Me and My Wheelchair, Somehow Surviving in the Middle of Nowhere

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by Brianna Albers |

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My parents’ dreams revolve around the middle of nowhere.

You probably think I’m joking. But the fact remains that I’m writing this column from a tiny town in Wisconsin with a population in the 800s.

They’ve been nurturing this dream for as long as I can remember. Looking back, I should’ve realized that my parents weren’t kidding around. Both were raised in rural Iowa. My dad is obsessed with permaculture, and my mom has visions of owning baby goats. For them, living in the country isn’t an idle fantasy; it’s something they’ve been working toward for years.

I should probably clarify that, generally speaking, I understand the appeal of country living. There’s something about the silence, the fresh air, and unrestricted views. I would be a nature lover if it wasn’t for my allergies — and, of course, my wheelchair.

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That said, country living is not for me. I like the city, and I despise bugs. I can’t think of anything more torturous than camping. (Sorry, Dad.) Nature is all well and good, but at the end of the day, I want to come home to high-speed internet — among other things.

But it’s my parents’ dream. So we came up with a compromise: a vacation home in the country. Every once in a while, we’d spend a week in the rolling hills of rural Wisconsin. But our home would be in Minnesota, with high-speed internet, same-day deliveries, and all the ice cream parlors a girl could want.

We’ve spent the past five years working on my parents’ dream house, with the goal of staying overnight early this spring. That timetable wasn’t quite achievable. But finally, after years of late nights and long weekends, we felt we were ready.

On a Wednesday afternoon, we packed our suitcases, threw our cats in their carriers, and set off for the middle of nowhere.

Our eldest cat, Josie, finds traveling old hat. But Rey takes after her mother, which is to say she has anxiety. The hour-and-a-half drive was filled with feline caterwauling. By the end of the trip, I was more than ready to be done.

“You made it!” I told Rey as we pulled into the driveway. “You survived!”

Little did I know that I was about to be caterwauling like a cat.

The driveway is 3 miles long and practically an obstacle course. It takes a good 10 minutes to reach the top in our midsize SUV. Then there’s the ridiculously steep incline to get to the house itself — an incline that is impossible to climb in anything but dry weather.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. The sky was overcast, the ground was wet, and there was no way we were getting the SUV up on its own.

First my dad hooked the car up to his truck. Then the skid loader. Wheels were spinning, and mud was splashing everywhere. A complicated pulley system was invented on the spot, with straps connected to trees and motors. I sat in the backseat and tried not to scream as we ascended the driveway, inch by painstaking inch. The SUV shuddered with the force of each movement.

I told my mom, plainly and without remorse, that if I died, I would haunt my parents from the grave. I refused to die in the middle of nowhere, not after several life-threatening surgeries.

All in all, it took us over an hour to get inside. We got the SUV up as far as we could, then laid down sheets of plywood to bridge the mud. We ate homemade pizza at 9 p.m., threw together a makeshift bed for me, and collapsed.

The next morning, my parents woke to black bear cubs outside our living room window.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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