My dad’s illness led to him becoming disabled, and it changed our lives.
My dad is a diabetic. This disease has had a detrimental effect on his health over the past few years. He has had issues with his eyesight and his feet. Thankfully, he’s had an incredible specialist by his side throughout and he’s now almost able to walk again. He has overcome many challenges, and I am immensely proud of him. However, during his treatment, my dad was in a wheelchair and considered disabled. This made me painfully aware of how ignorant I had been beforehand.
There are so many things that you don’t think about when you don’t have a disability.
You take them for granted. For example, I’d never once stopped to consider the height of steps in shops before my dad couldn’t get into them. I hadn’t had to look out for dropped kerbs that would, ultimately, determine the route from A to B. I’d also never noticed how tiny the writing is on some menus until I had to read them to my dad. These previously insignificant things became big issues in our daily lives.
I had it in my head that being in a wheelchair would perhaps even be fun.
Not having to walk all the time? Sounds fantastic! Seeing how exhausted my dad became after pushing himself along for a short distance made me realise that it’s not fun at all. It’s hard work. My dad can be stubborn, so he would do as much as he could, and we would take over when he was struggling. It was difficult to watch, but it made me wonder about those people who don’t have anyone to help them out. “Well, there’s mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs!” you could argue… except they’re not cheap. Not everybody can afford those, so what then?
It’s not that I thought it was easy having a disability. Of course, I know it’s not. Yet, I had been completely unaware of just how challenging life can be for people with disabilities. The world becomes a lot smaller. There are so many places that you can’t access for one reason or another. Like many things in life, I think you don’t fully understand it until it affects you personally. For the 27 years I’ve been on the planet, I really haven’t given it much consideration. I hadn’t known anyone who was disabled previously so I hadn’t had to. Self-centred as that it is, it’s unfortunately the truth. Then, suddenly, one of the main people in my life was in that situation and we all had to learn to adapt.
Now, I look at the world in a completely different way.
I notice things that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to before, such as where disabled parking spaces are located and how accessible places are. Even when my dad isn’t with me, I’ll look around and think to myself, “could he come here?” Where the answer is no, I get a pang of sadness and guilt for all those people with disabilities who are excluded. I’m not entirely sure how to turn these feelings into significant actions, but I’d like to think I find small ways to do my part. I consider how my dad felt in certain situations and aim to use that as a compass to guide me on how to act.
On a personal level, it proved to me what I always knew: my parents are amazing. I brag about my parents like most people brag about their children. They’re wonderful people. They handled the situation with their usual resilience and good humour. My dad didn’t let it stop him doing what he wanted to do. He loves photography and, despite struggling with his eyesight, he continued to take photos. In fact, he delved deeper into the world of photography and produced some great results. My mum stood by him throughout it all, even when she was having health issues of her own. She tried her best to keep a smile on her face, despite how difficult it was.
Overall, I think the experience has made me more compassionate. It has taught me that I’m very fortunate to be able to go about my business without having to carefully consider every detail of it. I realise that not everyone is that lucky. I have found it frustrating at times, so I can only imagine how hard it could have been for my dad and others in his situation, but I do believe it has made me a better person. As ashamed as I am to admit how oblivious I was, I’m glad that I’ve had this experience. Naturally, I would prefer that my dad hadn’t had to go through it, but I’m grateful for what it has taught me and the person it has helped me to become.
Have you had a similar experience? What did, or do you, find the most challenging? How has it changed you? Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to discuss this more directly, all of my contact details are here.