By Gary Presley
In 1959, seventeen-year-old Gary Presley used to be status in line, donning his favourite cowboy boots and looking ahead to his ultimate inoculation of Salk vaccine. Seven days later, a foul headache triggered him to bypass basketball perform, inform his dad that he used to be too ailing to feed the calves, and stroll from barn to mattress with shaky, dizzying steps. He by no means walked back. by means of tomorrow, burning with the fever of polio, he was once mounted into the claustrophobic cocoon of the iron lung that may be his domestic for the following 3 months. Set one of the hardscrabble international of the Missouri Ozarks, hot with sarcasm and acerbic wit, his memoir tells the tale of his trip from the iron lung to existence in a wheelchair. Presley isn't any wheelchair hero, no inspiring determine preaching endurance and gratitude. a military brat grew to become farm child, newly arrived in a conservative rural neighborhood, he used to be immobilized prior to he may perhaps take the next move towards maturity. avoided, actually, from taking that subsequent step, he grew to become cranky and crabby, apprehensive and alienated, a rolling accountability crippled not only by way of polio yet by way of anger and melancholy, “a crip everywhere, beginning with the brain.” Slowly, although, regardless of the restrictions of navigating in an international ahead of the americans with Disabilities Act, he builds an autonomous existence. Now, virtually fifty years later, having tired wheelchair after wheelchair, survived post-polio syndrome, and married the girl of his goals, Gary has redefined himself as Gimp, extra able to act out than to talk up, ironic, perceptive, nonetheless cranky and illiberal yet extra accepting, extra capable of finding pleasure in his family members and his newfound faith. even though he detests pity, can spot condescension from miles away, and refuses to play the position of noble sufferer, he writes in a manner that elicits sympathy and realizing and laughter. by way of giving his readers the unromantic fact approximately existence in a wheelchair, he escapes stereotypes approximately individuals with disabilities and strikes towards a spot the place each person is irreplaceable.
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Additional info for Seven Wheelchairs: A Life beyond Polio
He had been closest to me in the hospital—in proximity, anyway—housed in the room adjoining mine. If he had been in an iron lung—I never asked, only assumed—he had progressed to a rocking bed before I became aware of my new place in the world. Sometimes during the weeks I still required the iron lung, in the quiet after evening visiting hours, an orderly would pull my great yellow beast into the hallway so that I could see into Keith’s room. We would talk, him dipping and rising on his rocking bed, me pattering to the rhythm of the lung.
Shamefully, I was still a callow teenager, and I occasionally found myself amused by some of their escapades. I also wanted to avoid being a target. I knew instinctively if I joined in, which in my case meant laughter or approving comments, I didn’t need to protect myself—a playground lesson that came in handy now that I couldn’t run away. | 46 | 11 Other than the orderlies, the two staff members I saw most were the physical therapist and the occupational therapist, the latter a profession I never knew existed before I went to Omaha.
All the respiratory devices, nevertheless, carried the ﬂaw of being mechanical not-me’s. All were lifelines tossed to me while I learned to | 42 | swim in the ocean of disability. All were gadgets that imposed their will upon me in the name of service. God bless them, one and all. While I wore the belt, and that was for a year or more, I dared not overeat. I dared not wait too long to empty my bladder. I sweat, burn, and chafe where it rubs me. It constricts. I react. It took but a few days before I found myself grateful for this odd and slightly violent process.