Hello Nicole - April 2001

Hi Nicole,

My disabled son has reached his teenage years and is getting too big for me to transfer him from a wheelchair to the toilet. The OT told us we’ll have to start using a hoist from the bed each time. To be perfectly honest, the sight of the hoist gave me the shivers and I hate the thought of swinging him along with his bottom hanging out. I know the problem is probably mine, but the lack of dignity made me want to cry. Any help or advice you can give me would be brilliant.

Thanks, Mom

Dear Mom,

It’s wonderful that you are giving your son’s feelings a lot of thought in this matter. I’m sure this strange contraption is especially difficult for a teen who is naturally very self conscious about wanting to “fit in” and be like everyone else.

I remember when the sight of a bunch of wheelchairs in a medical supply store made me shiver! I just wasn’t used to wheelchairs at the time and all the associations I had with them were “cold” (i.e. hospital, nursing home, institution, etc). Of course nowadays wheelchairs are a normal and natural part of life for me and I no longer have my negative associations. I think we all go through an accustoming process with any new piece of medical equipment or device before we become comfortable having it around.

I don’t think you are the only one who would hate the thought of being swung along with your bare bottom hanging out. Some of the necessary aspects of disabled life can be difficult to accept, especially when they seem so far out of the “norm” of what people are usually asked to put up with. I think the first part of helping your son have a healthy attitude about the hoist lift is to affirm that it is a strange contraption that would be uncomfortable for anyone. This will help him see that he doesn’t have to hide his feelings from you, that you understand him, and that his feelings about the lift are not different than anyone else’s might be. At the same time, it’s important that you keep the situation light and not get bogged down or overly serious about your combined discomfort. Humor is a great way to lesson the seriousness of an uncomfortable circumstance and make it more bearable. Of course, I don’t mean you should humor your son, as in belittle his feelings or make fun of him, but just to make light of the whole situation. For example, people use humor all the time to help cope with uncomfortable medical procedures (i.e. gynecology, prostate checks, mammograms). It sounds like this lift is something your son may need to use for quite a while, so it’s good to start off having his experiences with the hoist as positive and fun as possible.

Further, I think it’s important to examine our definition and standards of dignity. Dignity means the quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect; true worth. I think we forget that dignity comes from deep within us and is an unshakable state of being comfortable and at peace with who we are. Our society is so full of false ideals and materialistic values that very few of us have a solid sense of personal dignity. Does being swung along with your bottom hanging out affect your true worth? Does it affect your ability to be worthy of esteem or respect? Obviously not. Yet, almost anyone would find the experience (at least until they became accustomed to it) somewhat degrading. Often when we feel degraded what is really happening is that a superficial situation is bringing to the surface deeper feelings of shame and insecurity around our sense of personal dignity.

By affirming your son’s discomfort with the situation yet making light fun of it, you can use this difficult opportunity to foster a truer sense of dignity in your son. You can help him see that these “little things” are not important and do not define his worth. In this way, you can lead him toward a deeper and more solid understanding of dignity that will stay with him for life.

— Nicole

 Dear Nicole,

Thanks for a good, unbiased answer on alternative health (Dec 2000 issue). I have been helped significantly though the use of alternative medicine, while conventional medicine caused me many health problems. Here are some ideas for free or low-cost alternative medicine options: Free Qigong healings on Monday and Thursday evenings from two healers at Turtle Island/Three Rivers Crossings Clinic (651-291-7772). Lake Harriet Community Church (44th and Upton Ave S, Mpls — NOT wheelchair accessible) offers free Reiki healings 7-9pm on Wednesday evenings. For sliding fee options and referrals to good alternative providers, try the Minnesota Natural Health Coalition (612-721-3305) or DAMS Inc. (1-800-316-6265).

Sincerely, Member of Chemical Injury Resource Association of Minnesota

Nicole’s additional resource: Relying On Joy psychic services offers sliding-fee healings and readings www.relyingonjoy.com or 612-970-4048)