Rhema’s “Wheely”

I think I’m going to start calling her Super Rhema!  Once again, she not only meets a new situation with ease but blows us away with her mad skills!  This picture was taken less than 24 hours after her little tush hit the seat and here she is wheeling all over Sports Authority!  The night prior we picked up this “loaner” wheelchair, because her chair is taking FOREVER to get here.  Our equipment guy strapped her in the chair in a parking lot, something caught her eye across the way, she put hand-to-wheel and off she zoomed!  Wooosh! Super Rhema!!

Rhema has absolutely no fear. I pray daily for her not to have “a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7) , but goodness, a little fear might help!  LOL!  Nah,  just kidding!  Momma will just have to learn to run faster!  LOL!  Her two Early Interventionists came within a 48 hours of her getting this wheelchair and both their jaws hit the floor when we strapped her in and she took off.  And in Super Rhema style, she displayed her muscle strength and rolled over a very thick rug, shocking us all.  Zoom, off she went!  Both ladies said they had never seen a child, upon getting their chair, wheel around that quick. Yep– that’s our Rhema and THAT IS HOW BIG OUR GOD IS!

On a more somber note, I want to convey an experience I had with Rhema just 72 hours after she received her loaner chair.  The purpose of pushing to get a loaner was to capture the opportunity to teach Rhema mobility skills during this time when she is playing T-Ball with the Miracle League.  Baseball has wonderful PT opportunities built into the fun of the game:  rolling forward, learning to stop on a base, turning to round the bases and provides a smooth surface in which she could learn to roll fast.   We are looking especially forward to this week’s game to begin working on these skills.  In preparation leading up to our game I decided to take Rhema on a series of errands with me and allow her to explore using her new found freedom.  Rhema did great!  She rolled herself around, looked at things, and did not tire as quickly as I thought she would.  She did fine.  The people around her did not.  Let me explain.

In public I’ve grown accustomed to folks smiling at Rhema and talking to her.  Up to this point, I’ve used a pediatric stroller (which does not resemble a wheelchair) and due to her sitting most times with full-length pants most folks never notice her braces– they are just captured by her smile and pleasant demeanor. When folks do take notice and ask about her braces, I then take the opportunity to explain about Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, her journey, the goodness of the Lord.  And if they remain interested, give them her website in the hopes that it will encourage them or someone they know.  But THIS errand day was quite different than before.  Most of the people stared at her and/or avoided her.   As we rolled through the stores, only a scarce few smiled at her or me, and one lady flat ignored Rhema while she repeatedly rammed into the counter!   Their discomfort was palatable and unnerving; I was totally stunned!  That whole day, only ONE lady spoke encouragement about the “good job” Rhema was doing.  It was such a shock  to me as it’s the polar opposite of what I’m used to.

So I pondered….What was different?  Rhema had not changed; she was still the same vibrant, smiling, precious child.  I was not grumpy or unwelcoming.  But there was one big difference–the obvious sign of “disability” or “handicap” now visually evident–a wheelchair.  As I internally processed all this, I realized that Rhema was oblivious to what this meant, but I being fully aware, was livid!  The deliberate avoidance, the lack of eye contact and the intentional withholding of the proverbial “Southern charm” that I love, was robbed from my child because of  a wheelchair!!!   A teeny, weenie wheelchair?!  I was shocked, hurt and livid!  I voiced my anger to my precious husband and he spoke these kind words, “honey, it’s not intentional– most folks just don’t know what to say or do…”  That night I did not sleep as I pondered his words of wisdom.  In my prayer time I forgave those who had wronged my child and offered my broken heart to the Lord, asking for His healing.  Yes, Rhema is oblivious to what this means now, but in time her sensitive spirit will pick up on the avoidance, the rudeness, the lack of eye contact and smiles.  Oh, thinking about this even now brings tears to my eyes.

My mind has raced with this thought: How do I fix this for my Rhema?  What do I desire for my daughter, while she is on this journey living with a different body, walking a different path?   This is what I’ve come up with:  I desire for folks to see her and treat her as they did just 72 hours ago.  Engage her, see her and treat her as that cute little girl riding in that pediatric stroller.   THAT is what I want for her.  Because  THAT IS WHO SHE IS!   Rhema is not a little girl in a wheelchair, she is a little girl.  She is a PRECIOUS.  LITTLE.  GIRL.  Rhema is someone worth knowing, someone to be blessed by, someone worth smiling at, talking to, sharing her life, sharing her journey….  To most the folks here I know I’m “preaching to the choir”.   However, we all can help educate our neighbors, our friends, our places of employment.  Edify folks to see the PERSON, not the chair.   I pray daily for the Lord quickly return and take us Home to Heaven where Rhema will run on streets of gold, feel grass beneath her feet, and jump on the biggest golden trampoline ever constructed, but for now, while we’re all just “passin’ through”, please help us make this world a better place for Rhema.  See the child, not the chair.