Real Life Stories of a Disabled Mom: Logistical Food Insecurity

Posted by Kieran O'Brien Kern in Life After Paralysis on April 30, 2020 # COVID-19, Mobility

In our regular everyday life, my husband and I have a good 50/50, 60/40, or 70/30 split on responsibilities. And yes, you read those numbers correctly. They are based on health, time, functionality, and job responsibility for the both of us. If you’re a first-time reader, I’m a wheelie fabulous ambulatory wheelchair user with Spastic Quad CP, my husband is able-bodied, and we have two little girls. So, in our house we play to our strengths. I do well with detail work, but clean at the speed of a sleepy turtle. My husband is built for speed so when something needs to get done, he burns through it at five times my speed. Growing up disabled or acclimating to a disabled life is akin to acquiring an advanced degree in logistics. Before I do anything, I have the following questions answered or in the process of being answered:

  • What modes of transportation are being employed to get to where I’m going and back home?
  • Are all of my destinations easily accessible?
    • If they are not easily accessible is there an alternate entrance or a number to call for a portable ramp?
  • If I am making purchases where am I putting them?
  • Will the purchases potentially impede my ability to get back to my transportation?
    • What are my work-arounds?

With my current scooter, I can carry three bags comfortably and up to five bags in a pinch when I am running out at the last minute before a holiday meal.

However, all of the logistics have been thrown out the window in the last three weeks. With Cerebral Palsy limiting my lung expansion and Asthma flaring I’ve stopped leaving the house or going far beyond my lawn.Kieran and family

But that feeling of climbing the walls (slowly, awkwardly, and with lots of breaks because CP) combined with an inability to tap into one of my critical skillsets, that getting out and getting things done leaves me with a constant level of frustration. This is compounded by the actual act of shopping. With two children and limited time, we have been grocery shopping online for years. But the planning doesn’t start or end with the shopping, I have to plan 21 meals for four people. This includes snacks, (allergy/school safe stuff for my oldest daughter) cooking, running out for last minute ingredients, and making gastronomic magic when it looks like nothing goes together in the pantry and refrigerator. The current version of shopping feels more like “Meatball Surgery,” you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Last week I lost two grocery orders and scrambled to fill in essentials. I called a large online shopping conglomerate that I have been a member of for a long time. I wanted to see if they would open delivery hours early for PWDs. Forty minutes on hold later, I was referred to a charity or a food pantry. I explained that I was looking to buy food and was very blessed to be able to which didn’t resonate with them at all. Frustrated, I texted a neighbor who told me our local family-owned grocery store is delivering for elderly, pregnant, immunocompromised, and disabled people. It was like I received a Hogwarts letter, I could get my kids milk, bread and hotdogs (which is a food group to my toddler). Last weekend, I spent seven straight hours battling an overloaded grocery website to finalize the order that I secured the prior week. The new modus operandi takes away my ability to plan meals, find deals, save money, and even just enjoy the process. Someone could say that this is a very “First World” problem, but they haven’t had to explain to a toddler that what she wants is all gone and I’m not sure when we can get it, when normally her Mommy-Super-Hero can do anything . I’m not sure when normal will return, but when it does, I’m going to cherish it more than I ever have before.

I’m Kieran Bridget O’Brien Kern. Power is literally my middle name. When my husband and I became engaged, we agreed that parenthood was a two-person job. I am the primary caregiver to our children, but we all work as a team. From infancy onward, we have adapted and grown together. Every day there is a new challenge. Every new challenge is an opportunity to learn more about them and check out Kieran's Instagram @kierieo.

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.