Courage | William Thomas Online | William Thomas



by William Thomas

I’m sitting in the North Island Hospital’s nearly empty medical imaging boarding area, waiting to be scanned. From around the corner inch a pair of small black front wheels.

     Suspense builds!

     The gradual reveal takes place maybe a dozen feet away: an exquisitely engineered, lightweight walker piloted by a quintessential “little old lady”. Silver-haired, stooped even shorter than her already limited stature, she appears to be even older than myself, which for both of us is starting to get up there. 

     Eyes bright with determination, this unexpected apparition slowly and deliberately negotiates the corner into my room. Hovering close at her side, a burly young attendant guards against calamity like an outfielder with both arms outstretched. 

     “She’s doing great!” I interject, lest he touch his charge, robbing her of dignity and agency.

     “She’s doing great,” he agrees, partially lowering his hands and ceding space.

     Apparently, this is just a rest stop during their long expedition. Slowly, slowly, the elder expertly brings her machine to a halt beside a nearby chair nearly as high as her hips. Squeezing both brakes with the skill of a dismounting biker, she eases all the way back into the seat. Her feet don’t quite reach the floor.

     “Your brother called. He’s waiting in front,” the attendant informs her. I wince. Even if her stamina holds out, it will take the rest of the day to reach there. “Would you like a wheelchair?”

     “Yes,” she says, more defiant than relieved. 

     “Is there anything else I can do for you?”


     “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

     “Yes,” she answers. “Get lost.”

     Everyone present laughs. 

     So does the attendant, before producing the requested apparatus, apparently out of thin air. It’s an even more formidable-looking contraption, with low crossbars in front and a footrest requiring a gold medalist high-jump to clear. The nearside rail is folded down.

     “Would you like some help?”


     “Okay. The easiest way is not from the front but the side. Stand and turn sideways, then sit down.” He demonstrates the requisite swiveling maneuver. 

     No Everest summiteer has accomplished a solo climb as tricky and triumphant as that slow-motion ascent, careful turn, and refolding.

     I want to cheer and applaud. Even more, I do not wish to break the spell.

     In another moment, the unlikely pair is gone from view. But oh how her eyes were shining!



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