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My Fight with Stairs

I have no memory of stairs being easy. They tower in my mind as diabolical obstacles. Instead of stairs as a means to get to another place, to make room by using vertical space, or even as a benevolent architectural choice—they are steep, evil obstructions bent on my destruction.

Even as a child, stairs were difficult. I had a method of going up that involved throwing my left leg up and hoisting myself violently one step at a time because I lacked the bend in my knees to properly climb them. Going down was easier as I would sit on the top and slide one step at a time.

After I learned to walk again following my first joint replacements, I spent hours practicing stairs. My physical therapist gave me a crutch to help hoist myself. I placed my left foot up, pushed on the crutch with my left arm and on the railing with my right arm to lift my other leg. Then do it all over again for each step. After the surgeries we feared sliding was not safe, so I learned to descend the stairs with my crutch backwards and a spotter behind me.

It was wonderful when my parents purchased a stairlift for the home. After my surgeries, climbing the stairs with my crutch was workable but not practical for every day, and probably not all that safe.

The stairlift is wonderful!

I sit on the seat and push a button to make it ascend the track as I watch the stairs roll by. So much easier and less tiring than climbing and descending the stairs! And I imagine that it’s handy for carrying laundry or anything heavy or bulky up and down, even when I am not visiting the house.

As I have aged, my dislike for stairs has probably only increased. Stairs became gradually hard to manage and rarely seemed worth the effort of struggle and exhaustion. And I think I have often underestimated the danger. One slip of my foot could result in a devastating fall—injuring myself or a loved one trying to help me.

As a young adult, I did pull out my crutch sometimes to visit people and climb their stairs. I always needed additional help, but wanted so much to go to parties and see homes of dear friends. Other times I have made visits in my manual wheelchair and have been lifted by strong, adventurous friends over stairs.

These were treasured times—being able to visit friends at home, go to parties, and enjoy the temporary defeat over another staircase. But it was not to last. I have to admit that I really cannot safely use the crutch anymore to climb stairs. I do not trust my strength fully for this activity and fear the risk of harm. I also feel that lifting my manual wheelchair over stairs should be only used in rare cases for the same reasons.

I have come to appreciate flat surfaces, single-levels, elevators, and ramps.

They are precious and greatly practical for someone with severe rheumatoid arthritis who has trouble climbing stairs. While I am sad at times about the places I can’t go, especially visiting friends in their homes, I am grateful for whatever accessible locations I can visit and use them frequently.

It was difficult to come to terms with my fight with stairs. I must admit that I cannot defeat them, as much as I may want to. But I can outwit them with elevators and navigating the world I can access from my wheelchair.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • JZSchaefer
    2 years ago

    Great Post! The growth of science and technology has made everything possible. Technology has advanced a lot in the world of accessibility, and now there are Lift chairs that raise us to allow users to reach items on shelves and just have eye-to-eye conversations with people. When it comes to finding a perfect solution to home accessibility, home stair lifts are the best. They not only bring convenience when moving up and down stairs but also give the safeness and effortless function to the user. These Lift chairs are easily available in market and one can also Shop Online at stores like SpinLife, Amazon etc.

    editor’s note: due to nature of post, comment was edited

  • Eebtool
    3 years ago

    I myself have never yet needed assistance other that the handrail (and on occasion a drinking buddy after a night out) to use the stairs. Good to know that there has been many options for you to help in the climbs.

    Now this is somewhat off topic, but somewhat related, as to being mobile, have you got to experience the thrills of a not to wild theme park ride lately, that is if you are able to go do it.

    It would be like a fast stairlift ride where you raise your hands and shout as loud and long as you can.

    Just having some fun thoughts going through my head while reading this post.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    3 years ago

    I like your sense of humor! In fact, I love a fast roller coaster so maybe that’s why I have a special appreciation for stair lifts. Ha ha! 🙂 Best, Kelly

  • Carla Kienast
    3 years ago

    I am SO with you! Some people’s #1 enemy are things like door handles or jars. Mine is, and always has been, stairs and it’s gotten worse with hip and knee replacements. I can do it if I have to (and in places like London, you have to), but it isn’t pretty. I do much better going down stairs than I do going up. Don’t think I’ll be sliding down any staircases anytime soon, but I got a real laugh of picturing you do it!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks Carla! 🙂 I suppose sliding down the stairs is safer than sliding down the bannister–but not as exciting! Agree on stairs being “the worst” and it helps to have gravity aid us in going down! Cheers, Kelly

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