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My schedule aligned with Beth's since she couldn’t drive places independently with her wheelchair. After she achieved what I thought was impossible and swam forward in the pool, I worried less about disappointments she might face. Her confidence grew, along with her ability to push herself.
Before Beth's junior year of high school ended, I drove three seventeen- year- old girls to physics day at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. The sprawling amusement park filled with teenagers on a weekday. Beth and her friends decided to try a few roller coasters. They skipped the long lines for the rides to take their places at the front, joking about the perks of disability. They worked on their physics assignment and bypassed the rides that didn’t have enough physical support for a teenager with quadriplegia.
We watched the Iron Dragon coaster and deemed it safe.
Legs would dangle, but with a relatively smooth ride. Metal bars held the body in place securely. However, the Iron Dragon had no elevator and several flights up. I dragged the wheelchair up, rolling it on the steps for stability, with Beth facing down. She wrapped her arms around the back to stay in place. Two friends each grabbed a metal rod by her legs for back-up.
When we arrived at the top, lifting Beth into the tight seat of the ride was much harder than we expected, even with extra help. I suggested we stop and go back to the wheelchair, but she wanted to continue. The fast pace of the assembly line stopped and people stared. Disheartened, I stepped back out of the way as the girls zoomed off.
I wondered if our risk assessment was accurate.
In no time at all, the girls flew back to the starting point and stayed put in the cars for another round. Beth gave me the thumbs up so I didn’t worry as much the second time. I should have stressed more about the narrow steps going down that were packed with people. Down the flights was not easier since the stairs were narrow and crowded with people. At one point, we made the mistake of lifting the chair wheels high off the concrete to try to get around other people, making it more precarious with a tilted chair (and a tilted Beth). Crazy. We were lucky she didn't fall. After that, we unanimously agreed to avoid stairs altogether for the rest of the day.
When the heat of the day kept rising, my daughter looked pale and didn’t refuse Tylenol to bring her fever down. The girls found cold drinks and air conditioning in a restaurant, followed by an arcade. Beth never allowed hot weather to stop her plans and adventures.
Just ahead: a nonstop summer!
A mom with a story
to share about injuries that never heal and fortunate accidents. About guilt, disability, perspectives, and unexpected adventure.