Gluteus Ex-Maximus

April 1, 2009

The other day I was complaining of some discomfort in my back injury to my physical therapist. I asked her why the area seemed to be raised or sticking out more than usual. I’m referring to my sacrum bone – the largest bone in the spine, attached to the pelvis. This had its bony protuberances sheared off by a rock at some point on my unconscious descent of the mountain. Anyway, her answer took me by surprise.

“You don’t have a butt any more.” she said.

I looked in shock at my wife. She shrugged and smirked in silent confirmation. It was like a light just turned on. It explained a trend of increasing discomfort over time while performing certain non-changing activities. I grabbed what used to be a butt cheek and felt that it was no longer a bulge above my rear leg muscle – there was no change in contour. And to make matters worse, my leg muscles have withered due to lack of use. She was right. My sacrum appears raised because my gluteus maximus is no more.

So what could be more ironic? I am confined to sitting but my sitting equipment – the padding that provides comfort – is disappearing. Here begins the relevance to wheelchair life – at least for me. So I sit in a wheelchair a lot. But in order to live I have to make many transitions between this wheelchair and other objects. I have already mentioned the transition to toilets in an earlier post. It turns out the surface most used in this operation is my butt, bum or derriere. I must say at this point that I am very lucky – while I cannot weight bear on my legs yet, they do work and I can actually use them a bit for motivation. To continue, in order to get into the car I have to wheel out onto the porch, get out of my chair and descend about ten steps on my bum (I’m from England, the country where “fanny” means vagina). Somebody else needs to carry my wheelchair down the steps and place it at the bottom. I then have to get into it again and wheel down the pathway to the car. I then get into the car and somebody needs to put the wheelchair in the trunk. Then they need to drive to the destination and more transitions follow. I know I digress.

Another transition. I’m now taking baths, but one leg is in a cast so it cannot enter the water. But its more complicated than this. Our only bathroom with a bath won’t let me and my wheelchair in – the door is too narrow. I have to wheel to the door, transfer to a small office chair with wheels placed by somebody else in the doorway, scoot across the 4 feet of floor to the bath, remove my clothes, place a plastic garbage bag over my cast, transfer to the edge of the bath. Here we go; bum meets very hard and narrow surface. To cut a long story short, there’s not many ways a bum sans glutes can comfortably sit on a bath edge. Next there is a slightly scary descent into the bath ensuring that the leg cast does not also take the plunge and remains on the narrow bath edge. Now imagine exiting the bath – its the reverse but add wet bum and change descent into ascent. Yes, the other day I slipped and fell back in.

These are just two examples of bum/inanimate object interfaces. Just to expand a bit, the other day my wife and I went to view a Montessori school. So much for ADA compliance – I had to ass-end one flight of external terra cotta steps and two flights of internal carpeted steps just to get into the place. This does not include the landings made of beautiful hardwood.

Where am I going with all this? Hard, cold, hot, rough, wet, slippery. These are all words that can be used separately or in combination to describe what my bum has to feel these days – a bum that has diminishing insulation. And so to wheelchair accessorization. My workaround for steps and some floors is a 3/4 inch foam pad that I keep underneath my cushion (the cushion is not waterproof). I use this as a little bum relief for every other step. Its hard to use it for every step. I have considered attaching some straps that would allow me to wear it while traversing steps. Not sure this is worth the hassle or dramatic drop in street credibility.


2 Responses to “Gluteus Ex-Maximus”

  1. For some reason this reminds me of my younger callow self in first year undergrad, waiting outside the examination room with my fellow physics students. I approached a group, and one was holding onto some sort of pillow, which seemed to be the WEIRDEST thing ever. I said “hey, what’s with the pillow???” (yeah I was that guy) and in his nerdy-undergrad-physics way, said to me “I have a problem….down there” – and on the latter part of the description he held his hand straight out in front of his chest and then bent one finger repeatedly downwards for emphasis.

    My question was jerky, but he was clearly unprepared to answer the question in a non-awkward fashion.

    This guy didn’t have a ton of street cred, but he was toting a PILLOW and if you don’t know why or what that means then yeah, his credit plummeted even lower.

  2. donnaslote Says:

    Hey Olly,
    Here’s a product designed for those who want more fanny:

    Here’s a great show about a football player who ends up in a wheel chair:

    Hang in there!

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