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I’m grateful for many things this Thanksgiving

By Ernie Williamson

The Bulletin


You might think I would not have much to be thankful for since I am wheelchair-bound from a rare spinal cord disorder.


But I do have things for which I am thankful. I have compiled a list.


MY WIFE, KELLY: She tops the list. I am sure taking care of a paraplegic was not what she had in mind for retirement.


It seems unfair that my paraplegia has destroyed her hopes and dreams, too.


But for more than 10 years, she has done everything from the heroic - filling sandbags to protect the house during Hurricane Harvey - to helping me with the everyday grind of wheelchair life.


I am thankful to be married to such a wonderful, attractive, smart woman.


DAUGHTER, STEPDAUGHTER AND GRANDKKIDS: They are all willing to help. I am sure there are things the grandkids would rather do than play board games with their grandpa. I am lucky. They indulge me.


They also keep busy doing exciting things so, in many ways, I am living vicariously through them.


All the kids are good students. I am a proud grandpa.


TOM HARKIN: The late senator from Iowa had a deaf brother and learned firsthand the struggles confronting the disabled.


Years later, Harkin was the primary legislative force behind the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.


I cannot imagine life without things we now take for granted: Ramps into buildings, curb cutouts, handicapped parking and the civil- rights protections offered by the ADA.


MY WHEELCHAIR: The first wheelchair was probably invented between the sixth and fourth centuries BC, but the best documented early wheelchair was for Spain’s Phillip II in 1595.


That wheelchair was quite plush with upholstery and arm and leg rests. But the king, who suffered from gout, could not roll the chair by himself. He had to be pushed.


Needless to say, wheelchairs have come a long way.


Mine is a manual chair, but a Bluetooth connection on my wrist allows me to activate a power unit when I am too tired to roll the chair myself.


BOTOX: You probably think of Botox as a dermatological treatment to make frown lines, crow’s feet and forehead lines look better in adults.


For me, however, Botox is more than a cosmetic.


Because of my spinal cord injury, I suffer from spasticity, which causes abnormal muscle stiffness.


Every three months, I get about 12 Botox injections in my legs. The Botox blocks the chemical signal between nerves and muscles that makes the muscle contract or tighten. This provides temporary relief from spasticity symptoms, including the pain and muscle stiffness.


THE MAKERS OF EQUIPMENT FOR DISABLED: I have arm controls so I can drive, big shoehorns to help put on my shoes, medicine containers to help me remember which pills to take and “grabbers” that help me extend my reach so I can get the hidden sweets deep in the pantry or high up in the refrigerator.


THE TOTAL STRANGERS: They rush to open doors for me. Or reach the cereal I want off the top shelf at the market. Or just say, “Can I help you with something?”


Thanks to you all. And Happy Thanksgiving.


(Contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516).

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