Friday, November 29, 2013

3 Year Old Me

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Thanksgiving is family time, and family time is photo album time.

I was at my Brother and Sister-In-Law’s house for Thanksgiving, and had a chance to look at a couple of long lost family photo albums. One of them included photos from the early ‘70s when I was a very young kid, and these two really blew me away. I was going to bring the albums home, but forgot, so Ian was kind enough to scan and email them to me.
young child in two-leg cast held in a reclined wheeled carrier, being pushed by a teenage girl
These are pictures of me taken in 1970, when I was about 3 years old. I'm not sure who the girl is in the second picture, but Ian thinks she might be someone my parents sometimes hired to help take care of me.

I had had surgery on both of my legs, after which I was in a double-leg cast for several months. The thing I’m in is something my parents thought up, put together by people at a local bike shop, North End Repair, which is now North End Harley-Davidson. It’s made of a standard walker, with wheels attached to the back two legs, two added foldable legs, a series of hooks that attached to hooks on both sides of the cast, so I could be latched into the thing, and a mattress / pillow arrangement for comfort. This configuration allowed for three uses. It could stand me up vertically, tip back for a partial recline position, or become a sort of wheelchair for easy mobility. Since my casted legs were heavy and immobilized, I can't imagine my family looking after me without something like this, yet nothing like it existed as a buyable product at the time. It was pure innovation and resourcefulness, by my parents and a home-town bike and motorcycle repair place.

My Father told me some years later that he tried to get medical equipment people interested manufacturing something like this, but nobody was interested. I’ve still never seen anything quite like it, except maybe for wheelchairs that can stand and recline. Most of those, though, seem a lot heavier and harder to transport in a car.

It's probably been decades since I last saw these pictures. I don't have any identifiable memories of this time, so my whole understanding of this period my life is based on pictures and what my family has told me. How do I feel, looking at these photos? Mostly I'm reminded of how much my parents did right with me, when faced with a lot of unanswered questions, and mostly without much in the way of professional or peer support. They did a hell of a lot, really well, with little else to go on but brains and instinct. Also, I wonder how many other kids, with similar conditions, spent chunks of their childhoods essentially bedridden, simply for lack of a contraption like this.