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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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adaptive sports

More Moxie

This week will be a special re-post of something I wrote in January of 2013 about my dear friend, Diana Lane. A post called “Moxie Personified” …

amy & diana

 

 

 

And you guys think I’m gutsy. Meet Diana Lain. More positive, more adventurous, more disabled than me. And more full of life than most anyone I know, able-bodied or otherwise.

It’s not often I meet someone with this much gumption. She’s game for anything and loves speed. Some of you may recognize her from other adaptive sport photos. She waterskis, body surfs and plays power soccer (driving the ball into the goal with a power wheelchair.) Not to mention, occasionally joins in on bowling and billiards nights. All this is made more remarkable because she doesn’t have much use of her limbs.

Diana was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1992 and has lived with friend, caregiver and trusty sidekick, Kathy Bailey, for close to 10 years (read the recent article that appeared in The Florida Times-Union.) I don’t remember actually meeting them. It seems, instead, they’ve always been there, giving me countless rides in their wheelchair van since my own disability, and becoming my good friends along the way.

So, I didn’t hesitate when they invited me to check out Little Talbot Island on New Year’s Day. The park has plenty of boardwalks, bike trails and accessible restrooms, so it didn’t feel I was living too close to the edge. I forgot who my companions were.

Our first escapade came when Diana spotted a seagull with a broken wing in a parking lot. I think I have a bleeding heart when it comes to creatures of nature. Next to Diana, I’m the hunter poised to take out Bambi’s mom. Continue reading “More Moxie”

Tough Stuff

I recently attended another Southern Slam Quad Rugby Tournament.  The difference this year was that our Brooks team was split up — all the teams were made up of various other teams. I have a hard enough time following the action as it is. I missed the color-coordinated uniforms clearly identifying who to root for, but I hear it’s more fun for the athletes — meeting and playing with different people from all over. If you’ve never checked out the sport – you don’t know what you’re missing. Take a look at my post from last year, complete with photos and video. I’ve also changed the title from Tough Guys to Tough Stuff in honor of the couple ponytails I saw in there swinging.

Original Post:

One quadriplegic furiously chases down another as the two men move from their locked positions. Their wheelchairs race and then WHACK!  The clang of metal on metal rings out and one wheelchair crashes on its side, its occupant suspended helplessly. In any other setting, this would bring people running to assist, but here, a referee casually walks over and picks up the ball before someone rights the dangling player.

This is Quad Rugby, a.k.a. Murderball, and it’s all just part of the action. And having been to several games, I can tell you — there’s plenty of action. The rules are pretty simple. Each team tries to get the ball through the goal on their respective side of the court. The offense passes or carries the ball, while the defensive team blocks. There are fouls, rebounds and a lot of back and forth. It’s kind of like basketball, but without the hoops or dribbling. And, in my opinion, it’s more exciting. But don’t take my word for it. Check out this video of the Brooks Bandits (Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program) playing in the recent 5th Annual Southern Slam Quad Rugby Tournament.

It’s disconcerting at first, watching people in wheelchairs slam into each other. But then you realize, these guys are defying stereotypes and redefining what it means to be handicapped. While a friend and I watched an away game in Atlanta at one of the premier rehab hospitals in the country, a woman next to us had just met the parents of a 16 year-old who’d been severely injured in an accident. “Bring him down here,” she told them in the elevator that led from patient rooms to the indoor arena. “He needs to see what’s possible.”

I read a memoir by disabled cartoonist John Callahan in which he says he never forgot his first sight of wheelchair basketball players darting around and popping wheelies in the halls of his hospital. It gave him hope through the dark days to come. And the message? Life goes on. Goes on well. In fact, in the disabled world, inviting the Quad Rugby guys to your party is like inviting the football players back in high school. They’re the cool kids on the disabled schoolyard.

For those of you not in the know, quadriplegia means without good use of any of the four limbs (not to be confused with paraplegia, the loss of use of two limbs, usually by spinal cord injury.) Quadriplegics come in all shapes and sizes with greatly differing injuries and abilities. For example, I’m a quadriplegic. And I couldn’t catch or throw a ball if my life depended on it. Unless it was a beach ball. And even that’s questionable. Plus, I’m sure my double vision would get in the way if anyone was foolish enough to let me out on a court. There are quads who can walk (usually brain injured,) but many have suffered a spinal cord injury where the break was high enough to affect hand motor function or grip strength. I’ve seen double amputees playing Quad Rugby and one gentleman in Atlanta, wheeling his chair with a duct-taped elbow, making the former massage therapist in me cringe at the repetitive motion injury he was undoubtedly causing. Then I remembered — he has bigger problems to worry about.

Regardless of the difference in our abilities, we’re all disabled. We want, like anyone else, to belong somewhere, be part of something. These guys like being physical again and playing as part of a team. I enjoy the individual sports, like horseback riding or swimming, but with the camaraderie of a group of people to who, in many ways, I can relate. Everyone wants to look in the mirror of society and see themselves reflected there. And what you get from these games, or any adaptive sport, either as a participant or a spectator, is the sense that life is not over. Not by a long shot.

The Challenge

130309_0005This past Saturday (yesterday to many of you) was The Brooks Rehabilitation Challenge Mile, one of the many smaller “runs” hosted alongside the Gate River Run. There are several reasons why I like participating in the event (this was my second year — read last year’s post here).

Firstly, I like hanging with this group of people because I’m free to be myself. People laugh with me instead of making a huge deal out of it when I pick up a little speed on an unseen decline. It’s nothing here to have muffin crumbs on my face or be seen peeling a banana with my teeth.130309_0008

130309_0004But more importantly, this event reminds me that it’s about encouragement, not competition. I couldn’t help but notice this as I watched people of all abilities cross the finish line. When one gentleman, who had made it most of the way in his wheelchair rose to walk the last several feet, the crowd cheered his name for what felt like a good five minutes. I think most of us would rather have our ability back, but it’s certainly true that when the challenge is tougher, the victory is sweeter.

Moxie Personified

amy & dianaAnd you guys think I’m gutsy. Meet Diana Lain. More positive, more adventurous, more disabled than me. And more full of life than most anyone I know, able-bodied or otherwise.

It’s not often I meet someone with this much gumption. She’s game for anything and loves speed. Some of you may recognize her from other adaptive sport photos. She waterskis, body surfs and plays power soccer (driving the ball into the goal with a power wheelchair.) Not to mention, occasionally joins in on bowling and billiards nights. All this is made more remarkable because she doesn’t have much use of her limbs.

Diana was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1992 and has lived with friend, caregiver and trusty sidekick, Kathy Bailey, for close to 10 years (read the recent article that appeared in The Florida Times-Union.) I don’t remember actually meeting them. It seems, instead, they’ve always been there, giving me countless rides in their wheelchair van since my own disability, and becoming my good friends along the way.

So, I didn’t hesitate when they invited me to check out Little Talbot Island on New Year’s Day. The park has plenty of boardwalks, bike trails and accessible restrooms, so it didn’t feel I was living too close to the edge. I forgot who my companions were.

Our first escapade came when Diana spotted a seagull with a broken wing in a parking lot. I think I have a bleeding heart when it comes to creatures of nature. Next to Diana, I’m the hunter poised to take out Bambi’s mom. Continue reading “Moxie Personified”

Calling All Angels

Volunteer Angels

*

I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.

~Tracy Chapman

*

It’s waterskiing time again! Please enjoy the great video put together for Brooks by John Lipscomb, check out Channel 4’s news coverage or read my blog from last year. (I should probably mention that the girl in the tiara is Ashley Heath, Ms. Wheelchair Florida — just because tiaras and waterskiing don’t normally go together.)

What struck me this year was the enormous number of volunteers it took to make this happen. A great many people took their weekend and did something for others instead of something for themselves. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about those that need help and those that give it. I guess it takes both to make the world go round.

But, here’s a secret. I’m kind of selfish. I honestly can’t say if, before the wheelchair, I would have spent the weekend hauling gear and pushing wheelchairs or curled up on the couch with a good book.

So, if you’re one of the helpers of this world (and you know who you are,) then I commend you and thank you. If you’re not, maybe it’s not too late. Or if you’re like me and you’ve realized it’s too late to be of much help now, then what a marvelous lesson we’ve learned for next time.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

~Winston Churchill

More Kindness

I hope you’ll forgive the repeat of a previous post, “The Kindness of Strangers.” I didn’t have time to write a new one — I was out surfing. Body surfing to be exact. Life Rolls On hosted their sixth “They Will Surf Again” event this past Saturday in Jacksonville Beach. There were a record number of disabled surfers and all kinds of friends, caregivers and volunteers ready to help wherever needed. I hope you’ll enjoy the new pictures as much as I enjoyed the perfect weather, water and day!

From “The Kindness of Strangers”:

I saw the advantage of owning my own beach wheelchair right away, but other beach chairs were on hand at the lifeguard station to ferry people over the soft sand or into the water. Some folks braved the sand in their regular wheelchairs. My friend, Amy, pushed my chair down by the water to wait my turn at “surfing.”

I’d done this once before (this was Life Rolls On’s fifth year in Jacksonville,) but I was struck again at the large number of volunteers. There were 12 able-bodied volunteers for every disabled surfer. When it came my turn, I understood why. It took six or seven people just to get me out to where the waves were breaking, then shove me off in time to catch one. And volunteers were lined up all the way to the shore to grab me wherever I happened to fall off.

A subsidiary of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Life Rolls On originally started the “They Will Surf Again” program for people affected by spinal cord injury. The number of participating disabilities has grown to include brain injuries, amputees, varied birth defects and others.

After about my third ride to shore and face full of salt water, I remembered overhearing someone talk about surfing on their knees. Anxious to avoid the stinging spray from my position lying down on the board, I asked if I could try sitting up. This meant a volunteer would ride tandem. This video is the first of two rides I made like that. Now that I know it’s an option, I’m certain there will be many more. My own hooting and hollering was drowned out by that of the volunteers.

I was touched by the enthusiasm, positive attitude and smiling face of each person who assisted that day. I’m not sure who got more out of the experience, the surfers or all those willing to lend a helping hand.

If you’ve followed my blog you know I like to say “disability has its perks.” Here’s another one: being disabled allows me to see the good in people. I’m in the unique position of seeing people at their best. I am reminded of the generosity of the human spirit almost every day when someone holds open a door, untangles Frankie’s leash or waits for me to slowly cross the road  in my power chair. And it’s a good thing too, because with a little help, life does indeed, roll on.

Miles Apart

As we crossed the finish line, people cheered and yelled our names. We were downtown, along with hordes of people, participating in the events of the Gate River Run.  We even got medals. Our time? A thirteen-minute mile.

This time, things were a bit different than when I used to do the run with my friends. For starters, instead of making it to the end on my own two feet, I was pushed in my wheelchair. My goal then was a nine-minute mile, sustained for 9.3 miles. This distance was just a mile (the Brooks Challenge Mile to be exact.) But when I was one of thousands of runners, no one ever cheered my name. I never came close to winning a medal. And I never got quite the same feeling of camaraderie.

When David, a friend I met through Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program, first asked me to go, my initial thought was —  no thanks. I don’t like calling attention to myself or my disability. The last thing I wanted to do was take part in some kind of Cripples On Parade function. (By the way, I hate that word, but the humorist writer in me thought it fit.)

Then David mentioned he needed someone to push. Faced with his own balance issues, he needed something sturdy (like me in my wheelchair) to hold on to. There are so few times I get to be of service to someone else. I quickly reconsidered. Besides, it might be fun. I underestimated just how much.

There seemed to be every kind of disability imaginable. And every kind of mobility aid — wheelchairs, walkers, canes and prosthetics. Able-bodied folk helped push wheelchairs, steady those on foot or guide the vision-impaired. Everyone cheered for everybody else.

Back when I could run the whole course, it seems me and my friends were caught up in the whole competition aspect of it all. This was more about support. I don’t mean to say it was more fun — well, yeah I do. It was more fun. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the feel-good stuff, but I was struck by how good it did feel.

All of us had faced our own personal struggles. Fought against obstacles to be there. It may just have been a mile, but when a challenge has this much meaning, it might as well be a marathon.

Now: with David and sister, Gwen
Then: Running the River Run

Tough Guys

One quadriplegic furiously chases down another as the two men move from their locked positions. Their wheelchairs race and then WHACK!  The clang of metal on metal rings out and one wheelchair crashes on its side, its occupant suspended helplessly. In any other setting, this would bring people running to assist, but here, a referee casually walks over and picks up the ball before someone rights the dangling player.

This is Quad Rugby, a.k.a. Murderball, and it’s all just part of the action. And having been to several games, I can tell you — there’s plenty of action. The rules are pretty simple. Each team tries to get the ball through the goal on their respective side of the court. The offense passes or carries the ball, while the defensive team blocks. There are fouls, rebounds and a lot of back and forth. It’s kind of like basketball, but without the hoops or dribbling. And, in my opinion, it’s more exciting. But don’t take my word for it. Check out this video of the Brooks Bandits (Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program) playing in the recent 5th Annual Southern Slam Quad Rugby Tournament.

It’s disconcerting at first, watching people in wheelchairs slam into each other. But then you realize, these guys are defying stereotypes and redefining what it means to be handicapped. While a friend and I watched an away game in Atlanta at one of the premier rehab hospitals in the country, a woman next to us had just met the parents of a 16 year-old who’d been severely injured in an accident. “Bring him down here,” she told them in the elevator that led from patient rooms to the indoor arena. “He needs to see what’s possible.”

I read a memoir by disabled cartoonist John Callahan in which he says he never forgot his first sight of wheelchair basketball players darting around and popping wheelies in the halls of his hospital. It gave him hope through the dark days to come. And the message? Life goes on. Goes on well. In fact, in the disabled world, inviting the Quad Rugby guys to your party is like inviting the football players back in high school. They’re the cool kids on the disabled schoolyard.

For those of you not in the know, quadriplegia means without good use of any of the four limbs (not to be confused with paraplegia, the loss of use of two limbs, usually by spinal cord injury.) Quadriplegics come in all shapes and sizes with greatly differing injuries and abilities. For example, I’m a quadriplegic. And I couldn’t catch or throw a ball if my life depended on it. Unless it was a beach ball. And even that’s questionable. Plus, I’m sure my double vision would get in the way if anyone was foolish enough to let me out on a court. There are quads who can walk (usually brain injured,) but many have suffered a spinal cord injury where the break was high enough to affect hand motor function or grip strength. I’ve seen double amputees playing Quad Rugby and one gentleman in Atlanta, wheeling his chair with a duct-taped elbow, making the former massage therapist in me cringe at the repetitive motion injury he was undoubtedly causing. Then I remembered — he has bigger problems to worry about.

Regardless of the difference in our abilities, we’re all disabled. We want, like anyone else, to belong somewhere, be part of something. These guys like being physical again and playing as part of a team. I enjoy the individual sports, like horseback riding or swimming, but with the camaraderie of a group of people to who, in many ways, I can relate. Everyone wants to look in the mirror of society and see themselves reflected there. And what you get from these games, or any adaptive sport, either as a participant or a spectator, is the sense that life is not over. Not by a long shot.

Jack of All Sports … Master of None

On Victory Lake: Photo by John Lipscomb

“So,” Ann asked me. “Which side of your body is paralyzed?”

“Neither,” I answered. I’d told her I’d had a stroke. It was a natural assumption. “But it’s the right side that …” I hesitated.

“Sucks,” she filled in.

“Well no,” I started to say. Then, “Yeah — sucks.” I smiled. I liked her. Therapists (always able-bodied) were constantly telling you not to call one side the “bad” side. Positive thinking and manifestation and all that crap. Here was a straight shooter.

Also in a wheelchair, Ann O’Brine-Satterfield founded U Can Ski 2 over 20 years ago. She’d won six national and two world championships as a disabled water skier. I’d found out about the free “learn to ski” clinic as I had most of my adaptive adventures, through the Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program.

No stranger to the program or the world of adaptive sports, the list of activities I’ve tried is long: wheelchair tennis, power soccer, rowing, surfing, snow skiing, hand cycling, bowling, billiards, aquatics, horseback riding and now water skiing. I’m bad at all of them. Or as Ann would say, I suck.

Alice Krauss, the director of the Brooks Program, initially suggested I try wheelchair tennis. I have no idea why. My coordination is so poor, I can’t even put my finger to my nose without poking myself in the eye, let alone connect a racket to a ball. In her defense, we hadn’t met yet. I’m sure I sounded quite capable over the phone. I mean, aside from the slur and all. After we’d met, she wasn’t exactly suggesting I sign up for archery. (Who would’ve thought there is adaptive archery?) I know better. I have no business anywhere near a bow and arrow.

Truthfully, I wasn’t half bad at horseback riding. I had dreams of the Paralympics before I learned the competition is in English Dressage. That means both hands hold the reins. I was riding Western with just my left hand. I’m sure they have adaptive equipment to make it work, (heck, I’ve seen a girl riding with no legs!) but I was already trekking to Georgia just to find a Western adaptive teacher. In the end, the time and expense weren’t worth it to me.

I thought I’d found my sport when I was introduced to power soccer. It doesn’t require contact of your body with the ball at all! Power wheelchairs are outfitted with metal cages and driven up and down an indoor court like bumper cars. Except players are supposed to hit the ball, not each other. I was bad at that too. My double vision got in the way.

Adaptive equipment: Photo by Alice Krauss

Yet here I was again, hanging off the back of a boat as one of the “side skiers” counted down from three for the driver. Since it was my first time, I didn’t really have to do anything.  I didn’t even have to hang on to the rope, though I can progress to that later.  The rope attached directly to the sit ski I was in. It reminded me a lot of snow skiing, where even the slightest turn of your head guides the ski.

I’m not sure why I keep trying all these sports. Maybe, I’m more competitive than I like to admit. Maybe, I’m looking for something physical to be good at again. Or maybe, I like being part of a group that redefines what it means to be an athlete. Either way, time spent dreaming about a new goal, even if it’s just an hour, can’t be time misspent. Team USA Water Ski, here I come.

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