Unexpectedly rolling through life

23 Aug, 2013

by Molly Snyder

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Like many Pfister guests during the summer months, Chris and Jan were in Milwaukee to attend a festival.

For the ninth year in a row, the St. Louis-based couple came into town for Irish Fest. And this was their second year staying at the Pfister.

“We walked by the Pfister multiple times and always said what a great hotel it looked like from the outside,” says Chris. “And finally one time, we walked in, took one look at the lobby and said, ‘We’d love to stay here.’”

Unfortunately for them, the hotel was booked, but the next year they reserved a room in advance and it’s now become a tradition.

“We love old, nostalgic things,” says Jan. “We have an old, nostalgic home we’ve rebuilt.”

Although it was their second visit to the hotel, it was their first visit with Jan confined to a wheelchair.

Four months ago, Jan twisted her ankle. One thing led to another and she wound up in a wheelchair.

“I’m a little ticked off,” she says. “And I cannot even watch a shoe commercial or look at a pair of platform shoes.”

Chris says they’ve had a lot of challenges and insights since Jan needed the wheelchair.

“Like most people, we never thought about it until it happened,” he says. “Life, now, is very different.”

Jan says the most difficult aspect of being in a wheelchair is recognizing how many doorways aren’t wide enough – including one in their own home.

To raise spirits, the couple recently took a vacation to Washington, D.C., and while sitting on the mall enjoying the sights, Jan suddenly saw a woman walking very quickly toward her, clearly absorbed in her phone and texting.

“I was hollering at her, asking her to look up and stop walking, but she never looked up from her phone and she ran right into me,” says Jan.

However, there have been a few fun wheelchair moments. Chris says, sometimes, he pushes her really, really fast.

“But you gotta be careful. We hit a curb once and it was a real disaster,” he says.

The couple say they find the Pfister wheelchair-friendly. “Jan likes the way the room is set up,” says Chris.

Although this year’s Irish fest visit is not the same as Irish Fest outings of the past, the couple are managing to have a good time in a city that they find, for the most part, wheelchair accessible.

Chris says the experience has made him more reflective and he can see the faint silver lining, but, of course, he is eager to see his wife get out of the chair for good.

“Something like this makes you think twice about your life. How things happen and why they happen,” he says. “And I’m getting a lot of exercise.”

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About the author

Molly Snyder

Molly Snyder has lived in Milwaukee her entire life. She started keeping a diary when she was four and published her first poem at age 10 called “The Unicorn” in the now-defunct Shorewood Herald. Today, she writes less about mythical creatures and more about Milwaukee people and places. She is a senior writer at OnMilwaukee.com, where she has worked for the last 12 years. Telling people’s stories is her passion.

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