Haste Makes Waste

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If you’re reading this as a SCI survivor or family member, you understand that everything, I mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G, takes longer to do than it used to. If you’re able bodied in how you move about, here is an insight for you into our world and a reason for you to count your blessings. Given limited time in a day, it is only logical that I work to streamline or use as few steps as are necessary in everything I do. However, my Dad’s adage haste makes waste comes back to haunt me.

Want to hear some of the problems I’ve gotten myself into? Some are embarrassing but I share to remind myself and to warn others of the risks.

  • One day it had been raining and my ramp was wet from our earlier stop. We arrived for a brunch at a new venue and finally found a parking spot with an opening on the correct side of the van so I could lower and exit the ramp safely. Feeling like we were in a bit of a hurry, I didn’t make sure my feet were both still on the footrest and also neglected to hook my left elbow around the handle located behind my left shoulder designed for someone to push. I started down the ramp, and it seemed we had a perfect storm. Whether it was the wet ramp, the toe of my shoe skidding down, or my body not hooked and secured into place, but my wheelchair slowed and my body kept going. I quickly found myself lying on the floor of the parking lot at the foot of my van’s ramp. Thankfully my husband was right there and has the strength to lift me back into the WC. Haste makes waste.
  • One day we arrived back in our condo parking lot and I decided to quickly release my seatbelt, unhook the security hooks in the van floor, turn 90* to exit the van, and be ready to go as soon as the car stopped and ramp was lowered. I was even feeling a bit smug for ‘beating the clock’ on this series of maneuvers. Imagine my shock when I looked down to watch the ramp’s final decline and noticed my feet. They had slipped off the footrest and were positioned IN the exit opening. I was horrified to see the ramp make its final decent where the top end of the ramp locks snuggly over the van floor. By this time, my shoe toes were being squeezed under the metal ramp. It’s as scared as I’ve been. Of course, I couldn’t feel my toes, and I envisioned crushed bones. I just knew once I got upstairs and removed my shoes, there would be blood pooled inside and I’d have toes that would need immediate attention by highly trained medical staff. While still in the car, I had automatically yelled to stop the ramp’s descent but pushing that button by my husband, of course, couldn’t do a thing to stop it. Using self-talk, calmly as I could, I headed upstairs, noting and thankful I wasn’t leaving a trail of blood. Ok, maybe only the ends of my toes had been damaged. Once I got upstairs, I could have cried with relief. You should know that the shoes SCI people buy need to be half to a full size larger than before. The shoes I was wearing (purchased post-accident) were large enough that the rounded, rubber ends that had been crushed only held open space, not my toes! Well, that’s a rushing mistake I’ll never make again. I now leave ample room between my feet and the ramp that will be lowered and always glance down for a visual on my feet.
  • Some wastes, thankfully, aren’t quite that dramatic, just frustrating. Thanks again to the SCI, my digestive system is a bit touchy. I’ve learned that my most reliable yet delicious breakfast is a bowl of steel cut oatmeal. My dear husband, who does the lion’s share of grocery shopping, happened on a 3-minute “quick” variety that I could cook in the microwave. I bought a safe microwave dish for this. By safe, read: light weight, large enough to prevent boil-overs, handles, lid that ‘locks’, and vents for safely draining. My sisters had helped me reorganize the kitchen so the items I need are low and within arms’ reach. Ok, picture me rolling to get out all the needed utensils and ingredients. When I went to grab the (heavy) oatmeal box, I lifted it but not slowly and carefully enough. (Haste) It slipped from my outstretched right fingers and thudded to the floor. Pause. (Waste) Can you picture the next step? Of course, the cover is off, lying next to an overturned cylindrical oatmeal box, with dry, lightweight, granular oatmeal in a heap. Ok, now think what you’d do. Pause. Nope, I can’t go get a broom and dustpan. Nope, I can’t drop to the floor to scoop up what’s there. Nope, I can’t go grab a vacuum. My only recourse was to get out the wastebasket, a piece of stiff cardboard, a spoon, and a small flat-edge device. Let’s just say that the cleanup was a slow process with many repeated moves. The worst part is that I didn’t do this once, but twice. Argh! These days I am REALLY cautious to get a firm grip on that oatmeal box.
  • The worst was the time that I got up during the night to use the bathroom. Upon careful reflection, there are three steps I might have short-circuited; I’m just not sure. Bottom line, it was dark and I had a controlled fall from the height of 24” (bed and wheelchair seat height). I was holding my transfer board and the far wheelchair arm as I transferred and felt myself go down to the floor. I broke my femur but it took 4 days to realize something was wrong and a week to realize there was a broken bone that needed treatment. I’ve been transferring for a couple years so it shouldn’t have been a problem. But, once again, any action not extremely cautiously executed can be dangerous. Haste makes waste.
  • Driving: I’m beginning to feel like the hand control for acceleration and braking is becoming automatic. Thankfully. But, the wheelchair I carefully position to get ONTO the driver’s seat MUST be in the same position at my destination in order for me to get OUT of the drivers’ seat. Any quick acceleration, sharp turn, or very firm braking can tip the chair backwards or shuffle it out of position. I’ve found that if I leave the transfer board on the wheelchair, it can slip off the chair or exacerbate the chair’s movement. So, another step – sliding the transfer board into the magazine pouch built into the back of the passenger seat. I also need to securely lock both wheels to help keep the chair in place. Guess how I learned I needed the extra step of sliding the board into the seatback pouch? On occasion I also forgot to lock BOTH wheels. Thankfully in both situations, there were people at my destination that I could call out to for some help once the ramp was lowered. Any haste in the steps makes waste.
  • There are countless times I have tried to open a door, drawer, appliance, or go through a doorway without making all the adjustments and checks before that move. Bang. Think of a three-point turn in your car. A three-point adjustment to my positioning would be ‘short.’ In order to get close to a wall or cabinet, I roll forward and back repeatedly in short, narrow, angled adjustments to get close enough to minimize damage from banging, scratching, or gouging surfaces.

So, the haste makes waste adage from my Dad is a daily reminder to just plain accept the extended time I need for everyday tasks. I’m thankful that I CAN make these adjustments in my own wheelchair and have good use of hands and arms to help maintain the independence I do enjoy. Appreciate your own blessings of mobility.

Shalom, Collenes

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