Having spent this last month in a surgical sandal and with a cane, I have strived to use public transportation as much as I can. For me, this gives me a sense of normalcy while I am recovering. Sure, there have been plenty of rainy days this month and there were days when I was too exhausted or in too much pain to brave my "normal" commute. City life is great if you need a taxi or car service to help you get around. There is always one available.
Because I was raised to help those less fortunate or able than I, I used to feel the last thing the disabled needed was protection from the general able-bodied public. In later years, my mother became disabled with her osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. My father looks after her quite well, but I have also seen strangers offer her an extra hand when she needed it. I felt I would have no trouble experiencing these courtesies, myself.
As an autoimmune patient with osterarthritis and psoriatic arthritis, I felt with this surgery that going back to my office in the City would be no more difficult than how poorly my foot and body were feeling. I knew I'd have to take things slowly, let the crowd pass before me and take extra care on the stairs. I felt my cane would serve as a cloak of protection, a visual cue to others to steer clear of me, to take care when passing by and even to provide respite on the train when all the seats were full.
What I found was completely different. Over the last two weeks of commuting, I have had to use my cane to balance when folks nearly knocked me over on the train platform, I have had to stand still in a moving crowd of people above ground because they refused to walk single file and expected me to move out of their way and I have had to ask to be allowed to sit in the handicapped seat on the train, enduring more than one huffy response from the previous occupant. And this happened every day!
Seriously, folks???!!! I know some of y'all are thinking this is just what you would expect from New York City, but this place was not this rude before my surgery. Folks will offer a hand if you trip on the sidewalk.
Anyway, my experience has led to a deeper admiration for those who visit and live here with permanent disabilities. To those folks and to pregnant women: I apologize if I have ever failed to give up my seat on the train, was ever in too much of a hurry to steer clear of you when walking or failed to offer my help with curbs or packages.
In your life as an autoimmune patient, how can you relate? Feel free to leave a comment for me.