The Locked-In Traveler: Assistants/Caregivers


The Locked-In Traveler

(Kati’s Wheelchair Traveling Journals)


(Click here for the audio version)

There are different types of strokes, and there are many variables in play when one gets a stroke. Like how massive the stroke, how quick the response, and some other factors. The result of a stroke to a patient can vary from wholly locked unto complete recovery.

Physical therapy can help the patients recover mobility to at least a certain extent. Even the patient like me who become locked in.

In therapy, I regained some movements. I can move my neck. I have some movements in my jaw. I can raise my shoulder a little, and I can stretch my legs. However, only the progress in my neck makes me able to do something by myself; work with a computer. For everything else in life, I need assistance.

When searching for new assistants, I always get these cute letters of applicants saying how they would like to help people and would love to help me. It is logic to think that a disabled person needs to be supported. The preconception about the disabled is; that most of the time they just sit there. Well, I got some news for you. Like not every abled people are the same, neither are the disabled ones.

Some of us are full of life, and we like to be active. We may be limited in a certain way, but we do not live our lives in a limited way.

Get Kati’s autobiography; “Living Underwater

When interviewing the candidates, I always look for that special spark and if we connect on an intellectual and adventurous level. I look for someone full of life as I am. Someone that can become my partner in crime.

I have many assistants that became long life friends. Some even become part of the family. That is what you get when you share your lives, “the good, the bad, and the journeys.”

One of these special women was Michella. She was my assistant for a long time, and she was like a sister to me. She was by my side at one of the worst times of my life. In addition, I probably would not have made it through without her.

We once took a week’s trip to Barcelona, just the two of us. We booked a room in a beautiful apartment near Las Ramblas. We would be right in the middle of everything, and we could relax and enjoy the city.

On arrival, we were all excited. We checked-in and went to the elevator to go to our room, which was on the third floor. We both had big smiles on our faces until the door of the lift opened. The elevator was just big enough for the wheelchair! We went back to the front desk to ask for a change of apartment, but they were fully booked. Therefore, we had to take the room.

Michella had to take the luggage upstairs while I waited downstairs. Then she had to come and get me. She had to put me in the elevator, press the button and when the door closed run upstairs to the third floor to meet me there. She had to do this; “up and down” routine for the rest of the week. All though many times she was out of breath, not once she complained but just laughed.

There are moments that all that matters, all that makes the difference is the people in our lives.


Get Kati’s autobiography; “Living Underwater

(Kati & Henning van der Hoeven)

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