02 May, 2023


My partner is a high school art teacher. She’s very good at her job, having earned the state-wide Art Teacher of the Year award in Maryland. Unfortunately, she has a mobility disability — she can still walk, but only just, and the current plan is to switch her to a wheelchair starting this summer.

Yesterday, after getting ready for school and heading out the front door, she had a sudden panic attack. It was only a few minutes before school was to start, but she felt completely unable to even get to the car in that moment. After trying repeatedly for ~five minutes (an eternity when you keep trying and failing to move the way you want to), she called in to work. This is the first time such a panic attack has come along so suddenly. Sure, she’s missed work before because of mobility issues, but it was always because it was raining heavily and she was afraid of slipping, or she ran out of energy on the previous day and so knew in advance she wouldn’t be able to teach and so scheduled a substitute teacher. This was the first time she had to call out merely a few minutes before class was scheduled to start. This scared both of us immensely.

We had thought to get the wheelchair during the summer because it comes along with so many other tasks: installing a ramp in front of the house (and getting permission from the HOA ahead of time), installing some kind of device on the van so that she can drive by herself even while using a wheelchair, and modifying the house a bit to accommodate it as well. This process may well take weeks or even a couple of months, so we didn’t want it to interfere with the constant school schedule from here to the end of the school year. But now, with the problem she had yesterday morning, we were afraid that maybe getting a wheelchair was instead an emergency that she had to do immediately, and maybe she’d even have to take off the from her school children in order to do it.

So we were both surprised and amazed today when getting to school this morning ended up easier than it has been in literally months. The process of getting to the car, which usually took ~10 minutes total with her disability, only took ~two minutes today. The look of her face when she realized how much easier things were made my heart leap for joy — she was so very happy to realize she could do it so quickly. And all it took was a small device that helped her to be steady as she got to the car.

Every day, small things happen to people all over the world; some are good, some are bad. This small story from our household isn’t that momentous. We still have to switch to a wheelchair in the summer. She still has mobility issues. But the fear we felt yesterday morning when she was completely unable to get to the car compared to the joy we felt when using a mobility device made things extraordinarily easier this morning is something that I think is worth remarking upon.

It’s a good day today.