A Change in Life Perspective – My Personal Metamorphosis

 

First off, Happy New Year to you! 

 

Coming into the New Year I thought it only fitting to discuss the concept of perspective.  I was asked by a fellow reader if I could touch upon the topic of how my mental perspective has changed over the last eight years since breaking my neck as opposed to just how my physical life has changed with being paralyzed.  I will start off by saying my life perspective has changed drastically and I can’t be entirely sure if this is due to my accident or the fact that I’m also getting older.  I suspect it is probably a little bit of both.

In general a change in perspective in life is quite gradual in my opinion, takes many years, and is usually preceded by many hardships along the way, which affect one’s opinions on many topics.  When I broke my neck my world got turned upside down, which violently shifted my perspective on a lot of things in life very quickly, but more from a physical standpoint.  I was so engulfed in trying to figure out how to live a life with a body 80% paralyzed that I didn’t have the presence of mind to think about how my mental health was going to change.

For the most part my perspective change has been for the positive, but there have definitely been some dark changes that I would be amiss not to dive into as well in light of always being open with my writing, and my life even though I run the risk of exposing myself further 😉

The old saying “we only have one life to live,” no matter how cliché it may be, means more to me now than it did prior to my accident merely due to the fact that I suffered a life altering event.  I see so many folks who live simple (and I don’t mean that in a bad way), but happy lives, and go about their business not realizing how easily life can change on a dime.  While it is easy to say that we will change our lives when something drastic happens – it is a lot easier said than done to take actionable steps each day to change.  However, these small steps are not only key, but they can take very long time to see the effects of as they require determination, and will over a long period of time.

For example, take those who have suffered from a heart attack.  Many of these folks take drastic actionable steps to change their lives because they have teetered near the brink of death, which made them realize they need to change something.  However, there are also equally those folks who have every intention of changing their life after such a traumatic event, but end up going back to eating hamburgers several years later.  Physical change and mental change not only take time, but a persistent effort to keep them going.

In ancient Stoic philosophy the following little reminder sums up the three essential parts of this philosophy worth carrying with you every day into every decision:

Control your perceptions

Direct your actions properly

Willingly accept what’s outside your control

Before you can take any action, accept what is and what is not in your control, you need to control your perceptions.  Let me give you an example.  Take people with a terminal disease.  Many of them have the most incredible outlooks on life and are extremely positive despite the fact that they know they are going to die.  They’ve taken a very long and arduous journey within themselves to change their perception and perspectives on life, which I know cannot be easy.

On the flip-side take a very high powered professional who has a very demanding job, high stress levels, eats horribly, is unable to make time for important things in life such as family, etc. Someone in this situation has trouble seeing the trees beyond the forest.  Many of them only see day-to-day, making money, providing for the family, but lose perspective on the fact that they are not going to be able to take their work with them when they die.  I hate to say it, but it usually takes some sort of disaster, trauma, or life crisis to shock many of us into realizing that something needs to change in our lives to reduce stress levels, increase our happiness, and appreciate the little things in life.

Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of folks who have not had any traumatic incidents in their life and they are very appreciative of everything they have every day.  However, many of them still suffer from extreme levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.  All of these mental states of distress are just as serious as a physical injury as they can cause physical ailments down the road, destroy relationships, and so much more.

Before I get into how my perspective has changed over the last 8 years I want to tell you about Dr. Frederick Cook.  Dr. Frederick Cook was an American explorer who was famous for having reached the North Pole in 1908.  To make a long story short his ship and his crew became stuck in the Arctic facing 68 days of consecutive darkness and freezing cold temperatures.  They were stuck at the beginning of winter in the Arctic and faced the most likely circumstance of death.  However, Dr. Cook, in his journal, noted that he never lost hope about surviving in the harsh physical environment.  He did not know the emotional challenge awaiting him and his men. His men started to lose hope and gradually grew more apathetic, and pessimistic, but Dr. Cook held his men together.

How did he do this?  He appealed to their internal mental sense of survival, hope, perseverance, and camaraderie.  He actually resorted to direct exposure to an open fire as his primary method of treatment, not for the warmth, but for the spirit of his crew as sunlight directly influences the control of our emotional brains.  The point of the story is that Dr. Cook changed his perspective on survival.  If you merely tried to keep the crew alive and warm, but did not appeal to their mental will to survive I don’t think any of them would have made it out of there alive.

It’s incredible what we as human beings can achieve with a simple change in mental perspective in our lives.  

My Personal Perspective Changes

My metamorphosis and how I think now as to how I approach life today certainly did not happen overnight.  When I was first injured it felt like I was always trying to push wet string.  I think I was trying to fight being paralyzed, not so much in that I was trying to walk again, but rather that I was always trying to be the best at being paralyzed.  I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning every day exercise like a crazy person, try and push my professional life to the brink of sheer exhaustion, fight my nerve pain I suffer from every day that feels like pins and needles burning through every cell of my body at every moment of the day, be stronger and faster than fellow quadriplegics, and try to get over the trauma of my accident as quickly as possible, so I could get on with living my life.

What I didn’t realize was that I was looking towards the future every single day and completely forgetting about the present.  I literally felt like I woke up five years later with nothing to show other than being completely physically and mentally exhausted on a daily basis.  I was never negative, but I was dead inside.  I had not achieved what I wanted to in my professional life as I thought if I could just make enough money or ensure that I could beat every medical challenge I came in contact with I would find happiness.  I did not find happiness nor could I change certain aspects of my life such as having super sensitive skin that prevents me from going on wild adventures that so many other quadriplegics I would read about got to participate in.

The Pursuit of Happiness is a double edge sword in my opinion.  We spend so much time trying to be happy that we never consider are we happy enough?  This brings me back to one of the Stoic principles of accepting what is out of our control and creating a world of contentment within the boundaries of what our lives have to offer.  I could not accept what I could not control … I kept trying to control everything that was out of my control, and I did not focus on the absolutely essential part of finding that balance in life — My mental health.

All of the photos below are people who have contributed to the improvement of my mental health… So for that, thank you!

 

Gradually over the years I started to realize that I simply could not control everything despite my best efforts.  I’m not saying I’ve reached a Zen level of happiness in life, but I certainly have taken gradual steps each and every day to realize what is actually important to me.  When I push so hard all the time I find myself slipping back into periods of darkness.

I’ve come to realize, again even though it may be cliché, it is the small things in life that make the biggest difference.  When I was stuck in bed for almost a year with a pressure sore and all I could look at was my four walls I never realized how important little things like going out to dinner with my loved ones was, taking a stroll in the park, appreciating conversations that make me laugh, etc.

Certain things in life are just not as important to me as they used to be, which makes me so much happier.  For example, physical things.  I simply just don’t care about material objects like I use to.  I certainly can’t take them with me when I die and I find that getting back to the concept of simplicity in life other than things that I need that are necessary such as my wheelchair, my computer, my voice dictating program :-), is essential for my mental well-being.

Another perspective change for me that has helped me leaps and bounds is how I approach chronic pain.  Despite living in intense chronic pain complaining about it certainly doesn’t make it better, it actually makes it worse, and I’ve learned to create a separate persona for my pain where sometimes she gets the day and sometimes I get the day.  When she wants to scream and cry like a little girl because the pain is too intense I humbly accept that she needs the day more than I do.  So, I’ll down tools so to speak, get in bed early, relax, meditate or watch a TV show, and simply let her have her moment.  I used to fight my pain and try and push through it, but a simple change in the way I approach pain from a mental standpoint has allowed me to live more comfortably, and without pain meds.  I used to try everything from acupuncture to massage to medication, but to no avail.  It wasn’t until I decided to change the way I look at my own pain that things started to change for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I still live in chronic pain every day, but keeping myself distracted and really listening to what I need on a particular day has helped tremendously.

Change, whether that be physical or mental, is a choice based on one’s perception of reality.  Many people think they are stuck with this ailment or that ailment, in this situation of that situation, which may be physically true, but the way in which they approach it from a metaphysical, emotional, spiritual, and mental standpoint is a choice.  You can choose to be miserable or you can choose to take small steps to change the way you approach this misery.  Now, I’m not speaking of those who have physical chemical imbalances that very well may need professional help, but I’m speaking more to those who constantly think their life is out of their control.

I’m not perfect and there are still certain mental aspects that still throw me into fits of anxiety and cause me to feel wildly overwhelmed at times.  For example, caregivers is such a topic for me.  I have been through so many and have had so many traumatic experiences over the years that my mind has just not yet wrapped itself around the concept of letting life happen because I’m currently trying to control other people.  When a caregiver does something traumatic to me I have learned to not get as upset, but it definitely has dampened my view on human kindness to some extent.

I still get bewildered at the fact that some of these folks who take care of me can treat human beings in such a manner like leaving a quadriplegic without notice.  I want to say it baffles me, but, again, it speaks back to one of the Stoic principles of accepting what you cannot control.  I have to accept that there are some horribly inconsiderate people in life. I do very much appreciate that I also have people in my life that love me and will not let anything bad happen, which so many people do not have in my situation.  Therefore, I’m constantly working on trying to go with the flow and accept what is not in my control.

Another aspect of a change in perspective I have experienced has been what I am physically capable of.  For so many years and to this day I always feel like I am missing out on being able to travel, explore the world, and go on adventures.  However, due to many of my physical limitations I can no longer go zip lining in the rain forest even though I know there are certain handicap accessible places in the world you can do this.

Why?  Well, I am one of those quadriplegics who suffer from extreme skin sensitivity meaning that I get a pressure sore at the drop of a hat.  So, I’ve had to learn to accept that I need to change my definition of the concept of adventure.  An adventure can be as simple as going out to dinner with my fiancé, meeting a stranger who might affect my life in some unknown way, going on a cruise instead of taking a wild adventure in the rain forest, etc.  Every day I remind myself that it is important to learn to go with the flow, albeit this is much easier said than done 🙂

  

The list of things that I have changed my perspective on over the years could go on and on.  The last one I’ll mention here is death.  Prior to my accident, and I think this is probably normal for many folks in their 20’s, I never thought about death.  After my accident and multiple episodes of coding in the hospital I eventually became more comfortable with the idea of death.  After all there’s only one thing that is certain in life and that is that we have a terminal disease called death.  Perhaps it is due to my pursuit of studying ancient philosophy and learning to accept the unknown, but I am no longer terrified of it.

It’s hard to explain how I am comfortable with the concept especially for those folks who are not, but it’s a feeling deep down in my soul that starts with relinquishing control.  Control of what you might ask?  Everything!  While I’m not an expert at giving up control of how I plan my day, but I’ve found a kind of peace with this short life that we have to live.

What Do I Want Now in Life?

The ultimate question! I want peace, simplicity, and small joys.  I want to want nothing and graciously accept everything that comes my way.  Life is a precious gift and I’ve spent periods of my life where I didn’t want to live my life because the pain was too much, I couldn’t handle what was presented in front of me at the time, and I am intimately familiar with the feeling of wanting to end it all.  Upon reflection, I realize during these times of my life I had made no attempt to change my mental perspective on the way I saw anything.  I was a doer and a pusher, and while I still work hard every day I work just as hard on my mental happiness as I do to physically pushing myself.

There are many folks who have a spinal cord injury who push to be involved in say clinical trials to improve bladder function, bowel function, walking, etc.  I definitely respect their choice as I used to be one of those folks, but I’ve changed my tune over the years.  I simply want to spend time with those around me, find mental peace, and I don’t want to wake up in 10 years realizing that I’ve spent a decade of my life trying to get back a small amount of finger movement for example.  I respect those that want to push to improve their physical motor function, but my perspective has changed in that if I can find mental peace and happiness or at least being happy enough I’ll be able to live my life with contentment.

On a final amusing note, my tolerance for so many things in life has also changed dramatically.  For example, I tolerate ignorant people quite well 🙂 Since my patience has increased over the years because I am constantly around so many people in life it has allowed me to learn to handle complete a diverse group of challenging people with grace and elegance.  I simply smile, remove myself from situations that I find untenable as it usually increases my pain, roll away, and move on to whatever life has to offer me in the next moment of that day.  It really does take quite an incredible amount to get under my skin in any way shape or form these days!

Here’s to a mental perspective change in the New Year of 2019!

LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY “LIFE BREAK” IN MIAMI

For the past two years I’ve taken several weeks a year to head down to Miami from my home in Raleigh, North Carolina for a “Life Break.”  I used to live in Miami for about 12 years and am fortunate enough to have a place to stay when I go down there.  I was feeling overwhelmed and lost in life, so spending several weeks in the sunshine was a very welcome break indeed.  I just returned from Miami several days ago with something more valuable than a few weeks of fun in the sun so to speak.

I went down to Miami with the intention of spending time with my fiancé swimming, getting together with some of my great friends, frolicking about on different adventures, reading, and just relaxing.  However, what I returned to Raleigh with was something much more powerful than just recharging my batteries.

I’ve been trying to figure out for some time why I have not quite felt at home in Raleigh since I moved here three years ago.  I have met some wonderful people who I get to see on the weekends with my fiancé, but I am lacking something extremely essential in my life.  Community.  I usually go about my day waking up, exercising, working, and dealing with whatever caregiver headaches pop up my way as I just can’t seem to keep a steady one. The best part of my day is when my honey comes home to me at the end of the day.  On the weekends we usually pop around town a bit to meet up with some friends if they are around, but my happy place is truly in the water or near the water.

I’ve always underestimated the concept of community until recently.  My whole life I’ve kind of been a loner you could say popping around the world, moving from home to home, and while I have good friends around the world I’ve never really stayed put anywhere long enough to build a real sense of community except for in Miami.  I’m not sure if it is being paralyzed or the fact that I am in my mid-30s, but I want to build a life in an environment that makes me happy with people around me who have known me for a very long time.  I’m not going to have children, so Aaron and I need to find where we fit in this world to build a strong community of people around us.  I don’t think Raleigh fits the bill in the long run for me particularly because as I get older the nerve pain I suffer from gets very severe during the cold winter months.  So, I am pondering the idea of moving back down to Miami in the next few years. Continue reading

Taking a Life Time-Out

Hi Folks,

I will be taking a time-out from life over the next month and I will be back in November.  I am headed down to Miami for a little bit of rest and relaxation.  I’m sure I will have many adventures ahead of me, which I will share with you all upon my return.

2018 has thus far been a wild and busy year for me and I just need a little bit of personal time for reflection, relaxation, meditation, and to assess next steps in my life.  Look forward to sharing my endeavors with you when I returned back in the next month 🙂

I’ll be updating my Facebook page with some of my adventures!

Stay Tuned …

 

 

 

 

 

INTERNAL HURRICANES

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(Before I get started on this heavy blog… I will preface by saying I’m posting photos that are not even a little bit related to what I will be writing about below. However, these photos represent moments of pure Happiness in my life! … And, let’s face it, we all need to keep that happy place in the forefront of our minds at all times.)

Over the course of the past month I’ve pretty much been on a hiatus from life, work, writing, posting blogs, going out, and enjoying life.  For the first time in my spinal cord injury career I developed a severe case of Bronchitis.  As I’ve previously mentioned time and time again being physically paralyzed can pale in comparison to the secondary complications we face with spinal cord injury.  For example, pressure sores, respiratory infections, sepsis, urinary tract infections, etc. are just a few of the major culprits that can take many of us out for the count for weeks, and months on end.

Generally folks with spinal cord injury suffer from just a few secondary complications on a regular basis.  I have always been Princess and the Pee when it comes to severe skin issues with pressure sores and osteoporosis.  Knock on wood I have not suffered from many infections, respiratory issues, urinary tract infections, etc.  However, this past month I was surrounded by a myriad of sick individuals in my household, which finally did me in.  I started with a small cold that developed into bronchitis.

I have many spinal cord injury friends who suffer from upper respiratory infections all the time and I could always sympathize with what they were going through, but I could not empathize because I did not know what it felt like.  I do now!  The challenge with spinal cord injury, especially when you are a quadriplegic with paralyzed abdominal muscles and use your diaphragm to breathe, is that coughing, breathing, blowing your nose, etc. are tremendously challenging.  You don’t have the core strength to bring up all of that nasty phlegm that gets stuck inside your lungs.

So, when you’re stuck with mountains of dark green phlegm in your lungs you literally have to have someone push on your stomach, lean forward, and hack up what feels like all of your internal organs coming out at the same time.  It’s quite a process and extremely exhausting to cough to get the phlegm up & out.  There are, of course, machines that can help with this, but they can come at a pretty hefty price.

“Being an Aunt is the Best”

Continue reading

Wheelchair Air Travel – “Quad” Style

 

…If only air travel for a complete C6 quadriplegic paralyzed from the chest down were so easy!  Since my accident nearly 8 years ago I have flown a handful of times.  Most of my flying expeditions consisted of me moving across the world to China back in 2013, which involved flying an aircraft for over 15 hours at a time.  Back then flying seemed incredibly daunting, but I always had a village of the family to help me along the way.  I had never flown with just one other person before…

… I read many reviews on different airlines and I decided upon Delta Airlines.  I was looking at prices and I knew I wanted to fly economy because if I wanted to travel in the future saving money for business class would take away from money I could spend on adventures to wherever we would be flying to.  However, I decided to take baby steps.  I sprung for an extra $100-$200 and upgraded to Delta Comfort.  Delta Comfort Class is essentially Economy Plus.  This gives you a few extra inches of legroom, which I thought for our first mission would be appropriate considering that I needed the extra room for my knees because I am so tall. …

Read the rest on Push Living Magazine:

https://pushliving.com/wheelchair-air-travel-quad-style/

Life’s Sacrifices & Choices with Spinal Cord Injury

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When we are growing up we are faced with all kinds of choices a consequences and as children that we are blissfully unaware of.  Do we want a cookie or a doughnut?  If we finish our vegetables then we get dessert; if we go to bed early than mommy will read us a bedtime story, etc.  At a young age we don’t really associate making a choice with sacrificing one thing for another either.  It’s only as we develop into young adults that many of us come to the realization that everything in life is a choice, sacrifice, or compromise.

Choices and compromises become exceedingly more complicated as we grow into adults.  If we want a family, then we have to save to have a baby; we can’t go on that family vacation because we are trying to save money to buy a house; if we keep eating donuts every day then we run the risk of becoming obese; the list goes on.

I was thinking about sacrifices and choices the other day as it relates to spinal cord injury, and more specifically, the compromises I have had to make and continue to make as a C6 quadriplegic.  As I was pondering some of these choices lately I was surprised at how many things I have had and will have to give up in my life.  I was having a challenging day, so of course this was a glass half empty point of view, but after waking up the next morning feeling more like myself I made a list of the things that I have gained, and given up over the last 8 years since my accident in 2010.

Living with spinal cord injury presents such a unique set of challenges that many folks, unless you are the one injured or know someone who is, may not think of on a daily basis.  I often play this game with myself because while I know that I am faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges at times, there is always someone who is dealing with A LOT more than I am.  This is not to say that we should go around comparing ourselves to other people, but I do find pausing on certain days to take stock of what you have in your life is a quality many of us lack.  This age-old saying may seem outdated and redundant, but I personally find that it rings true when the proverbial “ship hits the fan” in people’s lives … “You don’t know what you have, until you’ve lost it.”

Here are a few of my choices over the years: Continue reading

Long-Term Relationship Physical & Emotional Intimacy with Spinal Cord Injury

Who knew that my first serious long-term adult relationship would be after my spinal cord injury? I certainly did not! I was always the type of girl to have 1 foot in a relationship and 1 foot out in my 20’s. When I would break up with the guy I would usually move cities or countries. Truth be told after my accident I figured I had my shot at relationships and I would likely be single the rest of my life, which I was surprisingly okay with for many years. When I first started dating in a wheelchair I had an array of gentleman callers in order to explore my sexuality years after my accident. I’ve written about my dating adventures in multiple blogs, but I’ve never really touched on the subject of how my current boyfriend and I have grown to fall deeply, and madly in love.

It was not until this past year that I really started to understand what emotional intimacy meant and how one really has to work at it keep a relationship alive. In my opinion, emotional intimacy is the glue which holds a long-term relationship together. Even if you have a super strong connection initially, the more time you spend with someone and the better you get to know them, the deeper your connection can become — and emotional intimacy in a long-term relationship is so much different than emotional intimacy in a brand-new relationship.

In new relationships we can reflectively listen, spend quality time with our partner without distraction, and make thoughtful gestures to build closeness.

At the time I didn’t realize what this meant, but approaching relationships from a slightly different angle with spinal cord injury has made me appreciate what this means. When I first started dating my boyfriend I spent the first year actively keeping him out of every aspect of my spinal cord injured life with respect to caregiving. I wanted to take the time to get to know him as a person, and, more importantly, I truly believed that keeping the “paralyzed” part of our relationship was the best way for us to grow. Looking back, I am happy with the results, but I probably could’ve shared all of me sooner as opposed to just part of me. Continue reading

Caregiver Neglect and Abuse – The Legal Side – My Recent Story

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Over the years I have spoken with dozens and dozens of fellow quadriplegics who seem to share in the story of having their caregivers leave without notice, emotionally abuse them, physically abuse them, and so many other horrifying tales. If you know me or have read some of my blog posts you will know that I, too, have had more than my fair share of horrifying incidents with caregivers. This blog is not to recount what has happened to me, but rather shed some light on interesting facts I have discovered over the last month due to a recent caregiver leaving me with no notice, no phone call, no text, etc. I have learned some useful tidbits of information and also picked up on some tips & tricks for the hiring of future caregivers, which I hope will help some.

Six weeks ago I was on the hunt for a new live-in caregiver several days a week and after interviewing several my entire household agreed they liked this one particular lady. I don’t use caregiving agencies because they are too expensive and cannot cover the hours I generally need, so I usually look to care.com and Craigslist as so many other quads in my situation do as well.

I think my caregiver radar is broken, so I like to have other people’s opinions to help me choose my caregivers these days. She did really well, was pleasant, a fast learner, and told me repeatedly how much she loved working with me. I was thrilled as I thought perhaps, this time, just maybe we would find one who would stick around for a while.

Anyway, things were going swimmingly, in my opinion, and two weeks ago after one month of employment she simply did not show up the night she was supposed to come into work. She left all of her belongings at my house and we were all completely dumbfounded. I called her multiple times, texted her, but to no avail. Naturally, my first thought was that she was in some sort of accident and was in the hospital. I was worried. Normally, when caregivers leave they take their stuff (secretly I might add) and just don’t come back. When this happens I usually just let it go because I am in such a rush to find someone new that I don’t have time or energy to follow up.

This time seemed different. Continue reading

ASSISTED SUICIDE

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First … A happy picture to make you smile before diving into the heavy stuff!


Assisted Suicide – No doubt a highly controversial topic in our society today, especially if one is religious! I am going to approach this topic from my personal perspective. I realize this blog may spark some intense feelings just like religion, sex or politics may, but I think it is a topic that needs to be addressed from an ethical, moral, personal, and societal standpoint. I am going to leave the religious argument out of this blog for the time being as I am not personally religious, but spiritual in some sort of sense.

I would be remiss not to start out by talking a little bit about my feelings regarding death as a whole. Before my accident I was terrified of death whether that be because I was in my young 20’s, was super healthy, did not live in pain, etc. The only certain thing in life is that we are all going to die, but in my younger years I just could not bring myself to think about it.

After my accident I was actually killed by several medical professionals and brought back to life as so many other spinal cord injury patients can relate to. Over the course of the last 8 years or so I have not only become comfortable with the idea of death, but actually find a strange comfort in it. This is not meant to sound like a doom and gloom statement, but it gives me peace. In my particular situation and the myriad of medical nightmares I have endured both physically and mentally over the years I have personally been in situations where I wanted to die. Continue reading

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (Part 3)

Continuing on with our Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventures …

Day 5 – Belize Mayan Ruins

5 AM on Thursday … As the alarm clock started ringing Aaron and I groggily looked over on each other debating whether we should go explore some Mayan ruins in Belize or take the day to sleep. Cruises can be exhausting if you are always on the hop with different shore excursions. However, you must keep in mind that this was my first real vacation in 8 years without any of my family or caregivers. So, while we might’ve squeezed a few too many adventures into our 7 days, Aaron popped out of bed and made quick work of getting me ready to go explore thousands of years of history!

We arrived in Belize City early that morning, but were anchored offshore. We were anchored at what is called a tendered port. Essentially, you have to take small little dinghies seating anywhere between 50 to 80 people from the cruise ship over to the port of Belize. These little tendered ports are not for the faint of heart, especially in a wheelchair, because with the rocking ocean and trying to lift my manual chair onto this little boat presented its own unique set of challenges. Fortunately, the weather was quite calm so we were able to physically leave the ship, but there are days when they will not allow a wheelchair to maneuver onto the small vessels.

Ligia, our concierge attendant on Royal Caribbean, escorted us to the tendered boat as we skipped all the lines 🙂 I was decked out in sneakers, sports cloths, my manual chair, and ready to get bounced around! It took us about 30 minutes of rocking around on this boat, but we made it to the dock. I’d been to Belize nearly 10 years ago and from what I had recalled, which turned out to be exactly correct, Belize City is no joke from a dangerous perspective. It is not a city you want to go roaming around in alone as a tourist … and certainly not with an expensive wheelchair! It has a very high crime rate, poor infrastructure due to a hurricane hitting the city years prior, and not a very friendly crowd. When we arrived at the docks there was a small little area for tourists and tour guides to meet up with one another, make haste of getting into a van, and getting the heck out of the city!

Since I hired a private accessible tour company who partners with local tour companies who claim to be handicap accessible, and who would be able to show us the Belize Zoo in addition to some Mayan Ruins – I was pretty excited! We did have quite a bit of bother trying to find our tour guide due to many miscommunications, but we did eventually find him.  We were running behind schedule though. I wasn’t quite sure how far away our excursions were, but we literally had to be back to the boat in five hours.

Our tour guide, Ricky from Roam Belize Tour Company, greeted us with a smile and proceeded to show us the way to our “accessible” handicap van. Well, there was a van, and there was a ramp that you had to take out of the van to attach to the rear of the vehicle to push me up. I would say it was accessible, but not particularly accessible friendly if you know what I mean 🙂 Once I was loaded into the back of the van I was looking for straps to lock in my wheelchair. Ricky informed us that there were no straps as they were a tour company that was just getting up and running with providing accessible tours to folks in wheelchairs. The way the van seats were laid out, unless I was a paraplegic and could transfer my own, was not going to work to transfer me onto an actual van seat because Aaron could not lift me up with a height of the van.

I did call the company to confirm and I filled out many forms saying that I was paralyzed from the chest down, and that needed to stay in my wheelchair, but being a foreign country things get lost in translation sometimes. No big deal we thought!

Continue reading