15 Minutes of Disability

Every Friday, I maintain a weekly habit of walking home from work; a six kilometer hike allowing me to catch up on podcasts and reflect on the week’s events. During summer this is an easy endeavour, the greatest challenge being the occasional throng of Bison football fans crowding the street on game days.

During winter however, the hour and a half walk takes on the unique challenges of the Manitoba climate, namely that it is very cold! Of course, as a life-long resident I dress appropriately; wearing an eye-catching military jacket that keeps me warm on the coldest of days.

Unfortunately, preparation creates complacency and having made the walk many times, I failed to notice that the insulation in my mitts was beginning to wear away, leaving my hands increasingly vulnerable to the cold.

A week ago I paid the price of complacency as I steadily lost feeling to my hands over the course of my journey home. Initially, I didn’t notice the cold as given my Carpal Tunnel, I commonly experience a certain degree of numbness in my fingers. It was only during the last thirty minutes of my walk that I began to notice something was wrong.

My hands were balled tightly into fists and I rubbed them against the mitt’s negligible insulation trying to maintain a sense of feeling. I continued walking as the rest of my body remained enclosed and warmed by my jacket, but I continued to fight a losing battle for neurological sovereignty over my fingers. Eventually, I realized I had to make a choice.

  1. Go into the nearest store/restaurant and warm up
  2. Tell my hands to take one for the team and push on

In hindsight, Option A was probably the right decision…but unfortunately I elected for Option B

It was only as I arrived home that the full consequences of Option B became apparent. After struggling fruitlessly for several minutes to retrieve my keys from my pocket, I finally opted to pound on the door, flailing my arms and head against it until my roommate came and opened the door.

The joys of not having a doorbell.

Once inside, it took me a full five minutes to remove by outdoor clothing. I had virtually no control over my fingers and was reduced to general clawing motions at my jacket and backpack, working around a pre-configured finger arrangement to remove my the layers of winter wear.

Following that, I spent another ten minutes struggling to perform seemingly simple tasks as feeling slowing returned to my hands. Tasks such as turning a bathroom doorknob became exercises in frustration, requiring two-hands and multiple tries to complete. I felt anger inside me as a clawed at the knob with both hands, eventually finding success through lodging the knob in the crux of my elbow and body-checking my way into the bathroom.

For fifteen minutes I experienced what I can only imagine those in the later stages of degenerative arthritis and carpal tunnel live with every day. Looking back, the experience was a humbling one. As feeling slowly returned to my fingers, I was overwhelmed with gratitude over having control over my extremities and regaining sovereignty over the simple tasks that make up daily life.

Though one day my Carpal Tunnel may degenerate into what I experienced on that cold winter night, I am grateful for the time that I have now. Time that I use to write, to create, and to give back; knowing that my fine motor-skills may be on a short-term lease

I have nothing but respect for those of all ages that deal with conditions of the wrists, back, legs, or any other extremity that adds an extra layer of challenges to daily tasks. Your efforts to pursue a life well-lived do not go unnoticed and it is my sincerest desire that you continue to work your way through each day, contributing to society and creating a better world for all of us.

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