Showering in the weirdest places

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Daily Dose on July 19, 2018 # Mobility, Travel

There is a lot you take for granted when you can walk, and showering is one of them. Most people wake up in the morning, throw their legs over the bed, stand up and jump into a quick shower. Front to end probably 20 minutes. On the other hand, if you can't walk anymore – like me – following a severe spinal cord injury, throwing your legs over the bed and hopping in a quick shower is a distant memory. Everything takes time, everything. In fact, spinal cord injuries rob you not only of your mobility but most importantly and exhaustively, your time. My showers are no longer 20 minutes but take almost 3 and half hours to complete. I need 100% assistance with all of it. No joke, it's a process.

I am not looking for sympathy for the daily obstacles that I must overcome – one being a clean quad. More importantly, I want to portray the full picture of my showering adventures all over the country and world because, let's face it, not every shower is equipped for a paralyzed person like myself and there is a lot of humor to be found in these experiences. I love to travel and getting out on the road is one of my favorite pastimes and hobbies. Yet my first and foremost question about every air B&B, VRBO or hotel room reservation is… "What kind of shower do you have?" It's a make or break decision on my accommodation reservations.

I cannot stand or walk and therefore require special showering equipment so as to be properly cleaned i.e. a shower commode chair which basically looks like a rolling office chair, specially padded for skin protection and providing a fairly large hole in the saddle area to accommodate for bowel programs and washing of the girly bits. Because I cannot step over a tub anymore, the roll–in shower option is crucial although hard to find. Further, the entrance into a shower must be wide enough to accommodate my shower chair and I must have a handheld shower faucet so as to reach underneath. Lots to consider now that things have changed, things I never considered before when I was walking. All of the things I took for granted.

Being that I have become quite the MacGyver and creative engineer since my injury, my caregivers and I have come up with interesting solutions to these basic yet incredibly important challenges while traveling. I learned that while I was in Maui Hawaii without an accessible shower option, that I could be showered in a small baby pool on my sundeck with my caregiver dumping jugs of hot water over my head and thrown under me as if I was an elephant in the zoo being washed by a zookeeper.

I can also laugh about the many times I have taken outdoor showers in what I like to affectionately call Freddy Krueger's basement shower in a hot, muggy and humid South Carolina vacation destination where my family congregates every summer. Because my third-floor bedroom does not have an accessible shower, I descend three floors in an indoor elevator… in my shower chair… naked… with a white sheet draped over me for… dignity. The "shower" is no larger than my refrigerator and luckily this year had a running water system, yet in previous years a lawn hose provided the running water and the source of my bathing. The hose, attached to a clawfoot tub on the third floor, was thrown out the bathroom window snaking around the air conditioning vent down to my decrepit and unfinished shower receptacle in the carport area. My 78-year-old mother would sit precariously on the edge of the tub holding the connector of the hose to the tub faucet with all of her arthritic might while relaying information via shoddy cell phone service to my niece standing down below outside of our outdoor shower box declaring "hotter hotter"… "colder colder". It is times like this I resonate with animals at the zoo being rinsed off with a lawn hose, yet another part of me doesn't care as a shower on a hot, muggy and buggy South Carolina day is bar none the most refreshing experience ever. Sometimes you just have to get over it, laugh and enjoy the ride.

Finding the humor in every situation, especially my shower adventures in the weirdest places, has become incredibly crucial in my mental survival as a quad these days and I refuse to let inaccessibility issues stop me from pursuing my ongoing travels and advocacy efforts for the spinal cord community. I've come to the conclusion that anything is truly possible while traveling; all you need is a little ingenuity and creative co-collaboration with family and caregivers to come up with solutions to seemingly difficult issues. Nothing, not even showering in the weirdest places, will stop this nomad Yogi and world traveler from hitting the road. Go out, explore, find the challenges and overcome them. And in the end, have the best shower you have ever had in your whole life, wherever it may be…

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.