StoriesJan 10, 2019

Colleen Payne: What if he needs a wheelchair?

What if he needs a wheelchair?

I have to be honest, at that moment, that seemed really scary and devastating.

One night soon after we got the diagnosis, my husband and I were talking through all the what-if’s. “What if he needs a wheelchair?” I have to be honest, at that moment, that seemed really scary and devastating. Then this image popped in my head of a boy around 9 or 10 years old, he was wearing a ball cap and doing tricks in this shiny, sporty-looking wheelchair. Hmm, that doesn’t seem too scary. I told my husband, “Well, we will just have to get him the coolest wheelchair possible.”

After Nate was born, his milestones came slowly, but by 3 he was walking. The only time he really needed a wheelchair was after a surgery, and he loved it! Because boys and wheels, right? But as I got to know more kids and adults with Spina Bifida who use wheelchairs, I started to realize people can do pretty much anything in a wheelchair that they could do walking. Turns out, walking is actually not necessary to be a happy and productive person.

When Nate was 9, I was getting the jogging stroller out for him at the state fair so he could conserve his energy and keep up with his siblings, and it suddenly occurred to me how ridiculous that was. We decided then we would get Nate a wheelchair to use for long distances so he could be more independent.

A few months later, it was time to pick it up. Nate was as excited as a kid getting a new bike for Christmas, and I was happy for him. He hopped in this shiny metallic orange chair he had picked out and started popping wheelies and spinning donuts. Then the wheelchair rep said, “Oh, looks like the company sent you a free hat.” He put that ball cap on Nate’s head, and it was like looking at the image I had in my head almost 10 years earlier. I still get chills thinking about it. I believe God gave me that little glimpse to show me that not only would Nate be okay, but he would spend the next decade preparing my heart so that I would be okay too. – Colleen Payne, Mother to Nate