30 Days in a Wheelchair

I have been a fan of Morgan Spurlock's for awhile, though not rabid enough to catch every show or appearance. But I was interested to see the episode of 30 days that had football player Ray Crockett spend 30 days in a wheelchair. I was interested to see how this would play out. I have read several articles from different members of the disabled online community that were outraged by disability simulation experiences held in schools or other groups. But I feel that this show made a good effort to stray away from the stereotypical simulation experience. For one thing, Ray's experience lasted a full month, which is at least 29 days longer than the average. This gave him a longer time to feel the effects of his situation on himself and his family, and gave him time to grow.

Another key point was that Ray was part of a community of legitimate wheelchair users. He played wheelchair rugby (with some of the most famous and skilled American players), worked with people at a rehab center, and had support from a counselor that has been a quadriplegic for several years. We weren't left with only Ray's opinions of what being in a wheelchair was like for him, and neither was he. Ray turned a corner after meeting the rugby team, and started lifting weights in his own gym again. I'm paraphrasing here, but he basically said that he had thought that since he was in a chair, he was supposed to be frail. If he hadn't met people living vibrant lives, he would have felt confined and isolated, and portrayed a very biased picture of what living in a wheelchair is like.

I liked Murderball, and I liked this show too. I thought it was very telling when Ray was sharing videos of his rugby sessions with his family and trying to correct some of their misconceptions about quadriplegics and disability in general. My mom has always had lots of friends in our community that have different disabilities, so I had a lot of experiences growing up with people who walked or talked differently, and I like to think that I learned to treat people equally and with respect at all times. But some people don't have those kind of experiences in their everyday life (or rather, haven't YET), and I feel that shows that are done well can provide a window into another world for those people. A window that allows someone to think: "huh. that person drives a car, goes to work, and spends time with his family just like I do. Maybe we're not so different after all."

Here's some of my random thoughts I had while watching the episode. There are videos of portions of the episode online here if you missed it.
  • One of the first people Ray gets to meet is Kenny the OT!! I was very excited.
  • The doctor talked to Ray about the risk for blood clots from being in a wheelchair, but didn't even give him a stinking pair of drugstore knockoff TED hose?
  • I found it both interesting and ironic that they chose a football player to be in a wheelchair, as they walk the line between athlete and injury everyday
  • The family has a very nice home that was obviously built with no thought to universal design. 5 steps to enter the house, sunken and raised rooms throughout, sunken shower, steps to the backyard... I wish they had time to touch on that concept, but it's only a 60 minute show.
  • Ray was lucky enough to have the cash to plunk down a bunch of ramps all over his poorly designed house, but if he's seriously interested in keeping his buddies from the show close, he better look into making the house visitable
  • I liked watching Ray playing basketball with his kids, it also demonstrates that he was an exceptionally strong person before the show. I played basketball for years and years, and hurt my ankle late in high school, keeping me from ankle plantar flexion but not from standing. I couldn't even shoot a form shot. Try sitting down on the court next time you're playing and see how much arm strength it really takes to push a ball over 10' in the air.
  • Woo! Justin Dart! I met him :)
  • After all the growing that Ray had done, he still admits that he would want to help the girl in rehab do her BADL and mobility tasks.
  • As the girl was 'graduating' from rehab, they did touch on how close the staff and patients can become when working so closely for so long. It's an odd relationship though, which I may have to go more in-depth in another time.


Karen said...

Hi Cheryl, Great blogging. Somehow I didn't have you in my feed but I do now. This sounds great, any way of getting the footage of this show online, do you know?

AOTA said...

Hi Cheryl, nice post! I wasnt able to find the entire episode online but hulu has an excerpt


also can you send me an email to sgonzales@aota.org I couldnt find a way to contact you

Cheryl said...

The little excerpt clips were all I could find, but the same site has posted the full miner episode, so maybe someday they will expand what's available. Couldn't find anything on the FX main site, surprisingly.

otbecca said...

Hi - I just came across your blog regarding the 30 days in a wheelchair - interesting. I have just graduated from OT school this May as a result of a life altering accident in which I was hit by a drunk driver breaking both legs in 25 places and spent 3 months in rehab and the following year in a wheelchair, and the following year with bilateral canadian crutchs, 6 months with 1 crutch and now no crutches or cane just a lot of arthritis and pain but I have a degree (and an amazing amount of knowledge)to now be able to help other people. It is a value to me to have had the experience that I had, as it has, and I believe will continue to add a depth to my career and practice that many others can never know. The 30 day experience to me can give someone an idea of what it is really like, but, I agree that his experiences with putting in ramps etc. is not a luxury afforded to so many people who find themselves in a wheelchair suddenly. Thanks for opening the discussion - I will look to see if I can watch the episode you reference.