The Demise Of Toys “R” Us
The 'Wheelchair Kamikaze' Conquers New York's Mean Streets
Like many people with progressive MS, Marc Stecker at first resisted getting a wheelchair. Then he discovered his "inner 12-year-old."
By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
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Marc Stecker likes to go fast. His motorized wheelchair can easily outpace most of the runners in New York’s Central Park. Getting stuck behind slow-moving pedestrians on crowded sidewalks is one of his greatest frustrations – that and inadequate or missing curb cuts that force him into traffic.
Those daily thrills and dangers are chronicled in a he has posted under the name “The Wheelchair Kamikaze.” But accepting, much less enjoying, his wheelchair, was a journey in itself.
Eleven years ago, Stecker was walking his dog when he noticed his right knee was buckling. “I was a world class hypochondriac,” he said. “I immediately started thinking: brain tumor, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis.”
Only, he was right. It was primary progressive MS, the more rare form of the disease that steadily and inexorably causes loss of function. “Now I say I wasn’t a hypochondriac, I was prescient,” he said.
He no longer has the use of his legs or his right arm. But his sense of humor is not impaired by MS, and it has made a hit. He recently logged his one-millionth visit.
The blog’s mixture of information, humor, philosophy, and kvetching recalls Woody Allen. Like Allen, he also has a clear love of New York City, and especially Central Park.
“He’s been places I haven’t been,” said his wife Karen. “I still haven’t been to the woods in Central Park because it’s too far to walk.” Marc and Karen had been married just under a year when he was diagnosed. “It was not a particularly happy anniversary,” she said.
“In 5 minutes it struck me my world has opened up again.”
As the MS progressed, Stecker became more isolated. He had to leave his job as a video producer when he could no longer lift a camera to his eye. As his mobility decreased, he spent more and more time in the apartment, leaving even the dog walking to Karen.
He says he probably needed a wheelchair for at least a year before he was willing to get one. “When they delivered the thing I sat and looked at it for a couple of hours, wrapping my mind around the fact,” he said. “Then my inner 12-year-old got the better of me. Wheels and a motor and a joystick?” He began tearing around the apartment knocking over furniture. The “wheelchair kamikaze” was born.
When his wife came home from work, she announced they were going out. “I was horrified at going out in public in a wheelchair,” he said, “but in five minutes it struck me my world has opened up again.”
It was his wife’s idea to mount a camera on the arm of the chair. Stecker needed to learn a new, more patient way of taking pictures. He can no longer react quickly to something he sees. Instead, he must anticipate a good shot and set it up. Karen says he is now out for hours taking pictures. His photographs form a major part of the blog.
Stecker admits to but refuses to give into it. “I have a situation I can’t reverse.
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