I Went For a Drive

Until recently, I hadn’t been in a car for at least five years. The last time, I was so severely sick that a crew of paramedics had to put me on a gurney and wheel me into the back of an ambulance under the cover of darkness because I was so sensitive to light. They transported me to my mom’s house on top of a mountain in the Sierra foothills, where I’ve been living the last several years. I wrote about the experience in my memoir, When Force Meets Fate:

I’m put on the gurney and into the back of the ambulance. Sasha holds my hand while she awkwardly crouches next to me. From the driver’s seat, I hear the voice of the same driver from the ambulance ride I took back in June. Then I feel the paramedic’s hands wrap a blood pressure cuff around my arm. The ambulance takes us up several steep mountain roads, and we get lost a few times, but eventually arrive at the new house perched atop a mountain ridge overlooking the Central Valley. I have no idea what the new house or its view look like, but apparently they’re both pretty great. When the paramedic wheels me onto the deck, I hear him say, “Wow, look at that view.” The only view I can see is a ceiling as I’m shoveled onto my new bed.

This latest trip wasn’t as bad, but it was still difficult. The preparation began two years ago, when we had a concrete ramp built from the front deck of the house to the gravel driveway. But the driveway was so steep, we couldn’t decide how to design the ramp. We could have built it to disability standards, but that would have meant making switchbacks and possibly not leaving enough room to park the car in the driveway. So, in the end, we decided to go with a steeper, L-shaped ramp.

Next, I had to get to the deck, which, if you’ve been reading my blog lately, you know I did gradually as I began to walk again.

Getting to the deck was only half the journey. At that point, my mom decided to buy a van that would be easier for me to transfer into and provide a smoother ride once I was inside. My aunt and uncle were nice enough to deliver the van from the Bay Area. But once we got it, I still had to figure out how to get up the ramp and into the van.

I sat outside in my wheelchair and strategized. Then I tried using my power wheelchair, but despite its all-terrain features, it didn’t have enough power. I got about halfway up the ramp before the motor gave out and I almost tipped backward. I leaned forward and grabbed onto the fence post to keep myself from falling, gouging my hand on the sharp edge.

Things weren’t going well, so I tried another idea. Triple digit temperatures and wild fire smoke filled the air, so I waited for a cool night with less smoke, then I got into my larger, non-electric wheelchair, and my mom used her superhuman strength to pull me up the ramp. I was able to transfer into the van, but I was too exhausted to go for a drive.

Music: “Remember” – iksonmusic

After the trial run, I decided to wait a few days before trying again, mainly because it was still hot and smoky outside. I wanted to do it on a cooler, clearer day, at dusk, so I could see the views while we were driving. Finally, after months (years really) of waiting, I got to go for a drive.

Music: “Take it” – LiQWYD

We drove around the neighborhood for a few minutes, but there were LOTS of steep hills (the downhills gave me vertigo and the uphills made me car sick). I was ready to go home. But before I went back inside the house, I lay in the van for a while, looking up at the vast, clear sky above.

I was tired when I returned to my bed, but I didn’t crash too hard and recovered fairly quickly the next day. As I lay in bed recovering, I thought about how far I had come, what it took to get to this point in my recovery, and how there were times when I couldn’t even imagine riding in a car again. But that’s the wonderful thing about recovering from illness, it happens in ways you often don’t expect, and when it does, you appreciate it that much more.

BEFORE YOU GO . . .

1. My memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE recently won an IndieReader Discovery Award for best nonfiction. If you’d like to support the book (and this blog), please order a copy and leave it a review on Amazon. The book is available from:

US: AmazonAppleTargetBarnes and NobleGoogle PlayBooksAMillionBook Depository(ships worldwide for free!), IndieboundBookShop.

2. The audiobook is also available on all platforms, including Audible!

3. You can also support my blog by donating directly.

Up In Smoke

The last time I went outside I wasn’t sure if I could get back in. The smoke in the air was 500 on the AQI meter (literally the highest it goes). It burned my lungs and throat. I was dizzy and disoriented, weak and sick to my stomach. It was like smoking some bad weed, hot boxing a car, except I didn’t get high, and the car was the entire outdoors.

Most of the west coast has experienced smoke and haze this summer. But some places have had it worse than others and, unfortunately, I live in one of the most smoke-filled areas—the Sierras. The Dixie Fire, Beckwourth Complex Fire, and Caldor Fire, have burned hundreds of thousands of acres and sent giant, pluming clouds of smoke into the air.

The worst part about the smoke is not that it keeps me from going outside, though, that is extremely frustrating since my health has improved, recently allowing me to walk outside for the first time in several years. No, the worst part is that the air quality has been so bad inside, making it hard to breathe nearly all the time.

I’ve been running two heavy-duty air purifiers, along with a humidifier to reduce smoke particles, and wearing a wet mask inside to further limit the particles. But even with these precautions, the smoke still gets in my lungs. It makes my eyes burn, my lungs wheeze, my sinuses congested, and gives me migraines.

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With all this in mind, I now realize that I need to find a new place to live, a healthier place with the cleanest air I can find within the radius I’m able to travel.

I recently posted about this on social media and a lot of people mentioned that nowhere in California, particularly the Bay Area, is untouched by the smoke. And while this may be true, smoke is a constant issue where I live. Even during the winter, the air here is clouded by smoke from burn piles, camp fires, and chimneys. Breathing in smoke, looking outside and seeing a thick haze blanketing the valleys and roads has become a way of life, a way of life that I need to escape if I want my health to improve. Also, it would be nice to sit outside and see blue sky again, to breathe fresh air.

So, I need to move to a healthier area, which will almost certainly be a more expensive area. I also need transportation—a van that is either wheelchair-accessible or one that I can lie in comfortably for several hours (I still don’t know how my body will handle this).

The problem is I don’t have the money for these things. One way to help pay for them is to monetize my blog, something I’ve resisted doing over the last several years, mostly because I hate ads. And I know other people hate ads. But I may have to do this, so I sincerely apologize if there are any ads for dick pills or links to “10 Botched Celebrity Plastic Surgeries.”

Reader contributions also help. If you find my writing useful and enjoy reading it, please chip in so I can be compensated for the time and energy I put into my blog, and so I can find a healthier place to live. I would be grateful!

I will keep you updated on my search for a new place to live. Hopefully I can figure something out by next summer.

Other ways to support this blog . . .

1. Order my memoir! WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE recently won an IndieReader Discovery Award for best nonfiction. If you’d like to support the book (and this blog), please order a copy and leave it a review on Amazon. The book is available from:

US: AmazonAppleTargetBarnes and NobleGoogle PlayBooksAMillionBook Depository(ships worldwide for free!), IndieboundBookShop.

2. The audiobook is also available on all platforms, including Audible!

3. You can also support my blog by donating directly.

Back to Normal (But Not Really)

A stadium filled with fans. A restaurant packed with people. A store swarmed by shoppers. Until recently, these things were mostly nonexistent during the pandemic. But now that people are getting vaccinated, places are opening up and people are venturing out in public again. Except not everyone.

I’ve been housebound (often bed bound) for the last decade. That’s ten years of missing out on baseball games, meals at restaurants, and shopping at stores. Then the pandemic hit and, for a brief moment, everyone felt some degree of that same isolation. Suddenly, people had to rely on remote communication, using their phones and other devices instead of meeting in person. They had to eat all their meals at home, and go months without seeing friends and loved ones. For them, it was a big adjustment—a new, more difficult way of life. For me, and disabled people like me, it was more of the same. It did, however, make me feel less alone knowing that literally billions of people around the world were experiencing a similar existence to the one I had been living for the last decade.

I didn’t enjoy seeing these people suffer, but as they say, misery enjoys company. And, I must admit, my misery did enjoy their company. Call it selfish or solidarity, it was comforting to have that kind of a shared experience.

But now that things are returning to normal (that’s a general sense of normal, not my sense of normal), I’m left with an even bigger void of knowing that all the people who were united with me are now uniting in a different way, leaving my way of life behind. They are going out in public again, enjoying each other’s company, while I’m still housebound, still fearful of getting a secondary illness, which, paired with my existing condition, could send my fragile health into a tailspin.

While I’m still wearing a mask, taking the necessary precautions to avoid getting such an illness, many people are returning to life as they knew it before the pandemic. After all, some people find that the easiest way to cope with a difficult problem is to pretend it doesn’t exist. But such thinking doesn’t usually end well (just look at Typhoid Mary).

In other words, there is a direct correlation between people returning to their normal lives and an uptick in COVID cases in the last several weeks. There are other factors, of course, like large numbers of unvaccinated people and the Delta variant being more contagious, but we could keep the cases low if everyone took the necessary precautions.

I say this not so my misery enjoys company a little longer, but as a logical solution to a reoccurring problem—wearing masks prevents infections. And also, my hope is that the number of cases will some day (hopefully soon) become low enough that, if my health continues to improve, as it has in the last several months, I will feel safe going out in public for the first time in a decade. And it’s not just me, there are millions of sick and disabled people who are holed up in their homes right now, still waiting out the pandemic, hoping the infection rate decreases enough so that their compromised immune systems won’t be as much at risk. So, please, keep that mask on a little longer.

BEFORE YOU GO . . .

1. My memoir, WHEN FORCE MEETS FATE recently won an IndieReader Discovery Award for best nonfiction. If you’d like to support the book (and this blog), please order a copy and leave it a review on Amazon. The book is available from:

US: AmazonAppleTargetBarnes and NobleGoogle PlayBooksAMillionBook Depository(ships worldwide for free!), IndieboundBookShop.

2. The audiobook is also available on all platforms, including Audible!

3. You can also support my blog by donating directly.