On April 1 of this year, I found out I had been accepted to the Sodexo Distance Education Dietetic Internship Program. In May, I was to graduate with my master’s degree. Things were great until I learned that the internship program starts with an eight-day training class held at a rustic 100+ year old lodge on a lake in New Hampshire. This may sound quite nice to you, but as someone who relies on a wheelchair to get around, this was very scary!
Would I be able to attend the training week and what would happen if I could not? Could I even get into the lodge? Was the bathroom wheelchair accessible? Could I get into the shower? How high is the bed? I got in touch with the Sodexo Internship Director, Barbara Woodland. We talked and made a plan to check out the lodge together.
|Accommodations made just for me!|
As you may have guessed, it turns out the lodge was not wheelchair accessible. In fact, I needed help just to get in the building. The bathrooms were very small and not wheelchair friendly. Just when it was looking like I would not be able to attend, the lodge owner, Ray said he could build me a ramp so that I could get in and out of the lodge. He also said he could get me a port-a-potty with wheelchair access so that I may have a bathroom to use. Barbara said they could get me a wheelchair accessible hotel room a few miles down the road where I could spend the nights. Things were falling into place and it seemed possible that I could attend Orientation.
I was still nervous about the long days that would be required during the week. On most days the schedule was 8:00am – 9:30 pm with a few hours off in the afternoon. The term “off” is used loosely! During that time, we had meetings about projects, prepared and rehearsed presentations and every day a team of classmates cooked and presented our dinner. Would I have the stamina for this? How would the other interns react to my disability?
It is uncomfortable to be different from everyone else and to ask for help from those you have just met. Needless to say, I spent a good deal of the summer anxious about it! As it turns out all of my worrying was for nothing. On the first day, I showed up at the lodge and felt the program staff and lodge owners had thought of everything to make things as easy as possible for me. I met the 21 other interns who turned out to be the kindest and most thoughtful group of women I have ever met.
|21 of my newest friends from Sodexo!|
As a quadriplegic, life is not always easy. I face many hurdles each day. However, I also have a chance to experience the caring and compassion of others (even strangers) to an extent that most do not witness. In short, all of these people who barely knew me, made what had seemed to be impossible possible and helped me make it through the week In addition, I found out that a port-a-potty is not so bad if you are the only one using it!