One might wonder as to what is so unusual for a person to use a wheelchair at any airport; often these are people who are sick, old or unable to walk due to fractures or disability. For me it was scary, challenging and full of apprehension. That’s because I have been a patient of Parkinson disease for the last ten to twelve years.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder caused by degeneration of brain cells and is a progressive disease which leads to chronic disabilities of movements such as slowness, tremors, drooping rigidity called Bradyskinesia and Dyskinesia which cause involuntary movements etc.
To come to the subject, my Parkinsonism had progressed and I often had dyskinesia, so by the time I had reached Mumbai airport (to catch my Bangalore flight) I had started having symptoms of the same. I was travelling alone to Bangalore airport. Previously I had to ask for an escort when travelling alone. The escort usually absconded not thinking that I needed any help.
I realised that due to my dyskinesia I may fall and hurt myself or the clumsiness may make things awkward for me. So at the ticket counter, I requested for a wheelchair. But when the escort with the wheelchair arrived and asked me to sit; reality stuck me; that I had reached the stage when perforce I would require this vehicle not only at the airport, but at many other places too. Lots of thoughts invaded my mind and for a few seconds I was oblivious to where I was until the escort had asked me again to sit. I recovered and sat on it so clumsily that one had to see it to believe it and at the same time I realised that people were looking at me with puzzlement , curiosity as they must have thought as to why this lady who was walking normally had to resort to a wheelchair. You see till that time I was not shaking and fumbling, my involuntary movements due to dyskinesia had not become too obvious.
Well, I got a grip on my thoughts and said to myself, what the heck; this had to happen one day. Why should I feel awkward and pity myself? What is there is there; I am not a freak. Then things became easier to handle. At one time; when I realised my escort trying to peep inside my purse; I looked up and just glared at him- giving the message loud and clear –Look young man, I may look disabled and demented ; don’t try to act smart and get a false impression.
The fellow got the message and then onwards it was a smooth ride. I quite enjoyed and felt privileged as I did not have to stand in the queue. Along came another fellow traveller in his chariot i.e. a wheelchair. I immediately started conversing with him. We exchanged the cause of our individual problems. By this time my involuntary movements did increase and the same people who looked with puzzlement when I had stepped into the wheelchair, glanced at me with sympathy and pity. I could well read their thoughts “how sad poor thing.” “She is not normal and it looks as if she has lost it in her head.”In other words, I did look demented. But by this time, I did not care and even looked at them and smiled. It even crossed my mind to wink at some but controlled myself.
In the aircraft, things went off well. By the time I reached Bangalore, my dykinesic movements had decreased and I told the air-hostess to give the wheelchair to my co-passengers who needed it more. My only request was to provide me an escort to help me with my luggage etc. My son had come to pick me up. By the way I should mention here that there was new puzzlement on the faces of my co-passengers. Surely they wondered, “What’s with this lady, first she resorts to wheelchair and looks demented and then now she walks quite normally and does look normal.”
Well my dear friend, this is what happens to a Parkinson patient. If they could understand how difficult things become and it is even more agonising and traumatic it is to deal with them. It was also not an easy experience for me, but I am glad that God gave me the strength to bear it like a fighter. To say the least, I patted myself for my courage in handling this wheelchair experience without much self pity and fear. I always believe in the motto that “God helps these who help themselves”
I narrated my whole ordeal to my son on the way home. I am sure he also must have felt proud of me.