​Breathe and Clean Yo' Self

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on June 02, 2020 # COVID-19

As the entire world is in flux, fear permeates our planet. These are scary times. People are getting sick, hospitalized and dying every day all over the world. Touching, hugging, holding hands, kissing, gatherings, attending sporting events, summer concerts and backyard barbecues seem like a scary non- reality in the near months. What used to be our normal life no longer exists, we have all gone forward into a new world traversing and creating new pathways of hobbies, relationships, creative endeavors and managing all new sorts of technological advancements through numerous Zoom calls or Google Hang Outs.

Living through this pandemic as a quadriplegic is a multifaceted conundrum, as the “rules" don't apply to me because of my disability. I am dependent on others for so much, almost all activities of daily living and this dependence disallows me the ability to socially isolate or distance myself. My caregivers are with me in the morning and evening, physically touching me, moving me, dressing me, cleaning my face, brushing my teeth, putting water up to my mouth, amongst other close encounter activities. My assistant during the day takes care of all of the others things in my world – grocery shopping, food preparation, laundry, errands, and mail just to name a few. We are all in each other's energetic and physical spheres for hours at a time. Because of this, there is no option for 6 feet of distance and there is no option for social distancing.

The more scary part of my reality is my complete inability as a paralyzed individual to physically fight off a potential contagion, if I should get it. Because of the paralysis and lack of innervated musculature below the level of the shoulders, I do not have the muscles to cough or clear phlegm. I am immunosuppressed because of my injury and therefore fall into the highest risk category – getting the coronavirus would be a death sentence. Sanitation station

And for this reason, I realized early on I must create my own rules, rules appropriate for an independent quad living through the pandemic with the inability to socially distance. I crafted a hand sanitation station by the back door of my apartment just inside my garage. Every person, no matter who they are, must enter through this door, thoroughly hand sanitizing before even touching the handle to enter. Outside shoes are left at this door, clean disinfected inside shoes live in a clean small basket just inside my apartment. Once inside, everyone must immediately wash his or her hands for a solid two minutes; clothing must be cleaned and changed if coming from another client. No one may come to work sick or having been exposed to anyone who has been sick and communication between my entire team has become more imperative than ever.

Every item that is brought into the home is sanitized before entering, whether it is take out food containers, grocery items, pieces of mail, boxes from Amazon, bags from the gap, dry-cleaning, etc. – everything gets a thorough cleansing. Further, every morning and evening, my caregivers wipe down all doorknobs, microwave, oven and cabinet handles, remote controls, light switches, thermostats, durable medical equipment (DME) and all counter surfaces with a disinfectant or bleach wipe. This may all seem over-the-top to some, but after three months of staying true to my cleaning guidelines, taking it easy and retracting from society, I have remained free from the virus.

Wherever you may be, whatever it is you are doing to keep your own self and family healthy, keep doing it. It is crucial to not let up and let our guard down. Let us all remain safe in the collective, continue to stay positive and spread the love and we will undoubtedly overcome stronger and smarter than ever.

Elizabeth Forst is a nomad Yogi, world traveler and spinal cord injury survivor. Enjoying the mountain life in Denver, Colorado, she is a doctor of physical therapy with roots based both in Western medicine and the Eastern traditions; understanding the connection between mind, body, and spirit is her ultimate life pursuit. Through her writing and advocacy efforts locally and nationally, she is a beacon of light and a source of positive exploration for others traversing the challenges of paralysis. Find her entire collection at: www.ebforst.com