and over again, I want them to be high quality clothes.

The solutions:

  1. The Arcade belt.


    It’s made for adventure, it’s durable, and it’s personal. There are many different styles for every mood and season.

This belt solves all of our problems.
It’s easy to take on and off, it can even be useful when we’re not using it (like using it as a belt).
It comes in many sexy designs, which means we look cool and get to show off a little.
The size is adjustable so you can keep your legs where you want them.
It’s a lot more versatile and when you watch the video below, you’ll see how it doesn’t actually wrap around where my other strap is.
Best of all, the clip is super easy to put together and unbuckle. So, even if you struggle using your hands a little, it’s not hard at all!

Using an Arcade belt to solve problem 1

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, imagine what you could do if the belt could also hold your keys!

Now we solve the second problem: Pockets.

You may have noticed that there’s a trend to wear a belt bag (fanny pack) across your chest. The timing has never been as perfect as now. Look trendy, be efficient, feel great!

lululemon has many options that are both fashionable and useful. Almost all of them have secret compartments and tiny details that are worth showing off to your friends.

  1. This Fast and Free Run Belt is perfect for keeping your keys and a few essentials ready to grab and toss on before you head out (keys are small and valuable, they easily fall off my lap)
  2. The On The Beat Belt Bag is big enough to hold more essentials (even a catheter or two) and even though the model is a woman, I would proudly wear this as a man.

Try this gear out and let me know how much it helps!

(Just some over delivery) This is my “efficiency outfit” I can wash less with the anti-stink tech, they dry fast (I avoid the cost of using a dryer), makes the perfect first impression and I feel like I can do anything (I can go to work and then workout without changing)

Shorts – Men, Women

Pants – Men, Women

Shirt – Men, Women

Socks – Men, Women

Underwear – Men, Women



PS, remember to share this info, it’s too good to keep to yourself!


If you find any cool gear/tools, leave them in the comments and there’s always a good chance you could write a post for this site!

Welcome to Team Cosmo

Hey!

This is my first “blog.” I wanted to at least have one or two for you when you got here.

I’m hoping to have at least one blog post per week. They may be short, like a little paragraph weekly challenge or long enough to split into two separate posts. I’m focusing on two things, equally ranked: give value, have fun. I enjoy giving value, so, having fun while doing it should be easy 😉

Also,

I’m extremely excited! Not only am I able to reach and help more people, but I’ll improve my writing skills, and I really enjoy writing.

Even though I don’t have much in terms of blog posts, all the pages on this site have a lot of new info on them, stuff I haven’t talked about on Instagram or YouTube. I think the Cosmo page has the most on it. I had fun writing that one.

As I’m writing this, I just finished recording about 20 minutes of video content for Instagram.

I’m in Australia and I did a campus tour & talk. All about my time hear up to this point. More or less rambled about my time here, and ranted and raved about the nature on the the campus. It’s probably a little cringey but I was just free flowing, having fun recording some videos.

I’m also putting this blog in every category that I’ve made so you ‘ll have an idea of what kind of topics we’ll cover together. More will be added over time.

For now, check out my Instagram and YouTube after you’ve gone through all the pages on this amazing website!

There are a couple forms you could fill out on the FAQ page and the Keynote page

Remember to share this website, you never know who it could help.

Much love to Team Cosmo

Stay healthy!

-Cosmo

PS, I’m writing this post while outside doing a time lapse of the sunset for my Instagram video and I got bit TWICE on my pinky by mosquitoes. That’s the type of devotion I have to Team Cosmo

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