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Choosing scooting

March 20, 2014

Fat HealthMy Boring-Ass LifeDickweed

Last week I had the awesome opportunity to go on a cruise with my family, but for numerous reasons I didn’t want to bring my manual wheelchair (internalized ableism, ableism from my family, structural ableism). I picked up a rollator on Ebay so I could be more supported than my forearm crutches….which worked, kind of.

2014-03-14 12.50.05

So here’s my rollator, tucked in the “accessible” stall at Chichen Itza in Mexico. While it helped me be able to get around on my trip, it was also a huge source of frustration. People would literally shove me because I was walking too slowly. If I had a plate of food on the seat in the buffet, people wouldn’t look down, so they’d trip on my rollator (thankfully I never had a plate go flying). Elevator doors wouldn’t be open for long enough to allow me to get on… or the elevator would fill up from abled people and strollers, leaving me to sometimes have to call up to four different elevators to get up a floor on the ship.

What I realized is that sustained walking (aka ambulation in medical terms) is bad for my physical and mental health. By the end of the trip, all I wanted to do was deliberately ram people that got in my way. I was swearing like a sailor every time someone did something to me. I was in so much physical pain that one night I slept an hour, while I spent the other hours in the fetal position crying in agony.

Although I have a manual wheelchair, my campus where I work and study is horrific for accessibility. The hills are awful, the sidewalks are either sloped sideways, cracked or not wide enough for two-wheelers to pass each other. Add to that my hypermobility disorder, which means I get tendonitis, sprains and strains easily… so if the surface isn’t relatively flat, I end up hurting myself. I’ve realized that I need …

*insert dun dun duuuuuuun sounds*

… a scooter.

There is a huge amount of stigma with being the fatty on a scooter and, as much as I try to be a Fierce Fatty who doesn’t give a shit, I’m still a tenderhearted person who’s been bullied all my life for my weight. I’m still the person who is still struggling with a change in identity from “strong fatty” to “gimpy fatty”… and it’s a daily struggle, especially because I’m a physical activity scholar and I have to fight fatphobia, as well as justify my existence in the field, on a daily basis.

I’m trying to remind myself that the benefits outweigh the costs. I’m looking at this lightweight travel scooter that I can tuck discretely in Scootermy office without it screaming SCOOTER to everyone that passes by. I can get a cane or crutch holder on the back for when I want to stand. I will have the spoons to be able to do actual fun exercise instead of wasting my precious energy on ambulation. I will get to actually “walk” from my house to campus because it’s a little under a mile each way. I will be able to move my body through space at a pace that doesn’t make me want to injure other people!

The problem with a scooter is really the cost. Most insurance policies in the United States won’t cover a scooter that’s only used outside the home, so I’m left with trying to fundraise to try to be able to afford mobility equipment (which is probably better than when I used a student loan to buy my manual wheelchair, but more demoralizing). Walking is severely privileged in most societies, so deliberately choosing to walk less (especially as a fat person) is a difficult decision.

Honestly, I’m just hopeful for a time when I can get around without swearing like a sailor because of pain, my slow, gimpy gait, and disrespectful people!

UPDATE

I’ve created a Go Fund Me page for people donate money or you can buy Team Gnomercy t-shirts and sweatershirts.

Shirts

Casey Sig

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    March 20, 2014 12:48 pm

    I made the decision to buy a mobility scooter a couple of years ago, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made (well, other than buying the hydraulic lift for my minivan so I could load/unload it by myself). I weigh 400 lbs, and had been using a Rollator that I bought on Amazon. Like you, I found that the Rollator just didn’t work as well for me as I needed it to, hence the decision to look for a scooter.
    I didn’t have any trouble with the thought of being the “lazy fatty on the scooter” because I’ve been using the mobility scooters in stores for years and have gotten used to the stares and sometimes nasty comments I get (and I always have a comeback prepared for the haters).
    I have to say that I absolutely love my scooter (I got the Pride Maxima, which is rated to 450 lbs, goes up to 7 mph, and one charge will last for 18 miles). My insurance wouldn’t pay for it because I don’t need it navigate our house (not that I could use even a power wheelchair in our small house without a lot of renovations). Luckily, we had a credit card with no balance on it and a pretty good spending limit. So we put the scooter on the credit card and paid it off as quick as we could (to limit the amount of interest we had to pay). Then we found out that the ramps we bought just weren’t working as well as we thought they would to load and unload the scooter, so we went back to MedCity Mobility (where we bought the scooter) and talked to them about a lift. We put that on the credit card too (between the scooter and the lift, it came to almost $6.500). The lift is almost paid for now too, and that was another decision that was a very good one.
    Having the scooter has improved my life in so many ways. I can actually get out and do things with my husband that I wasn’t able to do before – sightseeing on vacations, going shopping in malls, etc. And when we go to a store where all the mobility scooters are being used, I don’t have to wait on one anymore, I can unload mine and use it instead (I just wish it had a bigger basket on the front so I could actually shop alone).
    I have to say that the increased mobility and the ability to actually navigate the world without being in pain all the while is worth any nasty comments by strangers about being “fat on a scooter”. So good luck with your fundraising, and enjoy your scooter when you get it, you’ll be amazed at all the things you can do more easily and with less pain with it. Just be advised that all those douchebuckets who gave you fits with the Rollator will still give you fits with the scooter – there are days I wish I could afford the 4WD version of mobility scooters so I could run over the idiots who think scooters can stop on dime and they don’t have to watch where they’re going (or who think that it’s funny to block doors and aisles so you can’t get through).

  2. purple peonies permalink
    March 20, 2014 3:57 pm

    i’m a fat person who uses a manual wheelchair and my heart breaks hearing that you didn’t get to fully enjoy your vacation because of inconsiderate assholes and all that walking. On my last trip anywhere with family, I rented a scooter (it was vegas, and there were a lot of places that would deliver the scooter to your hotel and pick it up when you’re done!), and it was SUCH a huge deal to finally make the decision. this was also the first time my parents had seen me “being disabled” with their own two eyes. i technically got two scooters because my friend joined us and was also disabled, but she refused to use hers, so it added to my own discomfort and internal ableism. it was tough, but i remember way too many trips forcing myself to walk and being miserable, that i couldn’t do it even one more time. i’d just reached my limit.

    do doctors understand when you choose to change how you get around? (and do you care?) i recently met with a physiatrist to talk about changes in my back injury, and he thought my manual chair was the Worst Thing Ever, even though it’s allowed me to become MORE active, by getting out more, learning great things like hand cycling, and getting to yoga three times a week (where i do lots of standing and balancing poses). it was frustrating, and i feel like i’m not going to ever get support from healthcare providers about my mobility issues.

    i have wondered if a scooter would be helpful for me in some cases, like hilly terrain (i live in the san francisco bay area, which can get hilly, but we tend to limit ourselves to the flat areas), but like you, it’s cost prohibitive, and such a huge decision. i LOVE those travel scoots. i have met several people who use them, and they LOVE them. i hope you’re able to get it and i hope it makes all the difference in the world.

    • March 21, 2014 8:19 am

      My doctor isn’t thrilled at all, but between pain and my balance (because I do fall several times a month even with my crutch) it’s become a necessity. I’m really realizing how much muscle I’ve lost by not being able to be active. I tend to use my scholarly work to try to reiterate that I want to be active and that I enjoy being active….but it seems like my fatness overrides these discussions.

      I’m glad you had a scooter for Las Vegas though. I got married there and found a lot of ramps inside casinos that would be murder on a manual wheelchair user (I used both of my crutches to get around for that).

  3. March 20, 2014 11:06 pm

    I have a travelscoot, the kind of scooter in the photo, and I LOVE it. I’m just about to take my first big trip with it – flying to Chicago for a conference. (My Internal Ableist Fool is screaming about it, but I’ve told her to get over herself.)

    Will go contribute what I can. Good luck to you.

  4. Moose permalink
    March 21, 2014 2:11 am

    I’m considering buying a Travelscoot, too. I’ve rented one a couple of times. A few things to note — if you’re over about 350 lbs you may wish to go with the lead battery. I’m about 400 lbs and I found that the LION batteries didn’t provide enough power to get me up the mildest of slopes. Also, some people who have them replaced the seat they come with, as they’re not the most comfortable.

    As for crap like elevators closing on you and people barely noticing you — I think that this is something everyone with an accessibility device goes through. When I’ve been in a powered wheelchair I’ve had people walk right into or in front of me while moving, and the scooters (no matter the model) never seem to get to an open elevator on time! GRR! I’ve also learned to firmly and oudly say, “EXCUSE ME” when in a crowd of people who seem to believe that if they just ignore me they don’t have to get out of my way. When I use a cane, I’ve had people not pay attention and trip right over it. You just can’t win!

    As for the snotty comments — I just smile sweetly and in a sugar-syrupy voice, thank them for their concern. Then I tell them they surely must have other BUSY things to go do. Every once in a while someone gets it, turns purple, and storms off. Whee!

    • March 21, 2014 9:18 am

      Thanks for the information! I’m 4’11” and about 250lbs so I’m hoping that the LION batteries will be the best….although it’s really good to know that they don’t have as much “oomph” since I have a big hill near my house.

  5. March 21, 2014 7:31 pm

    I have OI type 1. I don’t need a scooter and mainly only need a stick when i’m recovering from a break/dislocation. However walking is very difficult for me- painful, very quickly. I’m also under 5 feet so i have a shorter stride. Both these things mean i’m also a slow walker. I can relate SO MUCH to walking privelidge. Some people think i’m being a lazy fatty when i refuse to walk somewhere close by- they don’t understand i have to save my leg spoons.

  6. gingeroid permalink
    March 23, 2014 7:10 pm

    What baffles me about cruise ships is the lack of innovation in elevator design. The newest ships in the fleet have the same size elevators as the oldest ships in the fleet. There are never enough to accommodate passenger demand.

    I’d also point out that nobody can determine a person’s health by looking at them. Who you deem able-bodied might not be. My mother’s been rammed and screamed at people in scooters who feel she shouldn’t be using the elevator. Her shoes cover the work that’s been done on her foot so that she can walk on flat surfaces. Stairs, particularly on a moving vessel, are still a challenge for her.

    • March 24, 2014 11:19 am

      I think that’s a good point that people need to see….ability is sometimes not clear cut. My experience has been that the people that can sprint for elevators and shove others (or block elevator doors when people are trying to get off one) are generally noAt the people that need them for their physical quality of life. This is something that hits me every time I use my bank as all the placard places are right in front of the ATMs :-P

      • gingeroid permalink
        March 24, 2014 11:51 am

        That’s another place prone to poor design. When we go to stores, restaurants, etc., we can usually do just as well in the non-handicapped spots. The placard is great to have at the range and other places where close parking is limited.

  7. Linda permalink
    March 25, 2014 10:40 am

    I am hoping I don’t offend anyone with this question, but it surprises me how many people here need scooters. Is the reason some sort of injury or the weight alone? My BMI exceeds 40 and I am close to 60. Walking is cumbersome for me. But, I’m wondering it I’m only a bad knee away from a scooter myself. That said, I hope you all are able to get the equipment needed to lead full lives. I would like to make a simple donation, since I don’t wear t-shirts with designs or lettering on them. Will the site let me do that?

    • March 25, 2014 10:52 am

      For me, this is completely related to breaking my spine and the nerve damage that happened because of that. I used to do triathlons, regularly walk everywhere (miles and miles), and my BMI has been in the 42-48ish range through everything.

      That being said, the connection between weight and injury is murky at best, with the exception of knee osteoarthritis….but even with that statistical correlation, muscle mass, muscle strength, and fitness all help mediate that relationship :-)

      As for my fundraiser, I set up a GoFundMe at this link so people can help in other ways…I appreciate all the help people are offering! http://www.gofundme.com/7omkjg

      • Linda permalink
        March 25, 2014 12:06 pm

        Ouch! A broken spine sounds awful. Thank you for patiently answering my question. I also appreciate the link. I added to your fund, and hope others do the same.

    • vesta44 permalink
      March 25, 2014 11:18 am

      Linda – I’ve had mobility issues for over 20 years that doctors refused to address other than telling me to “lose weight and your back pain will be resolved”. They refused to look past my fat for the true cause of my severe lower back pain. But up until 7 years ago, I was still mobile, could still walk a decent distance (like a half day’s worth of shopping at a mall), and could do all my housework without being in a lot of pain. But I had weight loss surgery in 1997, lost 80 lbs, gained 120 lbs back, and my back issues have been steadily getting worse. I finally got a doctor to take me seriously when I stood for the whole appointment and was in tears from the pain after 5 minutes. He sent me for an MRI, which should have been done years ago, and the results were that I have spinal stenosis (pinching a nerve right where the pain always starts), degenerative disk disease, a couple of compressed disks, and arthritis in my spine, hips, and knees. So, at 400 lbs, 5′ 8″ tall, and a BMI of 60+, even if I lost weight, which isn’t going to happen, I would still be in pain. Add in the complications from that failed WLS – fibromyalgia, migraines, and few others – it’s a wonder that I can even get out of bed some days. Then add to that the fact that the strongest medication they will give me for pain is tramadol, well, let’s just say that tramadol works for the arthritis but doesn’t do shit for the back pain (aspirin works as well, which is to say “not at all”). So if I want to be able to go anywhere outside of my house and not collapse from the pain, I use a scooter. And I’ve adapted how I do housework so that I don’t have to be in so much pain while I’m doing it (using a stool to sit on while I do dishes, sitting down as soon as my back hurts when I’m sweeping, mopping, vacuuming floors, putting a rope on my clothes hamper so I can drag it to the washer/dryer from the bathroom, etc).

      • Linda permalink
        March 25, 2014 12:14 pm

        Despite the huge obstacles, you are bravely adapting and engaging life. That earns my total respect. I may not know chronic pain personally, but I can only imagine it based on briefer episodes of pain. I know it takes guts to keep going, especially when there are delays in diagnosis and under-medication of the pain. Many years ago I worked at a small community hospital which was thrown into frenzied grief after a beloved young psychiatrist committed suicide due to the pain of spinal stenosis. It’s not an experience for the feint of heart. Thank you for carefully explaining your experience to me. It helps me understand.

    • purple peonies permalink
      March 25, 2014 2:30 pm

      i have a birth defect and an injury at the same location in my spine, which makes it painful and difficult for me to stand or walk for more than a couple minutes. i use a manual chair. people with disabilities come in all shapes and sizes. it just so happens a lot of us fierce freethinking fatties also have disabilities, and there’s a lot of overlap (intersectionality) between sizeism and ableism, so this is a great place to discuss it :)

      • Linda permalink
        March 25, 2014 2:53 pm

        My best friend in college used a wheelchair to get around outside of the house, and varied in weight between 200 and 300 pounds. She had a multitude of physical challenges due to childhood rheumatoid arthritis. We had many of the same classes, so we ‘walked’ together. It upset me how people would ask me if I was her aide because I helped her navigate a campus which should have been more wheelchair friendly. Or when people would ask *me* questions that were intended for her. So, I should know that people with disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, and that ableism stinks. I guess my question reflects my anxiety about getting older at a weight that worries me. About 20 years ago, I had a doctor tell me I would have crippling arthritis by age 50. Nope. Didn’t happen. I would need to be in a coma not to hear all the doom and gloom predictions about living in a large body, and sometimes they make me wonder ‘Are they right?’

  8. April 13, 2014 8:39 am

    I have chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and exercise intolerance. I always use a cane outside the house, sometimes might use a rollator, and sometimes need my manual chair which my partner pushes. Now that I have a smallish size baby I have a ginormous pram I use as a rollator-style device. But lately with surgery, illness, recovering from dentistry etc, I have much less energy than usual so am strongly considering getting a scooter (when the baby becomes walking size)

    Definitely considering this one as we’ve only got a sedan and I have to get buses sometimes
    I’m 4’11”, and under 100kg so I’m thinking the junior would be good for me

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