Trains, sex, buses, an ambulance, the emergency department, and CT scans

Shane Clifton, crashed on the floor of the bus
Shane Clifton, crashed on the floor of the bus

My day yesterday involved trains, sex, buses, an ambulance, the emergency department, and CT scans, so it was relatively exciting, and since I’m going to tell you upfront that I’m okay you, there’s no need for you to worry as you read on.

I had to be in Parramatta for a class at 9 AM, which meant a far too early wake-up, and a morning preparation so rushed that I didn’t get a proper shower, and so headed out the door with my hair looking a little like John Travolta in Grease. The Ingleburn to Parramatta train ride has become boringly straight forward, except today. When changing trains, the ramp from the carriage to the platform wasn’t held firmly enough in place by the attendant, so I ended up with my front castor wheels jammed between the train and the platform. No doubt, the five-minute delay needed to get me unstuck annoyed impatient commuters, but I am used to this sort of drama, and before long I’d changed trains and made it to Parramatta, and then to work.

My class was on sexual ethics. In Christian contexts, this is a topic fraught with controversy, and as we negotiated subjects that included dating, masturbation, and the ideals of transcendent sexual unity, I felt like shouting, “stop overthinking things. It’s just an orgasm, and you should enjoy it while you can. I’d give anything to be able to experience that feeling again.” But I restrained myself, and the class was fun; an open and engaging discussion, about a topic dear to all of our hearts.

The lecture went through to midday, at which point I found a quiet corner in a Gloria Jean’s cafe, and tipped back my chair for a kip – one of the advantages of an electric wheelchair is that a bed is always present. I badly needed the rest, since my schedule for the day was unusually busy. Following the morning class was an afternoon meeting at ParaQuad, where I had been invited to sit on a steering committee for a project set up to develop training programs for personal care at home. The ParaQuad offices are in Newington, and to get there I needed to catch a bus from the Parramatta terminus. When it pulled up, a crowd of people swamped inside, leaving me to wait for the bus driver to lower the ramp and usher me on. Bus corridors are narrow, and it takes no small amount of practice to negotiate the chair round the corner, past the driver’s compartment, and into the designated wheelchair accommodation. This is near the front of the bus, with seats that fold up to make room for the chair, which is parked facing the rear. once in place, it wasn’t long before we were under way, and I was able to lose myself in dreams of adventure, listening to an audio recording of The Count of Monte Christo:

“Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.”

From Parramatta, the bus headed east toward the city along Victoria Road. You can tell when a driver is in a hurry by the extent to which aggressive acceleration and braking force you forward and then reverse-fling you into the backrest and headrest of the chair. But the journey today, while fast, seemed relatively normal, and I was relaxed and unconcerned. The crisis came without warning, as the bus looped left around a sweeping on-ramp from Victoria Road to the overpass on Silverwater Road.

Before I had any chance to react, my chair tipped and I fell to the side, smashing my head on the seating opposite, and falling onto the floor. It must have happened in a flash, but I can remember every instant of the fall. It was one of those moments when time really did seem to slow, and I experienced the gut wrenching sensation of a fall that I was utterly helpless to prevent. I didn’t lose consciousness, and I ended up lying crumpled up on my side, half on and half off the fallen wheelchair, with my face flat against the floor. I screamed in panic. The passengers, watching on in horror, shouted to the driver, and the bus pulled up.

Immediately, a large and smartly-dressed man (who later introduced himself as Michael), rushed over, made sure I was okay, and called 000. He was given firm instructions that I wasn’t to be moved but, rather, to wait for the arrival of the ambulance.

So I waited, with my face squashed against the dusty and unforgiving floor, and my body twisted up, like one of those oddly bent chalk drawings placed at the scene of the crime on TV procedurals. Memories of 7 October 2010 flashed into my mind, and I went from being panicked to feeling pathetically humiliated; a circus attraction earning the curiosity of the watching crowd. Before long, though, my mood switched to one of resignation. This sort of experience seems to be par for the course of sci, and the way to get through it is to be patient and relax. What I can’t change isn’t worth worrying about, and so I took the opportunity to shut my eyes and have another rest.

The ambulance seemed to take an inordinate amount of time – although I suspect my sense of time was out of kilter. As I was lying there, I heard the bus driver talking to the passengers, defending himself:

“I didn’t strap the seatbelt to his chair, because most of them don’t like it.”

“I was only travelling at 30 km an hour, the normal speed – I wasn’t driving too fast.”

“I will probably be put on report and might be placed on suspension.”

This self-interested justification irritated me, so I interrupted:

“Instead of spending this time worrying about yourself, why don’t you get your priorities right, and show some concern about the quadriplegic lying on the floor of your bus.”

He gave a quick apology and that was the last I heard from him. And still, I waited. I’m pretty sure it was half an hour or more before another bus turned up to take the onlooking passengers the rest of their journey. I guess I should have felt a little sorry for the chaos I’d created, but I struggled to feel any real sympathy for them and their missed appointments. For that matter, it looked like I was going to miss my own meeting. I figured, at least, that I had a good excuse.

The police arrived, and then firemen, and about 20 minutes after the fall, the ambulance roared in and the paramedics took charge. The team leader introduced herself as Claire, and while checking my vital signs she chatted and joked and so made me feel at ease. It seemed likely that I was okay (well, I was still a quadriplegic – the fall hadn’t cured me – but I didn’t seem to be any more damaged), but Claire wasn’t taking any chances. Since I was paralysed, I needed to be treated as any other person subject to a sci. The difficulty was that my weirdly contorted position, among the poles and seats of the bus, made a puzzle of the task of straightening me up. But a strategy was devised, beginning with the placement of a neck brace, and then a series of small and cautious moves that eventually saw me lying flat on my back on a gurney. Thereafter, the task of getting me out of the bus and into the back of the ambulance was relatively simple.

Once settled, I was briefly interviewed by a police officer, and then asked whether there was anyone who should be apprised of the situation. Truth be told, I was reluctant for them to contact Elly. I knew that a call from the police would cause her panicked heart palpitations, and because I thought that I was probably fine, I contemplated keeping quiet, going to hospital for tests, and then trying to find my own way home. I quickly realised that not only was such a strategy stupid (really, did I imagine I could get myself home after an accident like this!), but that Elly would murder me if I didn’t make sure she was notified. I instructed the officer to make the call, but to be as gentle and upbeat as possible.

At about 3 PM I took my first ride in an ambulance (my previous journey to hospital was in a helicopter), and I was ushered into Accident and Emergency at Concord Hospital. An hour or so later, I was transferred to radiology, and was given a CT scan of my head and neck. When I was returned to the ward, Elly was there waiting. This really did feel like old times; me staring at the ceiling with a neck brace, and Elly sitting alongside the bed. It must have been around 6 PM when I was given the all clear, and Elly took me home.

Later, I was talking to my brother Kurt, and he declared that the whole thing was set up. I have almost finished my memoir (looking for a publisher), and he reckons that this mini emergency had been planned to give me an exciting way to end the book. “Finish it on a cliff-hanger,” he said, “so that everyone will want to read the sequel.”

Travel to Canberra: lessons learned

The journey to Voices for Justice last weekend was my first trip away (other than to my parents place) since my accident in 2010 (quite a change for someone used to yearly trips abroad). We spent two days one night in Canberra, after which I have the following observations:

  1. packing: it is staggering how much needs to be taken for an overnight trip. Aside from clothes and medical paraphernalia, we needed to transport a commode, hoist and air mattress. This requires some manual labour and jigsaw puzzle car arrangement, performed by Elly and Kristy (my carer) – a gender role reversal that I wasn’t sure whether to be grateful for or emasculated by! In any event, it was fortunate we were travelling without the boys as the middle seat was taken up with junk. In future I suspect we will need to hire equipment, the joys of further expenditure.
  2. Hotel: our accommodation was booked by a friend and careful attention was paid to ensure that the facilities were accessible. It turns out that what able-bodied people describe as accessible is not always so. The room had a disabled bathroom, but there was an inch step from the carpet to the titles. This does not sound like much, until you become a 5 foot two carer (Kristy) trying to push a commode filled with a 99 kg body. In fact, the motel was full of inclines that were difficult to negotiate and narrow corridors. At least this provides some entertainment, and the occasional ding in a wall is the price the hotel pays.
  3. Bed: a major challenge was that there was no clearance underneath the bed to take the hoist. Elly and Kristy had the precarious task of wheeling the hoist and I to the side of the bed and then tipping me in – trying to avoid squashing me in the process. Once in there was the possibility that I was going to have to stay there for the rest of the weekend, but Elly imagined a creative solution. A bit hard to describe in words, but it involved the corner of the bed, dragging me around and sitting me up. In any event, we managed to get me up.
  4. Change in chair: once up and in the commode we realised that after the bathroom I am normally returned to bed to be dressed. Since that seemed like a bad idea, we thought it might be worth experimenting whether I could be dressed in a chair. Remarkably, we learned a new skill. This proved to be extraordinarily useful. On the Tuesday morning after my return home I was dressed and ready to go to work only to have that joyous experience of wetting my pants (yes, mum, I know you taught me not to do that a long time ago). Rather than bother returning me to bed for another change we tried out our new skill – the Superman change in the chair. My wife took a photo which is embarrassingly funny enough to share:

All in all we enjoyed the trip. Going there and back in two days was too much for everyone – we shall leave longer next time. We shall also spend the money on a ritzier motel. Thanks to Kristy for tagging along, and to Micah challenge for the invite.

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Paralympic medal count an indictment on USA social/disability services?

As a keen Australian viewer of the Paralympic games, I have been struck by the poor performance of the USA team. As of today, the medal count for the Paralympic games is as follows:

London Paralympics (Day nine) 2012
Rank country Gold Silver Bronze total
1 China 83 65 58 206
2 Great Britain 32 40 41 113
3 Russia 32 35 25 92
4 Ukraine 30 19 25 74
5 Australia 29 20 26 75
6 United States 27 25 33 85
7 Germany 18 23 19 60
8 Brazil 15 12 6 33
9 Poland 12 11 7 30
10 Netherlands 9 9 17 35

Compare this to the 2012 Olympics (able-bodied):

London (able bodied) Olympics 2012
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 United States 46 29 29 104
2 China 38 27 22 87
3 Great Britain 29 17 19 65
4 Russia 24 25 33 82
5 South Korea 13 8 7 28
6 Germany 11 19 14 44
7 France 11 11 12 34
8 Italy 8 9 11 28
9 Hungary 8 4 5 17
10 Australia 7 16 12 35

The issue is not only the move from first to sixth place. There are around 23 million Aussies, compared to approximately 312,000,000 Americans. In this light, the fact that Australians are beating (or anywhere near) the Americans in the Paralympic medal count raises important questions that have to be asked by American people. Did you know, for example, that the Australian wheelchair basketball teams, both men and women, beat the American wheelchair basketballers – a sport in which (stupidly high paid able-bodied) Americans are unbeatable?

Now, to be honest, I could care less about sporting medals. The issue is not “gold”, but what the relative success/failure of the Paralympic teams says about the disability support services that ground the performance of each country.

The truth is that I know very little about American social/disability support services. From the outside, however, it seems to be the case that the USA does not provide the same level of support for disabled people as is provided in other Western nations (it is also worth noting the Chinese Paralympic success). Now it may be that my analysis is in some way incorrect or incomplete. But if a community (or country) is judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens, then this is it least suggestive of an issue that needs serious reflection.

Okay – bring on the hate mail!

the non-disabled depending upon the disabled

I spend much of my day asking for help. Coming home from the train station yesterday I was cold and so stopped to ask a young lady to get my beanie and mittens out from my bag. She looked at me strangely and said, “can’t you get someone else?” when I noted that she was nearest she again refused to help. it is a response that I get surprisingly often. initially it embarrasses me (I must look like a creepy pervert) and then it infuriates me. I suggested that she think of her failure to help me every time she watched the news of the Paralympics, and then made my way to ask someone else.

With this in mind it was interesting to come across the following quote in a book by Amos Yong, Theology and down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity:

  • Sharon betcher notes (2000: 93), when she says as a person with a disability “excuse me, i need your help”—“in that moment the frozen wall between us topples; in your converted countenance, i discern that, as if in the twinkling of an eye, you have been changed. For the 45 seconds i needed you, you did not feel extraneous to the world. Sometimes i will ask for help just to save you, the nondisabled, from superficiality and irrelevance—just to save us from your own worst fear.” in that moment, god’s saving grace is made available through “the stranger” or those on the margins, and we can receive this grace or not depending on how we respond. This is the criterion dividing the sheep and the goats at the judgment: “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (matt 25:40). Hence, the question concerns not the dependence of the disabled on the nondisabled but the other way around: the nondisabled are dependent on the disabled, whom god has chosen to be a means of saving grace. (page 188)

This is such a profound paragraph. And it has me wondering, what does that mean for the people who so often say “no” to the ‘creepy’ me when I ask for help? or much more importantly, what does it mean for all those brilliant people who help me time and again.

Providence?

Last week I wrote a blog entry describing problems with my bowel and “small moments of grace.” As I reread that blog from a different vantage point today, it really does seem like the author is a super spiritual sanctimonious twot. Isn’t he wonderful, such a man of faith in the face of hard times? Vomit.

The author of this current entry (perhaps an alien has exchanged the brain in the body that looks like Shane Clifton) cannot see any grace in the midst of godforsakenness. He spent three days last week in bed and thought the issue was over. Monday, he went to Prince of Wales (outpatients visit with Dr, physiotherapy, MRI, x-ray – nothing like a day at hospital to turn the skin green). Tuesday he went to college, taught a class in the morning, but at two o’clock in his office his tummy rumbled and out came the poo. Off he went to the train, but missed it by 15 seconds. Another half an hour wait on the platform, and for good measure his bum opens again. Gets the next train, and of course the movement brings more crap – which manages to find its way onto the floor of the carriage. He stinks to high heaven, and like the toddler who covers his eyes and imagines he is alone, he pretends that the carriage is empty. He makes it home eventually and his carers turn up at 5 for a horrendous cleanup.

Wednesday (today) he is woken, taken to the toilet, showered and put back into bed. Two hours later he is on the phone to his friend and, surprise surprise, the body leaks. Another surreal experience, a phone poo.

Providence? Faith? Moments of grace?

And as he finishes another appalling blog post (sorry if it hits your inbox when you’re eating), he asks again, why is he writing and publishing this? I suspect he just needs to vent, to shout into the void. So don’t pity him and don’t kid yourself that he is anywhere near being an inspiration. Just pray a quick prayer (Daniel and Bianca, you can light a candle). He doesn’t have the faith right now to hope it will make much difference, but he likes to be prayed for. There is something comforting in the thought of friends in prayer, whatever its connection to the providential workings of God.

The Strangeness of Prayer and Providence

Life is all a matter of perspective. Let me tell you the same story in two ways – don’t worry, I will keep it short.

On Thursday I had a class to teach in the afternoon at Hillsong in Baulkham Hills (feminist theology and the doctrine of the Trinity – one of my favourite subjects). I woke up feeling a little bit uncomfortable but nothing serious enough to keep me from taking the journey to class. Just as I was about to leave, however, my chair broke down. The challenge with an electric chair is that mechanical problems can leave you stranded. So, I cancelled my class, got hoisted back into bed, and went about trying to arrange a repair. About an hour later I noticed my tummy rumbling and the result, given I have no control of that part of my body, was pure yuckyness. Once again my brilliant carers to the rescue.

So what has this got to do with providence? Well, if my chair had not broke down, I would have been on the way to Hillsong – perhaps even in class – and the result does not bear thinking about. As things stood, I needed to spend two days in bed (perhaps more – I’m still there), and so the fact that it took two days to repair my chair was of no consequence. All in all I am able to thank God for his providential care in this odd confluence of events.

Or am I?

Of course, I might also be able to complain about providence, given that both my broken chair and broken bum prevented me from making my class and kept me stuck in bed.

Now if you really want to send your brain in circles, ask yourself what prayer I should pray in this situation? Of course I have prayed (and I would invite you to pray on my behalf) that this current sickness leaves me. But the challenge of this prayer is that this current problem is subsidiary to a larger one – and God does not seem to have answered the many faithful prayers that I might “take up my bed and walk” (John 5:8).

For many, these are the difficulties that lead to atheism or agnosticism. I understand that. If I’m honest, I am also sometimes agnostic – a Christian agnostic, wondering where on earth God is. But it is contemplation of Christ, his revealing God in the midst of his godforsakenness, that reminds me that faith is not predicated on my control of God through prayer, nor on the assumption that life should be free from crisis and pain. If all of life is understood as gift, as a wondrous spark amidst the fragility and finitude of the universe, then there is reason for thankfulness for the small moments of grace.

So, thank you God that my wheelchair broke down yesterday.

Romans 8:26 the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

critical review of Jeffrey Deaver’s The Bone Collector

critical review of Jeffrey Deaver’s The Bone Collector

A few months after my accident I was given the present of an Apple iPad, a brilliant invention for those of us with kacky hands, since sliding fingers is enough to make it work. The first e-book I downloaded to the Amazon Kindle app (and I have spent a fortune since) was by Jeffrey Deaver, The Bone Collector, also made into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. The novel was recommended to me because the central character, Lincoln Rhyme, was a quadriplegic.

The novel was okay – a light enough and sometimes thrilling read – and I was just happy at the time to be able to get my head into a book. I was intrigued by Rhyme, whose story I could at least partially relate to. There was, however, something that was not quite right, but I could not pin it down at the time.

Rhyme is a high-level quad, unable to move anything from the neck down except his little finger. He is wealthy, having received a substantial payout as compensation for his injury. As a result he has access to extraordinary technology, not only assistive wheelchairs and top of the range vehicles, but a state-of-the-art sound system and television and even a $200 down pillow.

When we first meet him, he is receiving visitors, his former friend and colleague, Lon Sellitto and another policeman. They are shocked at what they see:

“Rhyme had changed considerably since Sellitto had last been here and the detective didn’t hide his shock very well… The sloppy room, the vagrant gazing at them suspiciously. The smell too certainly – the visceral aroma surrounding the creature Lincoln Rhyme now was.”

What quickly becomes apparent is that Rhyme is both bitter and angry. He is impatient with Sellitto, and his animosity is such that he has had no visitor for three months (except his long-suffering personal carer). Sellitto is uncomfortable but he understands Rhyme’s aggression, appreciating the magnitude of his loss. Prior to the accident Rhyme had been a forensic detective, one of the best in the business. Now he is a trapped in a broken body. And so it is not surprising to the reader that he refuses friends and stays locked in his room, bedridden, his only company a lonely Falcon that has come to live on his windowsill, taking the daily flight that Rhyme so wishes could be his.

And so Rhyme’s loneliness is interrupted by a visit from his former colleagues, who need his help in an ongoing crime investigation. He gives them a minimal attention before shooing them out so he can take an appointment with a Doctor Berger, described in glowing terms as having “the best bedside manner Rhyme had ever encountered”. The doctor’s subsequent physical examination gives Deaver another chance to describe Rhyme’s experience and character

“Rhyme paid no heed to the lack of privacy. One of the first things crips get over is modesty. While there’s sometimes a half-hearted effort at draping – shrouding the body when cleaning, evacuating and examining – serious crips, real crips, macho crips don’t care.”

The extent of Rhyme’s ‘macho’ then becomes apparent. Dr Berger’s particular expertise is assisted suicide. We are, thereafter, given a whole chapter that describes the horror of Rhyme’s past and present experience and are left in no doubt that, in those circumstances, the ‘manly’ thing to do, the only valid response, is to utilise this good doctor’s services.

Ultimately, of course, the decision for suicide is set aside as Rhyme finds some meaning in the return to criminology (and becomes the subject of a string of subsequent books). I will leave others to comment on the quality of the book as a work of crime fiction but from the perspective of disability there is one more intriguing aspect to the novel. Assisting Rhyme in his pursuit of the criminal is the beautiful Amelia Sachs (later to be played by Angelina Jolie). What starts out as an entirely functional and aggressive relationship ends up in an unusual bond – an entirely a-sexual friendship that is described in sexual terms when, near the end of the novel, Sachs takes Rhyme for a drive in her sleek black Chevrolet:

 “’isn’t this the best, Rhyme?’ She shouted ‘man, better than sex. Setter than anything’”

“’I can feel the vibrations’, he said, ‘I think I can. In my finger’”

So, there you have it. An inspiring novel about a quadriplegic man who overcomes the horrors of his disability by the help of a beautiful woman. A meaningful and real description of an inspiring disabled man. Or so it might seem. In fact, The Bone Collector is a sensationalised story presenting a stereotypical picture of spinal-cord injury (SCI). Deaver knows next to nothing about living with quadriplegia and projects able-bodied assumptions about what he imagines life should be like for people like Rhyme. Note the following:

  1. Deaver (and most of his readers – the book rates 4 1/2 stars on Amazon) presumes that death, even by suicide (performed by heroic medical rebels), is potentially better than life as a quadriplegic. In fact, I have never met a quad who felt that way but I have met many able-bodied people who admit to asking themselves the question, would I be better off dead then paralysed? This question, however, reveals the underlying assumption that the quad is essentially no longer fully human, no longer really alive, without the potential for joy or the opportunity to contribute to others. My experience, however, is that SCI people want to live and are driven (like everyone) to make the most out of life, whatever its challenges. Of course some quads at some point will contemplate suicide, as do many people in all walks of life. But to have suicide as a major theme of a book centred on an “heroic” quadriplegic does an absolute injustice to the mostly driven people that make up the SCI community. Deaver might claim that he has Rhyme come to realise at the end of the novel that life is better than death, but this conclusion is a very close run thing – and might have gone the other way if Rhyme was not needed for subsequent books in the series.
  2. Notwithstanding his access to mobility aids, Rhyme spends most of his time in bed shunning the company of friends. Honestly, this is an absurd portrayal of a quadriplegic. While bed rest might sometimes be forced upon us, no one chooses to stay there, locked away from friends and family. Of course sometimes wheelchair users are forced into exclusion, when buildings and other social spaces are inaccessible – a too common reality; take a look at your own home and ask yourself, could a quadriplegic visit? Accessibility aside, even the most down and out SCI patient I have met at least gets out of bed to have a smoke and get drunk at the pub  – a fact that indicates that a person’s character and habits before an SCI inform his/her habits afterward. Unless Rhyme was a depressive loner prior to his injury (and we are led to believe this was not the case) it is extremely unlikely he would become such a person afterwards.
  3. Rhyme is made wealthy by a payout but the money seems to have been wasted on him – he spends it on trinkets (pillows fit for Kings) but could do with far less. This reflects the common view that insurance payouts to victims of accidents are over the top, examples of the absurdity of a legal system that supposedly favours disabled people and leaves the rest of the community with inflated insurance. Now, apart from the fact that the vast majority of sci people live below the poverty line, often struggling to get meaningful employment and barely surviving on pensions that are totally inadequate, even those with substantial payouts are not living extravagantly. Most have had to repay massive medical expenses, and have ongoing costs that a payout will have to satisfy over the course of a lifetime.
  4. Deaver has the sight of a quadriplegic as being shocking. Rhyme is labelled “a creature” and even the smell of the room in which he lives has a “visceral aroma”. Almost every character who comes to visit Rhyme in his bedroom responds to his quadriplegia with shock and a certain horror – as though such reaction is normal and acceptable. How odd. No doubt, in the early stages of injury in ICU, a quadriplegic hooked up to wires and tubes and monitors looks confronting. Thereafter, however, they look and smell about as horrible/nice as any of the weird people that make up the human race. Even ventilated quadriplegics get dressed up and look pretty “normal” – whatever we mean by that term.
  5. The dehumanisation of Rhyme extends to the assumption that as a quadriplegic he is used to being prodded and poked and showered so that all sense of privacy has been set aside. Now, it is true that sci people learn to appreciate the body for what it is – a body! But that does not mean that the really “manly crip” (to cite to Deaver) has no sense of personal dignity.
  6. In an attempt to indicate that he has some inside knowledge of the SCI community, Deaver has Rhyme describe himself as a “crip.” Now it may be that sci people themselves use such labels, taking what is pejorative and turning an insult into a label of power. Such relabelling is our right. But it is not a right that Deaver has earned, especially with his prejudiced portrayal of Lincoln Rhyme.
  7. Finally, the dehumanisation of Rhyme is made complete with his a-sexuality. Every male in The Bone Collector responds sexually to the beauty of Amelia Sachs … except Rhyme. In later novels we discover that it is precisely this that attracts her to him. It is as though Rhyme has been removed from the heterosexual community and taken on the role the media traditionally give to gay men – best friends with beautiful women sick of being objectified by men. And so rhyme is portrayed as a eunuch, as only half a man – as utterly excluded from sexuality. In fact, however, female and male sci people remain as fully sexual beings, capable of admiring and even lusting after beauty. Again, it is only able-bodied people who imagine that paralysis destroys sexuality. This review is not the place to set out to describe the sexual life of paraplegics and quadriplegics but it is enough to note that the emasculated Rhyme is an invention – a projection from an able-bodied person as to what life, without sex, must be like for a disabled person.

What becomes apparent is that Jeffrey Deaver knows nothing about sci people. But does this matter? He is, after all, writing a novel, and its purpose is entertainment not social commentary. Of course, it might not matter to able-bodied people just looking for a good read. But it does matter to me. A novel that purports to elevate a quadriplegic as a “hero” should tell the story of a realistic disabled person. Lincoln Rhyme should not have to be pushed by able-bodied people to get out of bed. He should not have to be saved by a beautiful able-bodied woman. At the least, he should not be a cardboard cutout of the able-bodied imagination, a mass of stereotypes and only half a man. The SCI community deserve better.

Btw:  if you appreciated this review, please consider taking a journey to Amazon and voting on my review of this book on their website (a summary from this blog). This might give some prominence to my concerns when people consider purchasing this book. My review can be found by clicking the “one star” reviews – there are only 10 of these so it should be easy to find.