First, she commented on someone’s ringtone (“In the mood”) in the packed tram and told me her father played the trumpet and had taught her the piano. I smiled and sid I liked Glen Miller too. She went on to say how she didn’t understand that men always do their own stuff and women theirs because herself and her husband liked so much to go out to concerts together. I smiled. On the way out of the tram, she was trying to find out what I was doing at the fair and told me that she was working for the Dusseldorf health administration and was a doctor, originally from the Ukraine. I didn’t know how to react. When I finally gave in to her curiosity and told her about Pádraig and An Saol I realised (too late) that there are times when lies can be justified. But then, just before we went our own ways, she said that Pádraig needed to be treated like any other young man. That we have to interact with him as we’ve always done. No different. And that that included loving, and giving out to him when that was necessary. Encouraging him to go out. Being normal with him, not patronising. Laughing, shouting and singing around him, not being sad or desperate.
It reminded me of a story from a visit with Pádraig to the supermarket someone told me the other day. When they went into the supermarket, a “caring” lady said to them “Oh, isn’t this great and isn’t he a great help going shopping”, to which the answer was “Well, he isn’t really, not at all, except that we can hang our shopping bags on the wheelchair.” – Pádraig had a huge smile on his face following the conversation. He got the humour, as well as the seriousness of that exchange. Not sure if the lady did… The thing is: just because a grown up man sits in a wheelchair and can’t talk, you don’t have to treat him like a five-year old.
Pádraig had a busy day today and a brilliant late afternoon, the almost traditional Thursday-friends-visiting afternoon with four of his friends creating an energy and an atmosphere that was so uplifting that it kept him going for hours. It’s a real credit to his friends that they keep this going and manage to bring a lot of (young:) life to the house on Thursdays!
I was at Europe’s biggest rehabilitation exhibition and fair in Düsseldorf today and was in awe of the futuristic exoskeleton suits, the brilliantly designed camper vans for wheelchair drivers, and the self-drive configurable cars for persons with different levels of disabilities. I met some people I knew, refreshed my contacts with the An Saol pilot project partners, and started to figure out a possible deal with Hocoma, the company who’ll be supplying some of the equipment for An Saol. I also talked to the company whose Irish partner didn’t want to sell us equipment because of their dependency from their main client (long story:). All in all a really long, good day.