By Jeff Becraft
No Friday email yesterday… was taking my Dad to the cardiologist. It is my brother and sister-in-law who by far handle the brunt of taking care of my Mom and Dad, but I was already in town and my Dad started having serious blood pressure issues, a trip to the hospital, and now he had to go see his cardiologist.
With all the problems my Dad was having, my brother called the cardiologist office early yesterday morning and miraculously, they said they would work him in that day. His appointment was at 10:45. It was 9:45 at that point. Theresa, one of the caregivers, got Dad up, dressed and fed him while I loaded up the wheelchair in the car and got other things ready. When you are 95, there is no wolfing down a cheeseburger while you are going down the road… and so we did not leave at our projected time.
On the way there, we hit every red light imaginable and I called the office in route: “We are running behind and we will be a few minutes late.”
We pull into the parking lot at 10:47. There are no handicap spaces near the front door. The building is a 3-story, really long building with 3 or 4 sections to it. His doctor is in the far right section. There were no parking places near that section and so we had to park on the far left side of the building.
I thought, “No problem… we have the wheelchair and we’ll go in here, go up to the second floor, and motor down the hallway to the other side of the building… maybe even run over a few orange cones in the process.”
We go in the the building, go up the elevator… and discover… there is no hallway that connects to the other side of the building.
We go back down the elevator, go down the sidewalk, go up to the next main door and discover that once again, there is no interior hallway that connects to the other sections of the building.
There are no buttons on the wall to hit to make the doors go automatically open… and the doors open outward (which is good fire code). When people saw us struggling to get in, they would come and open the door for us.
I personally would like to nominate the architect of this building for a Nobel Peace Prize… because whoever is trying to enter this building would be so upset with that person, they wouldn’t be aggravated with anything else going on in the world.
I now decide we are going to just go all the way around the building on the sidewalk when we come across a car who has pulled too far forward and its bumper is extending out too far for us to pass on the narrow sidewalk.
I then have to go around these bushes and cut through the grass, which sounds like an easy feat, but this wheelchair was not made for 4-wheeling and my Dad is bouncing around all over the place, we get stuck in a hole, and we barely can get on to the other sidewalk.
We finally get to the far right section of the building, go in the door, up the elevator and into the doctor’s office. (Did I happen to mention that the hallways are not wide enough to turn the wheelchair around if you are heading in the wrong direction? I would have to find an intersection of hallways in order to be able to turn around.)
From the time we entered the parking lot to the time we walked through the door of the doctor’s office to sign in was 25 minutes.
After the appointment, I left Dad at the front door of the far right section and walked around to get the car. Again, there were no open handicap parking places when I get back up there. I park in front of the curbed, non-user-friendly entrance way to the building. Two people are holding open the two double doors so I can wheel Dad out. Once to the car, I have to help him stand up and get in the car, which is no 5-second operation. There are two cars behind me trying to get to where I am parked and I am sure they are trying to get to a doctor’s appointment. The elderly lady in the second car is giving me third base signals. Well… I can hardly blame her… we were in that same situation just a little while ago.
There is more… but you get the gist.
As we drove home, I thought about people who are physically challenged. The day’s experience gave me a whole new perspective and appreciation of what they have to face… every single day. It showed me how important it is as a society that we make sure life and situations are easily accessible for them and that they are important as a person. They are not a handicap… that are a vital part of the fabric of our community and are valuable for who they are.
So with all that in mind, whether someone is physically challenged or not… it is a great day to hold the door open for someone!
Jeff Becraft is the Executive Director for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].