Tag Archives: Quadriplegia

Quad OCD-ness: Pant Seams and Hot Water

waterAh the life of a quadriplegic. Thanks to modern medicine, quadriplegics can now survive and almost reach the full life expectancy of an able-bodied individual, but just because we can survive doesn’t mean our bodies and brains happily go along with the whole paralysis package.

I firmly believe the human brain forever struggles with the massive disconnect of the brain to the body when you have a spinal cord injury. It never truly becomes 100% used to it, or adapted. I wish it would, but I’d been at this for over 20 years now and I can tell you my brain and body still don’t like it. Case in point – my bizarre OCD nature.

I don’t care if it’s a crumb on the floor or a crooked towel on the towel rack, if “small” things like that are happening in my home, as silly as it sounds it’s really bothers me. I just seem go can’t get over it, and I know this is a direct side effects of my spinal cord injury.

Since quads can’t control a lot physically and it can drive one bad, trying to recompense what we can no longer control with things we can, even if what we want is completely ridiculous, can feel great. For example, one of the biggest things many quadriplegics like to do is to double and triple check that the seams on their pants, or whenever they’re wearing for the day, are 100% straight.

I’m not sure why so many quadriplegics hate crooked seams, all I know is why I personally don’t like them – since I’m looking down at my lap all day, I see them a lot, and just looking at the crookedness can make me crabby since I can’t fix them. When I have them straightened, I feel this sense of relief.

There’s a lot of things in life I can’t control, but if I can control something like this, boy I feel better every time it is done. And I know is that I drive my caregivers crazy some days with my clothing placement, but (fortunately for them) they can’t understand what it’s like to be me, ie, live in and day out with extreme paralysis. If they did however, maybe they would learn to understand me better.

Another weird OCD tick of many quadriplegics is hot water – in that we absolutely must drink hot water whenever we drink water. Anything cold or even luke-warm can send ridiculous chills throughout our entire body; that’s how much we only like it. It can feel so soothing and make drinking water a lot easier to do, which is something we must do daily because of our bladder situations.

A new PCA gave me the inspiration for this blog post actually. I am her latest client, and the fourth quadriplegic she’s currently working with. She calls all of the people she works for “my quads” and last night while heating up my water, she mentioned, “All my quads do that too (drink called water),” and then proceeded to asked me why.

While I can’t speak for every quadriplegic on this planet, I know most of us who are quadriplegics love hot water because cold water makes us cold. And if it’s one thing we hate the most, it’s being cold. There is nothing sadder in the world than a shivering quadriplegic. I just find it fascinating how so many quadriplegics report the same OCD ticks. A study definitely needs to be done to investigate this further.

I’m ok living with my OCD ticks mind you as long as I’m paralyzed, I just hope more young people avoid such a fate.

Have you developed any weird OCD ticks due to your disability?

Having Both an OCD Cleaning Streak and Quadriplegia

You’re either born with the cleaning gene or you’re not. In my case, I definitely was, and I got it from my mother.  There’s no doubt about that out.  My father is definitely not known for his peerless cleaning skills; that so much is sure.

And so as a kid, every weekend I helped my mom clean the house. I began to love the methodical nature of it.  The smells, seeing instant results from your hard work; cleaning became a very satisfying experience in my world.  I absolutely loved it.  My grandparents even used to tease me for my incessant patio sweeping.

So when my spinal cord injury occurred and I went home, it began to dawn on me how much I wouldn’t be able to do anymore, and cleaning was one of those things that seemed impossible to do from a wheelchair.  It made me so sad too. I thought I’d never be able to clean independently anymore.

This is what I thought when I first became disabled.  It came so hard though, just sitting there…looking at messes, and even worse – not being able to do anything about them. I had to do something. I had to figure out a way to still be able to clean a little.  And so after some creative thinking, I found I could still clean. Maybe not like a hired housekeeper anymore, but I did find there were a handful of things I could still do.

One of the first things I discovered I could do was surfaces. Sure, that’s the easy part of cleaning, but when you can only move your biceps and parts of your wrists, just wiping surfaces can be tricky. Try reaching the end of the counter when you’re triceps don’t work. Not easy. But after some trial and error, I discovered that with a sturdy washcloth under my hand and some homemade cleaning spray (a half and half mixture of liquid dish soap and white vinegar; love this cleaner), it was more than possible.

Pulling back on the nozzle to spray cleaner however is not easy to do.  When you don’t have any finger movement you have to get creative.  You can either open the bottle and pour some on the washcloth, or you can do what I do (because you like the “spray” effect) is to hold the cleaner in your mouth and I use your hand/fist to pull it back.  It’s certainly not pretty but it works.  You definitely have to take your ego out of it when cleaning as a quad.

Another cleaning chore I found I could still do was vacuuming. How glamorous heh. But I gotta say – figuring out this one made me giddy.  Since a vacuum was too heavy to use anymore, I bought a Dust Buster and that my friends was the ultimate vacuum-roadblock solution.  Sure, you can’t use a Dust Buster to vacuum your entire place, but being able to vacuum up “something” if I spill anything is awesome.

It can be hard to hold it firmly, but I can use it for a minute or so and get the job done.  It’s always a good idea to get a Dust Buster with a longer handle if you have dexterity problems, if you can find one that is.  I really like anything from Black & Decker.

Dusting is another cleaning activity I’ve figured out how to do. I use Swiffer Sweeper Dusters – that plastic handheld dusting device you insert dusting “cloths” into. The reason I love this little thingamajiger so much is because the handles are easy to hold for people with closed hands like me – skinny and sturdy.  You can just push the handle into your fist and it’ll stay. Every week I go around my condo dusting without any issues thanks to these.

It’s funny. Who would’ve thought cleaning would bring so much joy to quadriplegic?   It’s the little things my friends….the little things. Now, time to get your creative cleaning on.  And remember, think outside the box as much as you can.

What cleaning products and tricks have you found that work good awesomely in spite of limited mobility?

Products Recommended

– Black & Decker Dust Buster

– Swiffer Sweeper Dusters

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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