My name is Jonna and at the time of this story, I'm 15. Ever since I was a little girl, I've been fascinated by all kinds of wheelchairs, more specifically, sitting in one. However, the likelihood of me being able to fulfil that desire seemed as distant as the moon, until one day I went to see Francis, a distant cousin of mine, who, through connections, was able to make it happen.
The car stopped outside Francis’s house and I got out, and waved “Good Bye” to my father. I went and rung the door bell and the door almost immediately opened and cousin Francis, a middle-aged, average-sized, boisterous woman with lots of frizzy red hair, gave me a real bear-hug.
“Welcome, my dear,” she hollered, “come in, come in!”
I put my suit-case on the floor, but just as I was about to close the door, a couple of kids, around about my age, came down the street in their wheel-chairs, pushed by their helpers, as the kids seemed to be completely paralyzed.
I took a deep breath, closed the door, and turned around, only to find Francis looking at me, with a compassionate look in her eyes.
“What?” I blurted out.
“Oh, nothing that can’t wait till later,” she replied, sighed and shook her head.
We spent a pleasant afternoon and evening, just eating, drinking, and thoroughly getting to know each other. Towards the end of it, Francis seemed to have gathered enough courage to ask:
“Those two kids that went by the house when you arrived,” she tentatively asked.
“Yea; What about them?”
“You seemed to be fascinated by them?” I studied her face for a while to see if I could detect any sign of ridicule, before answering.
Not detecting any, I replied: “Yea; suppose I was. Both they and their wheelchairs caught my attention.” And then I took a deep breath, before going on to tell her about my childhood fantasy of being forced to sit in a wheelchair, not being able to move a muscle or take care of myself.
“A-ha, I see,” she said, when I had finished. “What would you say, if I told you I could make that fantasy come true, already tomorrow?”
“I’d say: I’ll believe it when I see it!”
“That almost sounds like bet to me.” Francis smiled, and her eyes glowed. “And it’s a bet I’m willing to accept! Be ready to leave early tomorrow morning. We have some things to take care of, before lunch.”
Francis woke me up at 7, holding a diaper in her hands. She let me use the bathroom, before telling me to lie on my back on the bed. She put the diaper on, and told me I always had to wear one from now on, before helping me get dressed and feed me breakfast, (someone who’s paralyzed can’t very well get dressed or eat by herself now, can she?) made a couple of phone-calls and then, just before 10, we climbed into her van, and took off.
The first stop we made was at an old friend of hers, where we were shown a wheelchair, with a head-rest. The back-rest was tilted slightly backwards, and when I sat down in it, and it fit me almost perfectly right away. When a few extra pillows had been added to the sides, and the head-rest had been put at its’ lowest setting, it was perfect.
There were padded straps on the head-rest, the extra wide arm-rests, which were also padded, at waist level, and on the tubes connecting the seat to the foot-rests. My head, wrists, waist and ankles were strapped in. I was wheeled back in the van, and the chair was secured to the floor in back with industrial-strength straps, which had been cleared of seats. Francis went back in and talked to her friend for a couple of minutes, before coming back out carrying a box and pushing a lifting-devise, all of which she put in the back beside me.
“Right,” she said, turning around to face me, “we are going down to the mall, because I have to buy some things. Here’s what I’m going to tell anyone who’s asking about you: you have had a life-threatening illness, after which you’ve lost your ability to speak, and all muscle-control. That means you are not able to move any part of your body, except your eyes and your head, but only for a tiny bit. If you have to answer a question, you do it by looking up for “yes”, and to your right for “no”.
When we eat, I will feed you a soup that isn’t too watery or soft fish or meat and vegetables that can be mashed, or at least cut into very small pieces.
I borrowed this lift because I am not about to manually lift you out of, and into that chair, more than is strictly necessary. In the box are straps to use in the lift and in the bed. Yes, I will strap you to your bed tonight, for the same reason I will have to feed you; people who are completely paralyzed can’t move about in bed.
Tomorrow we can talk about your future. I will then ask you this; do you want to continue being “paralyzed”, or not. If you do: for how long: a week; a month; a year; forever?
Please think these questions over very carefully, as some of them will have an effect on how you will live the rest of you life!
Have you understood everything I’ve said so far?”
I looked up at the ceiling, and she smiled.
“That’s good,” she said, “you’re already in character. Don’t let it slip!” I turned my eyes to the right.
The next morning, Francis came in and woke me quite early; well, for me; anything before 10.30 was early as far as I was concerned back then.
She released my wrists and ankles which had been put in straps, fastened to the sides of my bed. When she had, she waited, silently, for a few moments to see if I was going to get out of bed by myself. When I didn’t move a muscle, she smiled, went to the bathroom where she got a bowl of lukewarm water, a bottle of non-allergenic soap, a wash-cloth, and a towel. She began rinsing my whole body, paying extra attention to the area between my legs. When she had dried me off, she put a fresh diaper on, before getting me into the rest of my clothes. She put the lift-straps behind my back and, using the floor-lift, transferred me to my chair. She secured my limbs, my head, and my waist to it, before taking the lift-straps away.
When we sat at the table, and she fed me my breakfast, she put one foot on the back-wheel of my chair, looked at me, and said:
“So you want to continue living like this?” I turned my eyes upwards.
She took a deep breath. “Right, the second thing I want to know is for how long. Do you want it to last for a week?” I turned my eyes to the right.”No,” she established,” somehow, I didn’t think so.” When she asked me if I wanted it to last for a month or a year, I stubbornly looked to my right. “Forever, then,” she rather superfluously concluded. “I guess I’m going to have to call your parents sometime today, to let them know they sent me a perfectly healthy daughter, but she will return in a wheel-chair, completely unable to take care of herself. That’s going to be a fun conversation!” she grinned down at me, and I turned the corners of my mouth upwards just a little bit in my otherwise motionless face.