Wheel’n Asia (part 1)

琨游中国 1

Having been suffering from severe depression and ongoing health issues from my surgeries, I felt like my world has turned upside down and mixed in a blender… rather than take pills and numb my mind, instead, I chose a different path… I chose the road.

 

What is it like to travel in a wheelchair around China? Some people may fear the answer but the truth is it is quite interesting. China is a fascinating country and a country that is advancing when it comes to accessibility. I want you to test this theory, I want you to wheel in China I find out what interesting adventure I may find myself in.

 

I landed in Shanghai after a 14-hour plane ride. My body may be exhausted from the trip, my health may have failed me but my mind is racing with excitement as my adventure is about to begin. Every adventure is not without his hick ups, such as how my adventure started. After getting out of the airport it took some time to find a hotel that would accept me, my wheelchair as well as my passport. Next comes to getting a ride to the Hotel, which we quickly found out that taxi drivers are not very disability friendly as they drove us in circles to get our hotel. After that incident, we exclusively call DiDi car service (滴滴出行) using a phone app. Most people may not know this, but this car company holds his driver to a higher standard and they do not often discriminate against people with disabilities getting rides from them. Now everything is settled, my adventures can officially begin.
 
Shanghai is my first stop. We headed out the very next day to visit the famous landmark call the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. We visited the riverside, only needed to wheel about 1 km or so to find a perfectly built wheelchair accessible ramp which would allow me to get to the pier. The site is breathtaking. The river effectively separates the two thriving worlds in Shanghai.  We have one side, the building took after the traditional design of Chinese style buildings like the King’s palace which housed over 30 banks from China and around the world.  Across the river where the famous landmark is located, are filled with the grandest modern designed mega structures of various trillion dollar companies.  One can really feel the “war” between the tradition of the Chinese culture and the thirst for modern advancement.
 
Accessibility around the river is very well designed.  Every 1-2 kilometers of so there will be a ramp, and the ramp is built to the disability code of Canadian standard.  The platform is very smooth for a wheelchair as well as for people with visual impairment.  The streets surrounding the river is also fairly accessible, except for about 90% of the shops, they all have at least one step.  Some of the bigger stores or banks do have portable ramps hidden, you just have to find a way to ask.  Or have the alternative solution, get a few helpful people to lift you in.
 
I also visited the Madame Tussauds wax museum in Shanghai, we have to travel about an extra kilometer or two to find the entrance and it was a very interesting experience to be surrounded by famous stars from the Asia and Hollywood. I definitely took way too many selfies.
Oh, everywhere you go or travel to, the most important thing is food… open your mind, open your mouth, don’t think… just bite.  Yummy!
Shanghai is so much fun for a wheeler!

 

Choo choo, I’m off on the super train to the next city, it’s fast, cheap, reliable… and best of all,  accessible (with a little help).

What happens when your heart gets broken

So, this is the question…. What happens to you if your heart shatters? And gets broken by the people you love the most? You live, you live with all your strength and courage, and smile in the future that belongs to you.  People who are meant to be with you will be with you; people who loves you will love you still. You, can only do what’s good for you. You, can only try your best to live for your future. 

I went, saw and readied myself!

Edited by Sandra M

I arrived in China on Sept 19th and couldn’t wait to visited the beautiful monstrous world wonder of my dreams, I went there the next day.  As this beautiful sleeping dragon called The Great Wall lay before me, it beauty and architecture literally took my breathe away. The part of the Great Wall that I planned to wheel on lies on top of a mountain range about 1-2 hours drive outside of central Beijing.

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After parking the vehicle, we had to walk/wheel uphill for about 2 km to get to the base of the BaDaLing Great Wall, this itself was a workout and half.  Next is going through one specially made wheelchair ramp built during the 2008 Paralympics (to my surprise, they follow the North American slop height standard), 1 slightly higher slop, then one last wheelchair ramp like the previous before getting to the wheelchair entrance.

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After entering, one must go up a 15-20-degree stone made (looks like original wall structure) pathway to go up to the watch tower, after getting bumped over 2 steps within the watch tower, I must get bumped up another 8 steps before I am actually on the wall and ready for my challenge.

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Now that I was on the wall, I’m faced with the new challenge.  I had prepared myself for the high attitude, warm temperature as well as the degree of incline of the wall, but what I was not prepared for was the slanted slopped walkway, the very warn down rocks and especially the cement holding the rocks together were still remaining therefore the terrain was like mini stairs or boxes and very difficult to push up.  I tried a few pushes to get a feel of the wall… for a quadriplegic, to use the word difficult to describe the experience is an understatement.

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My boyfriend was very concerned after seeing me struggle and urged me to reconsider, I smiled and said “I’ll let you know.” but deep down I already have the answer.  Now that I have come 8000 km, I saw my finish line and knew what I am facing… I just need to ready myself.  After seeing the determination in my eyes, my boyfriend shook his head and knew my answer too.

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Almost There…

-edited by Sandra M

Wow, time is flying by fast, way too fast.  It feels like just yesterday that I went to China, with a big Canadian heart, wanting to help people with disabilities, to use our experience in Canada to empower them. At the same time, I set an impossible goal for myself.  I gave myself more than a year to prepare, train and get my body ready, a follow up to Rick Hansen’s legendary journey 30 years ago, to wheel on the Great Wall of China.  I received great support from my Canadian friends but received mostly mixed reviews and questions from the hundreds of people with disabilities in China. They could not fathom such tasks could ever be done by someone in a wheelchair or dare to dream big. It’s difficult for them to dream big when for thousands of years’ people with disabilities are hidden away from the society, viewed as totally dependent, and trapped in the vicious cycle of “can’t”.  Although the Chinese society has begun to progress by creating more accessible environment for people with disability, but they are still trapped mental by thinking they cannot. I hope my action will inspire them to challenge themselves to live a life they want.

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My suitcases are packed, with gifts to family and friends, and as many donated items as I can fit. Thanks to the airline allowing a medical suitcase, I can put all of my essentials all in one place.  I have packed many Coloplast items in my suitcase and they have become essential for my journey.

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I am just a regular girl with a big dream that’s willing to do anything to achieve it. My friends, no matter what place you are in life, no matter what shape your body is in, no matter what ability or disability you may have, as long as you focus on your goal, put in the effort it requires and do you best, success is within your grasp.

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I’m only a few hours away from flying across the world to make my dreams come true.  I do not have butterflies flying in my stomach but thousands of bumble bees, buzzing with excitement for my next great adventure.

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Training mentally, and the body will follow

-edited by Sandra M

 

Life for a person with a disability is not easy. We constantly have to deal with health issues.  We are also dealing with emotional demons. For those of you that know me or have been following my journey you know the struggles that I have been enduring.  In the past 2 years I have had 7 surgeries and have had many complications.  What most people don’t know is that behind the smiles, for the past year I have been also been battling severe depression.   Through this experience, I found a way to survive and overcome hardship.

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So, how did I manage to keep smiling and continue training?  The answer is simple.  I had a goal to reach, I have the Great Wall of China to wheel.  Knowing I had a goal with a specific date already set, I had to overcome.   During the toughest times of my life, I have forced myself to wake up and get up! I have forced myself to leave the house.  Forced myself to hit the gym and the hills to train. Slowly, these actions became routines, these routines became a life style.  All my energy, passionate determination is focused on achieving my goal of wheeling up the Great Wall of China.

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wheel up Emily Murphy Hill

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Every day I’m driven by my dream, I can see the finish line, and my health issues just faded away into the background. I planned each step to ensure the success of my goal.  I signed up with P.A.L.S training at the Steadward Center from the University of Alberta, they provide a student trainer who helps me to train specific muscle groups.  I have a set routine of workout between training at the gym, wheeling up hills, dancing Zumba, wheelchair rugby practices with Edmonton Steel Wheels Club and doctor’s offices 7 days a week.  My friends giving me suggestions. My teammate Dan Piller lent me his rollers (an exercise machine for wheelchair users) and a Freewheel (a single wheel attachment for the wheelchair to make smooth wheeling).   Friends from far and wide are giving me encouraging words and well wishes.  All of these factors have helped me both mentally and physically during these difficult times. I am so grateful to have great friends and I live in a wonderful community.

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I just had my 15th new “birth” birthday party.  If you wonder what it is?  I have been celebrating the day of my car accident as a rebirth into my new life.  At my celebration, my friends and family donated money towards my next mini project, buying pressure sore relief mattresses for people with disabilities in China.  We managed to raise enough money for 10 mattresses as well as soaker pads to go with them.  I am so grateful to have such supportive friends in my life.

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The date to become the first quadriplegic to wheel on the Great Wall of China is set, September 26th is the day. I hope my achievement and hard work will encourage people in my community and worldwide to think outside the box.  To not let difficulties in life prevent them from living a full life, and to be empowered, to not only dream big, but put their dreams into action.

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With 8 days to go, my mind is already at the Great Wall, soon my body will follow

Doing my part…

In this world and its economy, what significant role do we play? What is my part? What is your part? 

Often, the question people ask becomes “why do we even want to play a part?” And we give ourselves the answer: “let someone else take care of it. ” At least, that was my thought when I was an able-bodied person living a carefree life in this world.  

The funniest thing happened, after my car accident and became a quadriplegic, as life became ever more difficult, I found myself wanting to play a role, any role in fact, that would help the world move to a better future.

Why did that happen? Why the sudden shift? Did my disability suddenly gave me inspiration to be righteciou? Did I suddenly have more time and need to fill my time with something? These are all valid questions and sometimes questions people are not comfortable in asking. It took me sometime to find the answer for myself. The sudden shift in my intellectual understanding of the world is not the answer you would have guessed. The change occurred when my life is no longer “simple “, the lost of my independence has created a warmhole effect that suddenly sucked all the joy and happiness out of life as I knew it, but this lost also created a  clearer picture of the world for me as well as it allowed me the opportunity to view life from a different angle. When you view the world from an unpleasant angle you begin to see the world as harsh, you feel the pain and sees only cloudy sky…but, if you view the world differently? You will begin to see the world for its potential, you begin to search deep and hard for that tiny bit of goodness that is still left, you begin to wanting more in life and sometimes be part of the change that will bring more light into the world.

Let’s view the world differently, together, let’s see the potential and how we can be the change in creating a better future for all of us.

In this world and its economy, what significant role do we play? Let me play my part! Will you play your part?