The Locked-In Traveler: Fasten your seat belt


The Locked-In Traveler

(Kati’s Wheelchair Traveling Journals)

Fasten your seat belt

(Click here for audio version)

My inability to make my body move is because my brainstem is severely damaged. Making it; that the messages from my brain to my muscles do not go through.

My muscles do work, though. I sometimes have spastic spasms, and when I do, my upper body closes up (like protecting my chest), and my legs stretch out. This happens with such strength that the only thing you can do is wait until the muscles relax again.

Spasms can happen at any moment, or they can be triggered by an emotion. Especially fear causes my body to stretch out and become as hard as a log. For this reason, I always must have my safety belt on while in the wheelchair. Because if not, I could fall out and hurt myself.

A childhood friend that was living in Nice, France invited us to come over. My friend had a chateau in the suburbs just outside of the city. A perfect place to get away and enjoy the; “Joie de vivre.” Who could resist such a tempting invitation? Even if it was in a wheelchair.

Get Kati’s autobiography; “Living Underwater

In summer 1999, mom and I went for two weeks to the south of France. We already had traveled twice to Florida and once to Italy before that. We knew the routines, and mom felt confident that we could make the trip alone without the need for extra help (she is one courageous woman.)

The house was exactly how one would imagine a French villa to be. It was full of character on the inside just as much as on the outside. There were only a couple of low steps outside by the front door of the house that mom could manage without any problems.

The whole area was enchanting and quite flat, which made it easy to stroll around in a wheelchair. We would go out daily, to walk around or do groceries when my friend was at work.

It started to drizzle on one day when we were coming back home from doing groceries. Mom was wearing small flat leather sole shoes that became slippery because of the rain. However, she did not realize that before starting to pull me up the steps.

She slipped when she tried to pull me up and went flat on her back with me in my wheelchair upon her. I was in shock, looking up to the gray sky. The few seconds of silence and no movements from mom seem to last an eternity. My paralyzed tongue could not even ask her if she was ok.

Get Kati’s autobiography; “Living Underwater

She started to move after a while, struggling to get from under the chair. When finally, out she took her shoes off and somehow managed to put my chair back up without any help.

My friend knew that I always was enchanted with the south of Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. One night he took us out to dinner at this cozy Corsican restaurant in an old harbor town. A very charming little place with old buildings and cobblestone streets. It was a perfect place to savor the French Riviera.

My friend did not know of my fear of heights (or should I say, the terror of heights) that I have gotten after the stroke. He was pushing my wheelchair, and he would playingly push me fast upon the edge of the old rock pier and then stopped suddenly. He did not know that I was afraid and that my screaming was not from enjoyment but panic.

We got back to the car, and as mom was preparing to lift me back in. She stood still as she realized that I did not have my safety belt on. I froze when she told me this. All that playing on the harbor could have ended very badly.

I get still goosebumps when I think about that night. I truly believe that I had angels with me on that trip to the south of France.


Get Kati’s autobiography; “Living Underwater

(Kati & Henning van der Hoeven)

Comments (1)

  1. Rauni Kaskinen 16.03.2020 16:14

    Hei Kati,
    Kokemuksesi oli todella karmiva, mutta täytyy sanoa, että on sulla mahtava mutsi!
    Murre-erosta johtuen en ymmärtänyt, mitä tarkoitit jalkojen virutusreaktiolla? Minulle viruttaminen on huuhtelemista, mutta siitä ei nyt lie kyse.
    Jännittävää on lukea monista reissuistasi!

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