I Am Not a Burden… A Response to Dave Ryan
On April 17, 2017 Dave Ryan and his other radio hosts were talking about the oldest women in the world. In this conversation, Dave mentions how he wants to live a long life but only if he’s healthy. He then proceeds to say that he would not want to live if he had to be pushed around in his wheelchair and had to be a burden on his family (please click on link above, the segment starts at about 12 minutes and eight seconds).
I specifically waited over 24 hours before responding because I realize that with the politically correct world we live in it is so easy to scrutinize everything that is said. I try not to get offended and try to see the other person’s side. Yet, after 24 hours these words still bother me as I realize the influence that Dave Ryan has on thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people along with the mindset that he has about the possibility of being disabled. I realize that some may think I’m overreacting, but I am always telling people that we are to be the change and so if I sit back and say nothing change will never happen.
So to Dave Ryan and his radio hosts I would like to share a little bit about my story and why I am writing. Almost 20 years ago, November 11, 1997 to be exact, I fell through an open trap door, while I was rehearsing for my high school’s theater production, “The Wizard of Oz.” Upon landing 16 feet below the stage, I broke my C 5th vertebrae in my neck and I severely crushed my spinal cord. I would never walk again and would be paralyzed from the chest down. Prior to this happening, I had the same thoughts as you. If I’m not healthy, able-bodied, and able to care for myself I wouldn’t want to live.
However today in this 20-year journey, I absolutely love my life even though I am a C-5 quadriplegic. I have since the accident, received two bachelor’s degrees, learned how to drive, built my own home, was crowned Ms. wheelchair USA 2012, wrote my first book along with almost now finishing my second, and married the love of my life in 2013 (yes, he chose me with having a disability and the possibility of being a burden). Today, I am an inspirational speaker traveling all across the country sharing my story with schools, conferences, and organizations. In listening to your words yesterday, I was heartbroken at how flippantly the words were shared that you would not want to be a burden on your family. With my injury, I have learned to be very independent, however I still need caregivers to come in four hours a day when I’m not traveling and need a full-time caregiver when we are on the road. When a caregiver is not available to travel with us, my husband cares for me. He finds this a joy, and not a burden.
The concern in your words that came out in your conversation yesterday is that the suicide rates are skyrocketing in the elderly population… Actually, they are skyrocketing in every age bracket. Your words give permission to those that do not have perfect health, and may need care from others, to see their life as not being valuable… To be discarded. Today, I am so thankful that I did not give up when I had my accident. I’m so thankful that I held on to see that even though I sit in a wheelchair, with no feeling in three fourths of my body, with very limited movement and need cares daily from others, that my life is worth living. I would love to have a dialogue with you on your show to share why today I am thankful my accident happened and would not go back if I had the opportunity. I also know many elderly people who have this same viewpoint and are thankful that they are alive even in their old age and needing help from others. I think this world needs to know the value of life and the awful stigma of disability/aging needs to be overcome. Because Dave Ryan, even if you may be in a wheelchair someday, I think you would also see that life is still worth living… That you get to see your grandchildren being raised, that you get to see life from a different perspective and to learn what truly matters. I believe that you would see the words that you spoke yesterday were out of fear and out of ignorance… And that you would be glad that you are alive.