Guest Post: James Dwyer Talks About Fatherhood Post-Injury

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One of my biggest concerns after the accident was my ability to still be a Dad.

As I laid in my hospital bed thoughts of what I had expected my future to be would fly through my head. I had only been a father for 13 months and I felt like I was just starting to understand it when the rug was pulled from underneath us.

Thursdays were my day with Dexter. I had reduced the work i did during the week so i could spend the whole day with him and they had become my favourite day of the week. This had lasted just 3 weeks before the accident.

At 13 months many of Dexter’s peers were walking and Dex was still very much a crawler. The irony hit me round the head. Here I was laying in bed unable to feel or move my legs and had been told I’ll never walk again, and we had joked days before that Dexter would be crawling all his life at this rate. Suddenly the fact he wasn’t walking wasn’t important anymore.

I couldn’t pick him up. That was really hard. I needed Emma to put him on me and he would never be interesting in sitting for long. I didn’t feel in control of him and I was worried I would always need someone there to protect us both. He used to love the rides through the hospital ward on my lap, and it was the highlight of my day, but having to ask for help to take him off was mentally painful.

Dexter is now 2.5 and we have adapted together. He understands that Daddy is different and although Daddy does stand (in a standing frame), he doesn’t walk. Dexter has a wheelchair toy that he walks around with at pre-school and calls his daddy toy. When we read, we often look at a book called ‘We can go anywhere’ which is a fantastic book that talks about adventures on Daddy’s wheelchair. Dexter doesn’t look at me any differently and, just as he will never remember a time where he didn’t walk, he will never remember me walking or how much he cried the day of the accident as I lay on the floor unable to move.

For those first few months there was a magical time where we both were trying to walk. One of us made it and I was so happy to see him taking those first steps and the fact he saved them for the hospital visit that day.

When I look in his eyes, I realise that he genuinely doesn’t care if I can walk or whether I go to toilet differently. It doesn’t matter I won’t be kicking a ball with him. My role is no less important, and his early understanding of others being different from the stereotypes we put them in can only be a good thing. We have learnt ways to pick him up despite the absence of core strength together and I have no concerns with looking after him on my own in any environment.

I’m still a Dad, and I’ve got the most important job in the world, shaping and protecting Dexter on his journey. The dream of being Dad again was my ‘Why’ and gave me the strength i needed to accept and move on.

Having a ‘Why’ helps us move forward and gives the focus needed to get through the harder days.

What is your why?

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