My Wheel Life

The stories of how I got this way, and the motivations that keep me rolling.

I’m Having An Emotionally Abusive Relationship With My Apple Watch.

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Apple WatchPerhaps because of all the skepticism in media, I never felt the urge to buy the Apple Watch until my husband trumped me with this ridiculous logic.

“Why wouldn’t you get it?” He asked one day while watching its commercial. “It’s basically made for you.”

And by “made for me,” he meant made for my paralyzed fumbling hands.

“You wouldn’t have to worry about dropping your phone or texting.”

As a quadriplegic of nearly seventeen years now, I should take any help I can get. But I don’t, because I’m stubborn.

And then my friend Ragan came to the rescue as my gateway technology dealer.

“Can we go into the Apple Store real quick,” he asked. “I want to try on the Apple Watch because I can’t decide how I feel about it.”

We had all just met up at one of my favorite LA shopping districts to eat lunch, scour Nordstrom’s and see a movie—our monthly hangout tri-fecta.

“Yeah,” my husband eagerly agreed to his request. “I think she needs to try one on, too.”

Not being one who likes to be told what to do, I immediately gave my husband the sideways wife eye, the scowl that says, Back off Buster! I know what you’re trying to do here…

But then I, too, quickly relented because, one, I can never say no to Ragan. He’s like my other husband, the one I don’t need to prove wrong. And two, because no matter how hard I try to fight the urge to buy Apple’s latest shiniest product, I’m still drawn to the light, airy store with new technology blazing. I find it majestic, like Disney World.

So the three of us ventured in.

And like the movie Vice Versa, as soon as Ragan and I crossed the great Apple threshold, we completely switched forms. As I became more wide-eyed and intrigued about the possibilities of Apple’s latest product, he shrank amidst the touristy crowd. From somewhere deep in the Apple technology black hole, I even heard him shrill, “Ugh, never mind. I’m already so over it. Let’s go.” But it was too late. I was sucked in and already mid-appointment with my Apple Watch expert, proudly wearing the matte white sport fit band and loving every second of it.

And since I had come this far, I thought, why not entertain the idea of buying one? So I looked over to the glass case behind me to froth at all the options.

“It’s not like I’m interested in the $10,000 one. That’d be ridiculous,” I modestly said to the employee. Next, I turned next to my husband.

“And it would be nice to not have to worry about dropping my phone… or what if I was in an emergency situation?”

I should have known this response was coming.

“Don’t give me that look. Buy it,” he replied quickly. “I’ve been telling you this all along. We could always bring it back.”

But since he’s my first and legal husband, I didn’t listen to him. Instead, although reluctantly, I gave the display watch back to the lady and then left the store feeling mixed emotions–part sad about not having the watch but also proud that I didn’t get suckered into the marketing hype… at least not on that day.

Fast-forward to receiving this voicemail from Ragan two weeks later.

“Hey Jana Banana! Ugh. I’M CALLING TO LET YOU KNOW I GOT THE APPLE WATCH and YOU MAY HAVE SEEN IT on my Facebook. THAT MEANS you have to go to the Apple store yourself and get one so I don’t feel guilty about doing it myself. That’s your mission. That’s your goal. I miss you guys! Talk later…”

We were in Florida visiting friends and family when the message came through. But it didn’t matter that we were on vacation, because within twenty-four hours I was at the Apple Store of Millinia Mall buying my watch and explaining the “must have” emergency stop to my brother-in-law.

“Florida taxes are cheaper than California taxes, duh.”

What I didn’t expect from my watch two months later was the effects it had on my quality of life, and not necessarily in the ways I originally hoped. Here are four ways the Apple Watch has challenged me to be a better human. (And then also some suggestions for what I’d like to see in the future.)

4 WAYS THE APPLE WATCH HAS CHANGED MY LIFE  (+ 2 Flaws That Need Fixin’ Stat)

1. It’s a lifeline, especially for disabled people. Here’s a story that’s always horrified me. There was a slightly older quadriplegic woman who worked out the hour before me at my former therapy gym in Orlando. Every once in awhile our paths would cross when I passed her in front of the building smoking cigarettes and waiting for transportation. We never talked. We just always gave each other the wheelchair nod, the non-verbal equivalent for “Hi. I see you’re in a wheelchair. Me too. Let’s not make a big deal about it. Respect.”

One particular afternoon, one of the Occupational Therapists had asked me to do a clinic with her. When I agreed, she pulled me aside to explain why she needed me as a volunteer. Apparently the woman who normally helped her, the aforementioned cigarette smoker, had recently died in her back yard on one of Florida’s brutal summer days after her wheelchair became stuck in the grass. “She had a heat stroke and because she had dropped her cell phone no one could help her,” I was told solemnly. “So make sure you stay connected. Carry two phones.”

Now I’ve never chosen to carry two cell phones because keeping up with one is hard enough, but I’ve certainly avoided plunging into grass with no one around the after hearing this story. Then the other day I was sitting in bed stretching by myself and attempting yoga poses when my husband took the dog for a walk. Unexpectedly, as it often happens, a muscle spasm sent me flying to my back, far from where my iPhone rested beside my feet. I was like, “Fuck. This sucks. I hope it’s not too long before he’s back.” And then my watch rang and it dawned on me… I’m still connected! Immediately I called on Siri to text my husband.

“Hey babe. I fell but it’s cool cause now I have Siri to call for help.”

What a relief. As long as I’m wearing my watch, I’ll never have to worry about dropping my phone because the Apple Watch has become my much cooler “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” senior citizen necklace. Way to go Apple!

2. I’ve become obsessed with my heart rate. Before I had the Apple Watch I had no idea what my resting heart rate was, never mind what it was suppose to be. Now I’ve become obsessed with monitoring what happens to my ticker when I exercise, have sex, survive an awkward conversation, tell a funny joke and sometimes I find myself checking it for no reason at all. My heart’s finally getting the respect it deserves and I like knowing how my lifestyle affects it.

Now before ten percent of you comment on this blog providing horrible statistics about how the heart rate feature is inaccurate let me state that I feel like having some way to monitor my heart’s activity is better than none at all. And because I am a wheelchair user with a lower heart rate do to inactivity I find it exciting to learn what activities/exercises do increase my heart rate because it’s so needed. SIDE NOTE: The first 100-beat break through was after I “Whipped and Nae Nae’d” to Silento on YouTube. As it turns out that 4-minute dance gets my heart pumping more than 30-minutes on the arm bike. Who knew?!

3. I’ve realized that I don’t move as much as I thought I did. Now I know this may seem like a silly comment coming from a person who has been medically diagnosed as having three-quarters of her body paralyzed, but I really had no idea how little I moved until I started using the Apple Watch calorie counter feature. As it turns out, I’ve been mistaking being an active wheelchair user (meaning being active in the community and attending events, activities, etc) as being physically active. But that’s not the case. My electric wheelchair is the one really doing all the work. And it took the Apple Exercise App (again, I’m acknowledging it’s probably not accurate because I’m always seated) to realize that I’m not burning calories simply by leaving the house. In fact, it takes at least thirty minutes of some kind of physical exercise to burn at least a hundred calories, which is triple my daily calorie rate with no exercise activity.

So it’s no wonder many electric wheelchair users have chronic pain, myself included.

Another quick story. A C5-6 quadriplegic recently admitted to me that he switched from using an electric wheelchair to a manual wheelchair twenty years post injury and surprisingly it relieved a lot of his aches and pain. With this new calorie tracker information and knowledge of his story, I committed to a rigorous thirty-minute arm bike routine daily to see if it’d help my chronic pain and it has. I’ve become way more self-aware and I’m making attempts to be more physical, like getting out of my chair more, swinging my arms while watching TV and so on. So stay tuned. I’m hopeful for more improvements both internally and physically.

4. My social media habits have been curtailed and I’ve become more socially polite because of it.

It was about two weeks in when I noticed that wearing my Apple Watch made me much more present in the moment. When my phone sat on the table or my lap (easier access in case I needed it), without even thinking about it I’d pick it up and scroll social media out of boredom and habit. It was when I caught myself thinking, “Oh c’mon pals. I’m so bored! Post something new already,” that I realized that I was in the sad depression of a writer’s lull—the time spent trying to stay busy in order to fill the empty void of waiting for likely rejection.

Receiving phone calls, texts and notifications via my wrist-watch has kept the phone in my wheelchair side pocket most of the day, along with all the social media apps. And not only does my husband love this, I love it because as it turns out there’s all kinds of fun new material to explore on the Internetz when you’re not trolling it every second.


1. I have no problem talking to my watch like George Jetson when no one’s around, but when in public I feel like an idiot. As more people start to do it and this behavior becomes more normal I’m sure this feeling will pass, but voice commands are a hard function to use in public anyhow because it can be loud and I find the Apple Watch volume very soft (even still, the Hey Siri voice command is much better on the Watch than the iPhone).

2. The STAND reminder feature is too much. For the first week I had my watch I thought it was cute my watch would tell me to stand up and move around knowing it wasn’t possible. Then it got annoying. Then I figured out how to turn that notification off only to find out it still can’t help but appear on my phone as part of my exercise app progress update. So about five times a day, along with some positive affirmations, my watch tells me to stand up like a dick. (Imagine the face of the able-bodied Apple employee when he found this out. He was horrified).

So I wrote Apple about the issue and hope with the next update they do figure out some new innovative ways disabled people can still use the health function successfully. But until then, when my watch tells me to stand, I use the queue as a reminder to do a weight-shift (which is wheelchair talk for get off my butt so it can take a break). But here’s a heads up Apple, your device can literally save disabled lives. So stop insulting us. We are the demographic that most benefits from your clever inventions. Thank you in advance.

Posted Monday, September 14th, 2015 in My Wheel LifeTags: , ,
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