Tag Archives: Spinal Cord Injury

Confessions of a Disabled Adult Candy Addict

candyI’m honestly not sure whether or not I would have been a candy addict had my injury not occurred. It’s really tough to say.

I was obsessed with sugar as a kid – birthday cakes, great-grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, gummi worms, Sprees, Skor bars – but we all know our childhood “likes” don’t always carry over into our adulthood (I liked what?!). I’m still shocked I liked jam on my garlic bread.

I just wish I knew if my injury had something to do with my continued sugar addiction.

I do know one thing – no matter the cause, I am too old to be this way. Usually by my age the obsession with candy is long gone, but for me…not even close. Part of me is concerned why I am like this, trying to analyze how this developed, but then I always get sidelined by something more important (candy usually).

While most 34 year olds are elated over a great cup of coffee or a perfectly done steak, I will squee to kingdom come if a candy buffet appears at a party; that’s how serious my addiction is. It’s like it activates a happy serum in my brain, pouring in the second my eyes lay upon the sweets. It’s really quite ridiculous. I get like Pavlov’s dog over a Snicker’s.

It’s gotten so bad that I always have to have candy in the house, and any new man I’m dating always knows I like candy right away and will woo me with it (always a safe bet). And even worse, my candy bowl always has a spoon in to to make it easy to shove candy right into my mouth (this technique is quite effective if you’re a low quad, and it’s great for candies like M&M’s and Reese’s Pieces).

I do have one theory I’d like to share about my candy addiction in relation to my injury – whatever age your injury occurs, you’re always that age partly for the rest of your life, no matter how old you get. It’s a strange notion I’ve realized, but I believe it’s a coping mechanism for the brain. Maybe this is why I love candy so much.

I was injured at 14 and I still like so many of the things I liked at that age, food/candy x infinity and music/SWV, EnVouge. It feels strange sometimes, but it’s also very comforting. If my guy I’m testing for example can’t find me a package of Bubblicious bubble gum in grape flavor, I may just have serious doubts about our future. And if he’s not a “big candy fan,” I’m absolutely sure; we aren’t a match.

The palette is the last reason I know I’m obsessed with candy. The palette is one of the few parts of my body that was never affected by my spinal cord injury, so this is a fun thing to relish in. I absolutely love that everything still tastes the same as before my injury, and in the world of spinal cord injuries, anything “staying the same” is a very rare thing.

The candy aisle at Target checking with the seasonal candy and the latest items offered by the candy companies; those my two ultimate happy places. And even moreso, I’m not changing who I am no matter how old I get, especially since it’s so effective on the days I’d like to tell my disability to shove it (hey at least I know what works).

Which candy could you not live without? And where have all the bulk candy stores gone?

Wheelchair Kitty Care: Taking Care of My Daphners

Almost ten years ago my mom gifted me with my feline companion Daphne. She’s a swell kitty. She loves deli turkey slices, sunshine and sleep, and she doesn’t jump on anything except my bed, which she knows is her spot. Nearly the perfect cat.

I’ve always knew a cat was the way to go for me. With not being able to walk plus having arm and hand issues, the prospect of owning a dog was overwhelming. I live in a condo, see. I’d have to walk my dog outside to take them to the bathroom, and then pick up after them. Try doing that sitting down with no finger movement. Daily frustration I tell you what.

When I received my kitty from my mom I wasn’t sure how it’d go. I was freshly single and my cat wasn’t coming out from the bathroom. I had no one around to help wrestle her out, so there she sat for days until finally she acclimated to my place and began exploring. That was the first hurdle, but figuring out how to care for her that…that was much harder.

Here are some of the things that help me take care of my awesome kitty, Daphne du Maurier, aka Daphner (yes, she’s named after the famous British author).

Authority Senior Cat Food

When my cat officially became a “senior” in 2008 (anything past seven years old considered senior in the cat world), she began to throw up a lot more. I know, gross. Ug. So I googled her problem, trying to figure out what was the cause, and I discovered old age can be the culprit. My cat simply has a sensitive gut, and it wasn’t about to change.

Everyone online of course had their own remedies, but the most popular answer by far was to try senior cat food for your cat. Senior cat food is already partially broken down, so less digestion is required. After trying this food about a year ago, I noticed a big difference right away. She went to throwing up daily to only once in awhile, and that’s what I call winning.

Check it out: Authority Senior Cat Food

Dried Catnip

Sometimes even cats need to chill out, and one of the best ways to relax your cat is with the old standby – catnip. I love getting catnip in a plastic, re-sealable bag, and I store it on the door of my refrigerator (where I keep all of my condiments) for easy access. I love to sprinkle dried catnip directly on my cat’s head or back, or I’ll pour a tiny little pile of it onto the floor by her food bowls.

Check it out: Fresh Catnip Resealable Pouch

Covered Litter Box

Dealing with the litter situation is never easy. A covered litter box however is awesome. You can get them anywhere and they’re a great way to keep out the smell and unsightly sights, but make sure to clean it daily. I would love one of those magical litter boxes that that cleans itself, but those are a bit pricey and require a plumbing hook-up.

Check it out: Catty Corner Covered Litter Box

Tidy Cats Non-Clumping 24/7 Performance Litter

When it comes to litter itself, I’m a big fan of non-clumping clay litter, with Tidy Cats still my favorite brand after all these years.  My caregivers help with cleaning the litter box, and each weed we add fresh litter.

Check it out: Tidy Cats Non-Clumping 24/7 Performance

When it comes to grooming, I can’t forget my newest tip – dedicating an old hair brush you can hold to grooming your cat. I use a Conair paddle brush with a round jelly handle, and using my old brush has been one of my smarted cat-care moves. With it I can truly brush her and it’s a great brush on short-hair cats.

What cat care items are on your must-have list?

Products mentioned

– Authority Senior Cat food

– Fresh Catnip Resealable Pouch

 Catty Corner Covered Litter Box

Tidy Cats Non-Clumping 24/7 Performance

Guilty Pleasures to Keep My Happy Up

When you have a disability, it’s easy to have more bad days than good. Maybe I’m speaking for myself, but that seems to be the case for a number of us at least. More things can go bad when you’re dependent on more things, from wheelchairs and van ramps breaking to PCAs not showing up.

I’ve found when I have those bad days, those really really bad days when I wish my disability to go away forever (hey we’ve all had those days), I’ve found nothing helps more than doing something off my “guilty pleasures” list. Yes that’s right, I have a list dedicated to my guilty pleasures and it’s helped me through a lot of bad moments.

When you’re alone and have no one to talk to, or just think you don’t, doing a simple thing that makes you immensely happy – a guilty pleasure – can be more effective than taking a pill; believe me. There’s something so soothing about a guilty pleasure…even more than you might realize.

Maybe you already know this and employ it often, but if you don’t and aren’t sure what your guilty pleasures are, perhaps my list will help. Check out a few of my favorite items from my guilty pleasures list that helps keep my happy up.

Chocolate Glazed Donuts

They may be a trend right now, but I’ve always loved donuts, ever since my church would put out simple glazed doughnuts after service as a kid. And after my injury, donuts strangely began had an especially healing effect on me. Maybe it was because they reminded me of happier days, and my favorite donut by far – chocolate glazed.

These two things – chocolate AND glaze – are the best worlds of yumminess in a single donut, and surprisingly Market Pantry (Target’s off-brand) is one of the best out there. You can get 6 of these delicious bad-day melters for only a $1.50, which makes them one of the cheapest most tasty guilty pleasures ever. These unfortunately however are only available in-store, but they’re worth it.

Check them out: Find the Target nearest you

Silk Scarves

When you have limited sensation in your lower extremities, pampering your upper extremities is hugely important to keep your sanity, and nothing feels better than a little bit of silk on the skin. When you have quadriplegia, this means wrapping your neck and shoulders in silk; aka just put on a silk scarf goshdarnit.

I have had several silk scarves in my day, for the best one I’ve had by far is one I recently bought from MommaGoddess on Etsy, dyed in beautiful rainbow colors. It is so soft and feels so wonderful it helps me forget the crazy world outside everytime I wear it. Plus, the bright colors make me feel like I’m Rainbow Brite. Winning.

Check it out: Hand-Dyed Over the Rainbow Silk Scarf

Caramel Rolls

Another pastry that calls my name on a bad day are the quintessential caramel rolls. Warm and soft sweet rolls drizzled with caramel and stuffed inside and out with pecans; how can anything be more delicious? Having one in front of me ready to be devoured is a visual pleasure trumps any flat tire or memory of a rude stare.

And the greatest thing about caramel rolls, it’s really easy to eat just one because many places only sell them singularly, and one of my favorite places to get one is Cinnabon; the high school haunt of my youth that I’m darn glad is still around today.  They’re giant, warm pastries of amazingness and they’re worth every dollar, which will set you back about four of them these days. #worthit

Check them out: Caramel Pecanbons

Dove Dry Shampoo

If you’re a girl, chances are feeling pretty is a guilty pleasure too. Getting your nails done, your hair foiled or maybe just buying something pretty can help you feel worlds better. In my world, nothing makes me feel prettier than sexy hair, and Dove’s Dry Shampoo – a product that was released a few years ago  – makes my hair look amazing with just a quick squirt.

It’s infused with powder that cleans your hair in an instant and it smells just like Dove soap, one of my favorite smells in the world. No longer do I need a PCA to look fabulous, and that feels better than anything.

Check it out: Dove Refresh+Care Dry Shampoo

Strawberry Milk Straws

I’m not sure why, but I really like artificial strawberry flavoring; another vestige of my youth no doubt. Making my own strawberry milk on the fly however is not easy when you have paralyzed fingers. I could buy it already mixed of course, but the strawberry milk straws from Magic Milk, that flavor your milk as you drink it, is so much more fun.

These inadvertently are the perfect thing for people with upper-body disabilities. Tiny sliver crystals jam-packed into the straw that once moistened by the milk, they release their awesome flavor. No spoons, mixing or anything else required. And they come in other tasty flavors too – chocolate, cookies ‘n cream, vanilla and strawberry banana.

Check them out: Magic Milk Straws

The moral of my story: Utilize your guilty pleasures for a higher purpose when you have a disability. Get smart, recognize what makes you happy and use those things as your bad-day arsenal when needed. Trust me, it really works.

What guilty pleasures help you after a bad day?

Products mentioned

Hand-Dyed Over the Rainbow Silk Scarf

Caramel Pecanbons

Dove Refresh+Care Dry Shampoo

Magic Milk Straws

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My Favorite Product Discoveries of 2013

newyearseveclock-main_fullI can’t believe it’s already the end of 2013. It feels just like yesterday I was ringing in the New Year, and now I’m about to do it again. Strangely, 2013 ended up being a year of big transitions.

A relationship I was in for 3 years ended, my sister got married (and also become pregnant a few months later), I found out I’m moving, I started liking mushrooms (crazy!) and job-wise, I started three new writing jobs, and blogging for the Unlimiters is one of them.  It’s been a crazy year, and it’s awesome sharing all the products I could never live without with the disability community.

So I thought, Why not create a list commemorating the most favorite products I profiled my first year of blogging for the Unlimiters? I’m always talking about the latest product I love on here anyways, now you can get a “Best of” overview; and that’s the best kind.

My4Hands

Given to me as a gift from inventor Dale Lehn, My4Hands is the ultimate tool for anyone with a small kitchen, is lacking counter space or if your lap simply isn’t flat enough. This sturdy hard plastic piece sits on your lap and can be used as a cold/ heat protectant too. What I love doing is using My4Hands for the prep and the setting of hot pans. And the best part, MyHands only costs $20.

Check it out: My4Hands

Camelbak Water Bottle

Coming from someone who has used the same drinking cup for years, the Camelbak water bottle is one of the smartest water bottle designs ever. I had a bum shoulder this year and needed an easier way to drink in bed without overreaching. In comes this sweet water bottle. It has a unique top that makes it impossible for the water to come back up through the straw. All you do is flip out the straw and suck.  You don’t have to lift the water bottle up at all to drink, making it a great option for anyone with limited arm mobility.

Check it out: Camelbak Eddy Water Bottle

Gorilla Tape

Move over duct tape. Made with Gorilla Glue, Gorilla Tape is a must for temporarily fixing mobility equipment. This tape can literally hold anything together, even the body of a car onto the frame. Personally, I use it for all kinds of things – holding down sticky mat to create cushioning on the sharp parts of my shower chair and even putting it under the ramp for my patio so it doesn’t slide on my new wood floors. I use this stuff all the time; no joke.

Check it out: Gorilla Tape

Ugg Boots

I’ve always known about Uggs, gorgeous oversized boots made out of soft leather and wool, but I never tried them until a couple of months ago. Reason being – I thought they would be too hard to put on with paralyzed feet (my toes always like to curl whenever I put on a boot that doesn’t have any buttons on the side; my PCAs can’t reach into fix them).

But finally Uggs has created a style with buttons on the side, making it finally easy to put on. Since buying these boots, my feet have never been more warm or relaxed after a day of being in my wheelchair. They feel so good I can almost feel them on my feet.

Check them out: Ugg Bailey Button Triplet Boots

BB Cream

For a girl who likes to look her best before leaving the house but has limited arm strength, BB cream (standing for “beauty balm”) has rocked my world. This stuff is your daily lotion, sunscreen and foundation in one, and several brands are making their own version of it. It’s really great for your 30’s on up…my age range; giving you coverage but not over done.

This stuff really works and the best part – it has eliminated several steps from my beauty routine, preserving my arm strength for more important things. I’ve tried a few different brands, but my favorite by far is L’Oreal’s BB Cream. It has illumination in it; great to hide fine lines.

Check it out: L’Oreal Magic Skin BB Cream

Reverse Osmosis Water

I’m supposed to drink water all of the time because of my neurogenic bladder, and I usually just drink tap water. I live in Minneapolis and the water here isn’t that bad. However after suffering from unexplained bladder issues over the last year, I decided to change the type of water I drank and started buying reverse osmosis water by the gallon from the grocery store.  Reverse osmosis water is the most filtered water you can buy, as all toxins are removed in the reverse filtering process.

I buy five gallons of reverse osmosis water for $2.00 by bringing in my old plastic containers, which I now do each week with my PCA. And the water? Yes it’s definitely improved my bladder function.

Learn more: Reverse osmosis water

F.Lux Monitor Light Adjuster

I work on the computer all day long and the older I get, the less my eyes like this routine. As a solution, one of my friends recommended free software called f.lux to help my eyes feel better. This awesome software detects the light in the room and adjusts the light of your monitor accordingly, making sure it’s always the right level and not too bright on your eyes. I think my favorite part is when the software adjusts the lighting at night to a warm orangey glow. So cool.

Check it out: f.lux software

Re-Discovered Product: Touch Lamps

I also rediscovered something I forgot that really makes my life easier – touch lamps.  I used to have one in the nineties and loved it. I ended up purchasing another one for $10 from Wal-Mart in a pinch this year when my bedside table lamp broke, and I was delighted all over again by how awesome it is to be able to touch a lamp anywhere and make it turn on. Just be careful when changing the light bulbs . The wrong bulb can break the “touch” ability of the lamp.

Check it out: Mainstays Touch Control Mini Dome Lamp

Yup, 2013 was a great year for product discoveries. Can’t wait for 2014.

What products did you discover in 2013 that blew you away?

Photo courtesy of The Romantic Vineyard

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

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

Insomnia Essentials When You’re Literally Stuck in Bed

Over the last eight years I’ve developed a bad case of insomnia, and lately it’s worse because my arms are weaker and adjusting myself in bed is more difficult.  Definitely not fun. And when I get in bed, I’m there until someone comes in the morning to get me back out.

It all started because of a big move. I moved downtown where it’s inevitably louder on a daily basis. 30% of time there’s construction going on right outside your window, car alarms, and people yelling at one another on the sidewalk.  Quietness is definitely not an attribute to use when talking about my neighborhood.

I quickly discovered of course that getting solid interrupted sleep when you live in the city takes some getting used to, or if you’re like me, you never get used to it and find a few essential items help you fall asleep instead.  And I’m not talking about Ambien either.  While I still rarely get 8 hours of sleep, I can still get great sleep, but only if I have my must-haves.

If you’re suffering from insomnia and have a disability, check out my must-have items to help me fall asleep.

Silk eye mask

An eye mask is a huge must, but not all eye masks are created equal.  Fabric is key when choosing an eye mask. Silk eye masks are smooth and great for the skin because they won’t anger your pores.  Avoid terrycloth eye masks because they can be too itchy. Also, I sleep on my back every night because of limited mobility, and the one bonus of this position is that I can “wear” my eye mask by setting it on my face, nixing the strap  Having an eye mask strap on all night can give many people, including me, a wicked headache.

Ear plugs

Ear plugs are another must for beating insomnia. While some people like to hear white noise or even a television when trying to fall asleep, I like to hear absolutely nothing, and that means no sirens, no late night bar stranglers, nothing but perfect quietness.  My fingers are paralyzed however and the average pair of ear plugs won’t work for me. What I found on Amazon.com however was a pair of ear plugs made for swimming that have tiny quarter inch nubs on each end, making them perfect for grabbing with my thumb and forefinger; the two fingers I can still sort-of use.

Melatonin

This is a natural supplement, mimicking a chemical found in the brain that helps us feel sleepy.  About a year ago I bought a bottle of melatonin and have been taking it since.  I love how I can pop a pill that’s not a crazy drug and get sleepy. But please, be wary of how much you take each night.  3 to 5 mg is just enough. Try taking anything more and it may help you fall sleep, but you may develop some mouth sores in the process. Stick to the lower doses and see how your body responds.

Take your sleepy meds at night

Another smart thing you can do to make yourself tired is to take any medicines that you take on a daily basis that cause sleepiness right before going to bed.  This can be one of the best ways to get sleep without having to resort to stronger drugs.  I take 20 mg of Baclofen and 5 mg of Oxybutynin and I make sure I take them at night. Holy cow do these medicines help me get sleepy.

There you have it – how a quad falls asleep when battling insomnia, and I can’t forgot one more thing that helps me fall asleep: House Hunters International.  There’s something awesome about watching people move overseas into beautiful homes that makes me want to fall asleep and dream.

Do you experience insomnia?  How you fall asleep?

Secrets to a Having a Hospital Experience You Don’t Totally Hate

Dr. Elliott, my Conan O’Brien look-a-like urologist who wears a boy-tie, and his “under doctor,” the student doc who observes and learns from the “master” (Dr. Elliott is considered one of the best urologists in Minnesota), who looks like a sexy heterosexual version of Zachary Quinto, were definitely one of the highlights of my bladder cystoscopy/botox injection/biopsy procedure last Friday.

See, I’ve always been a girl who looks on the bright side of things. When you’re in a crappy situation that cannot be avoided, ie, a cysto caused by a neurogenic bladder, there aren’t many options worth talking about, but there is one that can help you through it – looking at the positives that still exist.

Some people think of this as grasping at straws, but really it’s just the smart thing to do. Having a disability can try you. Coping smartly is huge. And believe me when I say this – looking at the positives isn’t just “positive,” it’s the logical next step.

And so I tallied the positives: My doctors were hot and fascinating, the painkillers were delightful, the procedure didn’t require me to stay overnight, and the best part – the procedure was successful. The 8 hours of crappiness were 100% worth it. And on a side-note: Botox injections in the bladder are awesome.

Also, do what I do – bring items that make you the happiest – your own pillow, an eye mask, your favorite drink (I bring warm water in a mug), a book you actually like to read. Phone service isn’t always guaranteed; especially if you’re in the OR area. Waiting un-entertained is the first thing you want to avoid of when you’re at the hospital.

Another item I keep close at hand in an overnight situation is my laptop – my window to the world. But you can’t always trust the staff. Having the computer in a case locked up tight near you is a must. And I bring my neck warmer; my old lady creature comfort that really is one of the best physical pleasures I still have. Hopefully a microwave will be at the nurse’s station if this is you.

You also need to keep it simple, so in effect, these are all of my must-haves in a nutshell. I’ve figured out my favorites, and I stick with those. As long as I have my must-haves, nothing can bug me when I’m there, except a really crappy nurse of course.

And they’ll never make me love the hospital, but they do help me feel like I have some control of the situation, and as we all know, having some kind of control is one of the most powerful weapons you can have when facing something you have no choice but to confront.

I hope…I hope one day visiting the hospital frequently enough to be familiar with all of this won’t be as necessary in my life, but in the meantime, I plan on taking a proactive approach to ensuring my happiness in every medical situation as much as possible…Gold help me so.

How do you cope at the hospital?

Products I love

– Earth Therapeutics Anti-Stress Neck Pillow

– MiGo 20 oz. mug

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Dreaming of Dancing in the Rain

While I can’t fully prance around in Wellies whenever the rain comes billowing in, even though a good pair is nice to have if you can’t walk, I still have a deep-seeded love for a warm rainshower. I grew up dancing in the summer rain. If it was summer and raining, I was out there. But my wheelchair however, now that I need to use one, is sadly not on the same page.

You hear the thunder, and you run out there to catch it. Before you know it you’re soaked, your hair is dripping down your back and you feel like you’re channeling a 21 year old at Woodstock. This is my happy place. But my power wheelchair is fueled by two regular car batteries. It is so not meant to be poured on.

Sprinkles are ok, even a steady rain for a few minutes, but no power wheelchair can safely spend hours on end in the rain. Trust me I’ve tried. There are just too many crevices and cracks the drops can seep into. Simply put: If you’re out longer in hard rain more than 10 minutes, I can tell you from experience – your joystick will start fritzing out; but don’t panic.

Just get yourself out of the rain, and wait overnight for the joystick to dry out, which thankfully (whew) it will. My poor-lady solution to the annoying sudden rain shower that can spontaneously occur is to tie an old plastic bag from Target around my joystick. And it works. It’ll try to blow away if you go too fast, but just tie it snugly. I always make sure I keep one in my purse too.

There is no plastic bag large enough though that would allow me to really spend quality time in the rain. I could throw a wheelchair rain poncho over me, or even an extra large plastic bag made for lawn clippings, but those aren’t 100% fail safe in the event of a deluge, which is what my soul craves big time.

I will say however there is one okay solution – a giant golf umbrella duct-taped to my wheelchair. If it’s big enough, it can cover everything that needs to be covered, but the only problem – it completely separates me from feeling the rain. Again, another lame accessible “solution” where we get the shaft and miss out on the physical-ness of an activity. Click here for a cool wheelchair umbrella research project

So at this point I’m finally considering getting in my manual chair as my last chance effort. It’s not the greatest solution since I can’t push myself that well, therefore being unable to “prance” around like I’d like to, but at least I’ll be able to finally separate myself from my “conjoined twin” and feel the rain on my face, skin, hair, and feel reborn again in the rain; the beautiful, beautiful rain.

Here’s to hoping a cool yellow waterproof wheelchair, all sporty just like a waterproof camera, may one day become available. Or at the very least, some kind of amazing skin-tight rain jacket for a powerchair.

Is there a real-deal waterproof power wheelchair out there, other than Sue Austin’s famed powered diving wheelchair that is (link)? If anyone knows from experience, please share.

Recommended Products

– Wellies from Isotoner

– Wheelchair Umbrella w/ holder

– Waterproof Wheelchair Poncho 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

Thrift Store Finds Made Cooler

“Re-furbished” top

Five years ago an amazing thing happened in my world. I was enlightened to the existence of thrifting. It may be a seemingly trivial thing to those with copious amounts of money, but for someone who lives on a fixed income, it has unhinged my world. Goodwill, Salvation Army, garage sales, rummage sales – give ’em here.

The sport, nay the art form of thrifting has been kept alive the middle and lower class masses for decades, helping up furnish our homes and help us look cool on the cheap. Where else can you find a pair of mid ’80s Guess jeans for only $10? Or an amazing sectional couch for only $200? Sure, it may be covered in cat hair, but that’s what lint rollers are for.

If only I has known how cool thrifting was when I was in college. Back in my crazy collegiate days, only new would do. Thrifting was happening, but not in my world. But now it’s 2013 and I as well as the entire world has changed. Thrifting is now cool, and that’s especially true for anything that’s been used or reused multiple times.

At 25 is when I discovered I could replenish my wardrobe each season for $50 while thrifting, and I haven’t looked back since. And oh my the tricks I’ve come across. Sometimes however it can be a hit or miss when thrifting, especially when you don’t try on things until you get home.

I never try on things in dressing rooms as a wheelchair-user. It’s just too hard. And sometimes, I can’t find the size I want. So I opt for a much more creative solution in lieu of disposing the item, or not buying it – I’ll just cut it or re-fashion it to still make it work.

YouTube gave me this idea years ago, and my thrifting finds have not been the same since. You can do so much with a pair of scissors, and even a little duck tape if you use a wheelchair. One of my favorite things to do is make a short-sleeved cardigan out of a long-sleeved cardigan by  chopping off the arms above the elbow, then rolling it up a couple times so you’d never be able to tell.

I also love to cut t-shirts into tank tops, one-shoulder tanks, even cutting a bigger neckline so it gives me more shape, and adding a cute scarf. And when you cut thrift store finds, you don’t have to stress about ruining them since the item was is cheap. $2 – $4 t-shirts with funny retro sayings are perfect for this.

And I’ll also use black fabric paint to cover up marks on darker clothing, or even use duct tape to make a shirt look tighter by taping the back closer together. There are a lot of cool fixes you can make to clothing when you can’t walk since hiding jerry-rigs is so much easier.

And when in doubt, a thread and needle can be your best friend, or your caregiver’s. And a solid laundry detergent is also a must too, since thrift store finds always carry that oh-so-lovely smell. A fresh scent dryer sheet can make a purchase seem totally brand new, and you can’t get better than that.

So if you haven’t given thrifting a full go, now is the time. Fall is almost here….it’s the perfect time to start thrifting for a cute coat before they’re all gone, or a football jersey if that’s your thing. Search online for a local thrift shop that offers different daily deals too. The stores that offer discounts each Monday are the best.

Truly anything, even my bedside rolling table, can be found while out thrifting. It has become my new, quite addicting, hobby.

Ok, time to head out thrifting again. bbiab.

Recommended Products

– Bounce Fresh Linen Dryer Sheets

– Quad friendly scissors to cut clothing

– Mini sewing kit

– Black fabric touch-up paint

Quadriplegic Wins Modeling Competition

Take a stroll down the makeup aisle. Chances are not one of those women in any of the ads plastering the aisle have any kind of disability. But now a 21 year old woman from Coquitlam, B.C., Canada, is changing all of that. Jessica Kruger, a C7 quadriplegic (injured in a fall from a ladder when she was 15), has won an online modeling contest put on my Lise Watier, a very cool Canadian makeup company. Read more about her win

I always though women with disabilities wanting to get into modeling should target makeup modeling opportunities. In most photos for makeup, all you see is the model from the chest up, so our inability to walk wouldn’t ruin the shot in anyway. It really is a perfect way for us to still model. And if you have a particularly stunning face, such as in Jessica Kruger’s case, this is where you should start first.

How She Won

And the online contest was set up by Lise to find the face of their new “Something Sweet” perfume, and over 400 wanna-be models entered. What’s cool is that Jessica got in the top 5 by user votes only. The top 5 then went to the Lise Watier HQ to get interviewed by their execs, with Jessica coming out as the winner. “I’m in shock,” Jessica said about winning, who entered just for fun not thinking she’d ever have a chance.

And that’s what gets me really. She didn’t expect to win. No one expects the masses to see our beauty. I know this from first-hand experience myself. And when you’re surprised and humanity does see your beauty to the point of giving you a modeling contract, it’s pretty hard to hold onto any lingering sadness at that point. I can only imagine how good that cloud feels where Jessica is hanging out right now.

Lise Watier plans on creating a series of ads featuring Jessica, including magazine ads, online videos and product ads at Shoppers Drug Mart, where the perfume will be available. I think what I love most about this story other than the fact that the world is finally seeing a model with paralysis in mainstream beauty ads, is that Jessica is an athlete – the youngest female quad rugby player in all of Canada actually. A well-rounded girly girl who ALSO has a disability – gotta love that.

Will We See Application Tips from Jessica?

I hope in some of the videos where they show Jessica sporting her makeup, looking gorgeous, they also show her putting on her makeup herself. With partially paralyzed hands, which she has, putting on makeup takes some serious skill. I’m in the same boat she is and have found a few makeup products that work great for my hands.

One of my “must-haves” is my CoverGirl Perfect Point Eyeliner in Black Onyx. There’s something in this eyeliner that makes it glide on like a dream, don’t know what it is (wax?), but it still shows up quite nice even if you can’t press it hard. I also would be 100% lost with my long-handle makeup brushes. The extra-long handles are perfect for wedging between paralyzed fingers.

I also would cry like a baby if they ever discontinued Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Bronzer in Sunkissed; best shade ever. This color is so forgiving when it comes to uneven application, which can happen, because it’s comprised of several color palettes combined into out, helping to blur over any imperfections.

I really hope Jessica’s win and subsequent ads truly change misconceptions people have about people with disabilities. A pretty face has a lot of power, and people will take note.

Watch a video interviewing Jessica about the competition

Do you wear makeup everyday? What tricks help you out each morning?

Check out the products recommended in the post

– CoverGirl Perfect Point Plus Eyeliner

– Neutrogena Healthy Skin Bronzer in Sunkissed

– Long handle makeup brushes from MAC

Dodging Pressure Sore Close Calls

They say when we’re asleep our skin works overtime, healing all those nicks we’ve accumulated. Skin can heal so much better when it’s given a chance, but that’s kind of hard to do when you’re constantly sitting. No wonder people in wheelchairs constantly have skin problems.

The fear of getting a bed sore has been one of my number one concerns since sustaining a spinal cord injury and so far I’ve managed to prevent a full blown bed sore that’s required best rest or surgery. And at 20 years post-injury, that’s quite the feat. When I look back, I’m actually surprised I managed to pull it off. It was definitely a combination of being over the top vigilant along with finding a few magical products.

Here is how I’ve been able to keep my skin in the best shape possible as a quadriplegic for 20 years straight.

Inflatable toilet seat: When you’re dealing with a lack of sensation AND lowered blood flow, all of this spells bad news for the skin. One of the worst/most common places someone in a wheelchair will get a sore too is on their butt. The one time I had a minor scare in this area was near my tail bone; that bony protrusion that is the bane of so many wheelchair-users existence.

I had gotten a new wheelchair, my knees were raised too high I didn’t notice, and after having my new chair for only a month, I develop the very early stage of a sore on my tail bone, BUT I nipped it in the butt literally by using an inflatable toilet seat in bed each night, healing it in a month.

My doctors had really wanted me to turn every few hours, but I lived alone, which meant doing so would have been impossible. I instead found this inflatable plastic toilet seat online, placed the center of it underneath me where my tailbone issue was so no pressure was on it as I was lying down, and within a month I had healed that area.  While some doctors don’t necessarily recommend this, but since I’m lightweight, it worked pretty ok.

Purchase an inflatable toilet seat

Custom seating: After that skin scare, I decided to change the style of seating I was using. Instead of using the traditional Roho as my wheelchair sea, I had my butt pressure mapped to have a custom seat and back made for me by a local custom wheelchair seating clinic, Gillette. While there’s literally a hole underneath my butt where I’m sitting in my wheelchair now, this seating has been one of the best things I’ve ever for my long-term health as a quadriplegic.

Check out seating clinics near you

Cabot POL cream: Another issue that people with spinal cord injuries can frequently run into is a skin condition called cellulitus. This condition makes the skin swell and turn red from minor skin bacteria that can get under the top layer of flesh (small scratches on the skin is all it takes).  If you rub your armor legs on anything from a armrest to a brace often, you increase your chances for this condition, and I have gotten it quite often.

To prevent it, I was referred to this new unheard of arm lotion from someone online. She told me to purchase Cabot POL cream, a body cream with lipids that prevents cellulitus from happening in the first place. What you do is put in on all over your body right after a shower, and the lipids and work to create a barrier on the skin.

Purchase Cabot POL Cream

Extreme vigilance: And another thing I’ve learned is that you can never be too careful with your skin. If say, your toe is looking like it needs to heal, don’t risk it and instead, do what I do and wear sandals that day.  When you have compromised skin, something seemingly small can turn into a really bad sore in a matter of 12 to 24 hours. While some people may think you’re being over the top when it comes to small scratches, they don’t know what it’s like to have to wait months on end for the skin to heal.

Taking care of your skin is without question a second job when you’re paralyzed, and it’s a job you can’t quit. I plan on going 20 more years bed sore-free.

How do you prevent pressure sores?  Any secrets?

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

You Can’t Get AC Everywhere: How I Stay Cool

Staying cool is crazy hard when you can’t sweat. Not being able to sweat of course is a side-effect of living with paralysis. One of the worst, actually, but this entry isn’t a pity party entry. Not today, my friends. This entry is all about finding solutions. The solution-finder. That should be my middle name.

I don’t care where you’re at – in your van, car, stuck in bed with a broke AC unit,maybe you’re outside at a music festival and shade is no where to be found. Here are my favorite ways to stay cool.

Sun shade

Southern belles had the right idea when they, and the ladies before them for centuries on back, used a sun umbrella to keep their fair skin as white as snow. That gave me an idea after visiting the local Renaissance fair, and my sun shade has been my last ditch go-to cooling method when finding shade is otherwise impossible. And gosh do they work quite well.

– Sun Parasols

Of course snagging one is a light color is a good idea. Mine is red and works good, but white would be much better. As for holding the darn thing while driving; that isn’t always easy. If you have a hard time holding a sun shade as you drive or push your chair, here’s a cool wheelchair umbrella-holder to consider

– Paraplis Umbrella Holder for Wheelchairs

Battery-powered fan w/ mister

Manually fanning yourself is so pre-Edison. Embrace electricity in the shape of a battery-power personal misting fan. I can’t fan myself too long without getting a tired arm and last year after the AC in my van broke, I turned to one of these as a way to keep myself cool upon arrival to my destination (setting it up to spray/mist me as I drive is still something I’d still love to figure out).

This product is one of the most fabulous cooling devices to be invented in recent years. As you know, sweat helps the body cool by coming into contact with air, and this mister pretty much does exactly that. Of course the batteries need to get replaced frequently if you use it a lot, but the thing works good. Every person out there with sweating issues should get one of these in their first-aid kit, stat.

– O2 Cool

Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist

I first came upon this magical stuff a couple years ago when I was in Denver, CO on a road trip. I was all blistery red from the extreme sun exposure which is common in high-elevation cities (learned the hard way!) and my sunscreen had run out. So I was in Target for a pit-stop, and I found Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist SPF 70.

The “cooling mist” intrigued me and boy was I pleasantly surprised. This stuff cooled my skin the second I sprayed it on, and it lingers. It really is a great thing to have if you’ve been burned and need a quick way to cool off.

– Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist SPF70

Gatorade

I know some people may think Gatorade is reserved for the athletes and the wanna-be Michael Jordan’s of the world, but there is healing power in them there electrolytes, and you can only get them in liquid form with Gatorade, well easily at least. Electrolytes are what your body needs if it’s overheating and needs to rehydrate asap, which btw is kinda essential to staying cool.

There are a million Gatorade flavors out there, but beware – not all of them are great; not by a long shot. But my favorites are Ice Blue, Grape and Strawberry. When summer hits, I make sure to keep a thing of Gatorade both in my fridge and in my van at all times. You just can’t be too safe. Messing around with possible heat strokes is no joke.

– Gatorade

The intense hot days look like they’re here to stay, which means your “stay cool” arsenal is just as important as your zombie and end-of-the-world arsenals. Be safe this summer, kids. I had a few close calls last summer and it was so scary stuff. Oh and remember when in a pinch, a cup of cold water over the head does the trick too.

How do you stay cool?

Photo courtesy of G. Briem

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