The Reluctant Contortionist


“You need to put that in the blog” says Superman.

“No,” I tell him. “It never happened.”

“But it’s hilarious.”

I untangle my limbs and flail about as much as I can flail about (paraplegia is a bit restrictive like that). I’m trying to remove the plastic cup from under my arse. It takes a lot of clumsy rolling and reaching. I grab around my crotch area until I retrieve it.

“I’m starting again.” I insist. He’s too busy laughing to instruct me otherwise. I wouldn’t have listened anyway. Mortified, I wipe the incident from my mind until I can see the funny side. I place the plastic cup back on my knee.

Let’s rewind a minute.

We’re over half way through a physio session and Superman has been ramping up my exercises now that my legs are growing a little stronger. I still have a lot of weakness though, and not a huge amount of sensation. I’m lying on a plinth in the physio gym, knees bent and I’m struggling to keep the left knee stable.

Superman disappears for a moment and returns with a plastic cup. Plastic? Clearly he’s in Clark Kent mode today. Saving the world can wait. Today, saving my knees is obviously his priority.

I drift into thoughts of the cup song and for a bizarre moment think this could be the right time to show off. The hand movements come to mind, though I’m out of practice. I’m convinced that muscle memory won’t let me down. It turns out that he has zero interest.

“The cup song?” I insist.

His expression is blank.

“From Pitch Perfect?”


Does he not get the reference? How is that possible? What planet has he been living on?

(Or have we already established that the answer to that is Krypton?)

These and other equally important questions run around my head as Superman places the plastic cup on my knee.

I try to clear my mind of cup-related distractions and I concentrate on keeping that left knee steady as I drop the right out to the side.

It doesn’t last long. The cup tumbles and ricochets around the general groin area until it comes to rest on the plinth, right up against my arse. I try to manoeuvre myself into some kind of position that might save me from mortal embarrassment, but fail spectacularly. The thing about Spinal Cord Injuries is that there is no such thing as swift repositioning, so with all the grace of a hippopotamus, my body clumsily twists in the most uncoordinated movements ever known to man. What my brain thinks is a deft redistribution of weight, my body interprets as an imitation of a wilderbeast.

The other thing about Spinal Cord Injuries is the farting. Toilet issues, as we’ve already learned, are never far from my mind since I first heard that my bowels have failed me. I’ve been safe enough given my recent introduction to a colonic irrigation system that just clears everything out so that accidents can be avoided. This is good. The price you pay for it though, is unexpected farting. Not so good.

Of course this is the perfect moment for my bowel to let loose and forever shame me. (Thankfully it doesn’t let too loose, or I might have had to discharge myself and hide away forever with just my mortification for lifelong companionship.)

I pop.

It sends my arse into a little spasm. Not unusual, but definitely unfortunate. I hear the cup crunch under me. How much worse can this get? Reaching and stretching for it is not working.

Superman is beyond entertained. He’s stepped back, momentarily horrified by the popping but once he’s established that it’s not a code brown, he resumes laughing at my expense. I’m not impressed. Besides, I’m far too busy concentrating bloody hard on fishing out that cup.

“You should have filled it with water,” one of the other physiotherapists calls over from a nearby plinth. Great. An audience. She laughs along.

I used to like her.

It was looking like I was going to need help. Oh God, this couldn’t be happening.

“Do not go in there,” I bark at Superman in my best Sergeant Major voice. His face says it all. He has no intention of coming anywhere close. I then realise what I’ve just said and that I’m pointing at my crotch. I welcome death.

Immediately would be good.

And then I reach the cup. The ordeal is over. I brush the past minute away. I start again.

This time the cup lasts a little longer on my knee before it falls. Lesson learned, I don’t try to move or turn to get it. I know my dignity cannot be rescued. I reach between my legs calmly and pick the cup from the plinth. I fling it to the side, making a mental note to put it in the recycling bin later.

“We won’t be using a cup,” I make the executive decision, “And we will never speak of this again.”

I position my knees, ready to resume my exercises sans cup and Superman nods. He knows a good idea when he hears one. He steps back towards me and issues instructions.

“Drop the right knee” he tells me.

I lower my right knee, my thoughts trying hard to return to my exercises.

I can still hear the other physiotherapist chuckling nearby.

I still like her.

I replay the last minute in my mind. It’s mortifying, but he’s right. It’s hilarious.

I giggle.

“Left knee steady” he drags me once more out of distraction, ever the professional. He’s grinning though.

I steady my left knee and I smile. I start to see the funny side.

7 Comment

  1. Carina says: Reply

    Just brilliant. I love the humour and resistance to normality. Fair play to you Ruth.

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thanks Carina

  2. Caroline says: Reply

    Very funny. So glad it wasn’t code brown ! Lol

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Oh God! That’d be my worst nightmare

  3. Gerene says: Reply

    Oh my. I can so see this happening! I was always so worried doing water therapy! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      The strange things we have to worry about!!!!!

  4. Claudette says: Reply

    Hilarious Ruthie! You crack me up. I’m so pleased you’re working hard. Good on ya

Leave a Reply