spinal-cord injury

a peach and a banana

Waving my hand in front of the iridescent blue sensor plate that opens my front store, I head outside into the drizzle, raincoat over my head and another on my knees. I look like a pink and yellow marshmallow; like a kindergartener on their way to school; like a little girl who, against her mother’s wishes, selected her own outfit; like a peach and a banana growing old in a bowl of fruit.

I roll on up my steep driveway, across the road, and zoom off down the street. There are rivulets of water flowing down the curbside gutters and making their way onto the road so I decide to bite the bullet and make my way onto the footpath. It worries my wife that I prefer the road, but it is hard to explain to “walkers” how irksome it is to wheelie on the footpath. Every metre and a half the control joint spacing between concrete slabs sends rattles through the bones. As footpaths age, the gaps widen. Trees that beautify roadways lift the concrete and the joints become small steps that jar the body and threaten to unseat you. But on this miserable and dark morning, the footpath it is – to shake rattle and roll my way along.

Down the hill on Oxford Road the wind picks up. Gum trees overhang and the leaves, moving in the breeze, disperse their collected water that smashes down onto the plastic of my raincoat. With the wind comes the rain, so I put my head down and motor as fast as I can. The chair has three gears and in the third and fastest my speedo shows me travelling at 11.5 km/h. It takes me 16 min to reach the train station. Tripview on my iPhone allows me to time the run and I arrive with 3 min to go. I know the guards by name, and they help me out of my raincoats, take my money and give me a ticket, before assisting me onto the train with a ramp. It is one of those old graffitied stainless steel carriages, with six “dancing poles” that I squeeze my way between before taking my place – finally in the dry warmth of the train. Ingleburn to Granville, change for Parramatta, hoping for a dry run to work.

No such luck. There is only 400 m to travel but it is pouring. I can’t risk wet pants, since I am unable to change clothes without carers and hoists and all that jazz. The key, then, is to look for someone with a friendly face. I prefer older people, but anyone hanging about will do. I find two motherly looking women having a fag, and I ask for help with my raincoats. It takes some getting used to, this constant asking for aid. But, generally, people are kind – at least when they get over their initial, “who, me?”

And so, 5 min later, my morning journey is over and I arrive at work. Easier perhaps to have stayed at home but you need to treat life as an adventure. Adventures suck sometimes, but they are better than doing nothing, living half asleep.

About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • Jillian Cheek
    November 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Love the similes, Shane! Thanks for your sharing of the experiences of your life, and thanks for adventuring.

  • Beth Bennett
    November 27, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you for helping us to see life from your (new) perspective. I can’t imagine the difficulties over little things. It will sure makes me think about how blessed I am the next time I feel like complaining! Love, Bethy

  • Elly Clifton
    November 27, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Good boy! Keep shake, rattlin and rollin!

  • Sandra Godde
    November 27, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Glad to hear you are seizing the day Shane.
    There are only 2 ways to live: go on the adventure or be the living dead.
    I’m glad you chose the courageous path.

  • joseph mcauley
    November 29, 2011 at 6:26 am

    Too many live half asleep!

    Enjoy Advent Shane. We reflect and identify with those that were awaiting the coming of the Christ child; we though await Christs return. We do not wait for the birth of the Messiah; though we participate in the labor pains that will see Christ fully formed in us.

  • Craig Benno
    December 7, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Shane. Thank you for sharing so deeply and allowing us to be able to experience (in a small way) your experience of life.

  • Andrew Foti
    January 10, 2012 at 11:57 am

    “Is that The Mountain? asked Bilbo in a solemn voice, looking at it with round eyes. He had never seen a thing that looked so big before.

    “Of course not!” said Balin. “That is only the beginning of the Misty Mountains, and we have to get through, or over, or under those somehow, before we can come into the Wilderland and beyond. And it is a deal of a way even from the other side of them to the Lonely Mountain in the East where Smaug lies on our treasure.”

    “O!” said Bilbo, and just at that moment he felt more tired than he ever remembered feeling before. He was thinking once again of his comfortable chair before the fire in his favorite sitting-room in his hobbit-hole, and of the kettle singing. Not for the last time!

    The Hobbit

    • Shane Clifton
      January 11, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      this is fantastic Andrew. However, I am going to have to call you a nerd if you were able to remember the bulk of this quite of the top of your head!

  • Andrew Foti
    January 12, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Well, I may be a nerd but my memory is in no way that impressive!!

  • Kristie Pieber
    August 7, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    You know I love you, so this comment is okay. Your pink poncho looks like vagina labia. You’re welcome, Kristie x

    • Shane Clifton
      August 8, 2013 at 10:20 am

      You know I love you, so this reply is okay. You are a weird girl, Kristie!


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