Invisible wounds bring controversy in every community. Even ours.

After seven years of being a fulltime caretaker for the “invisible wounds” that my husband deals with, I am not surprised to see this happen. It isn’t the first time, but it sure as hell needs to be the last.

Just sayin’.

Here’s what happened:  Someone had a hissy because my husband used a handicapped spot.  Legally.

Please keep in mind that we never “pulled one over” on any doctor to get a handicapped tag. My husband, if you add all his VA disability ratings together, is 250% disabled. This INCLUDES the 0% rating he received for a traumatic brain injury after a gunshot wound to the head. Yes, zero percent rating…for a bullet that shattered his skull (which then had to be reconstructed with PMMA implants and titanium, and with bullet fragments still left in his brain tissue!)  In other words, he has yet to be fully rated for ALL his combat injuries/disabilities combined.  He is totally and permanently disabled.  I think the 250% combined rating says it loud and clear.

Also keep in mind that he is rated as housebound and rarely leaves the home.  And, THEN keep in mind that I am rated as his fulltime (tier 3) caregiver by providing 40+ hours a week of his care.

His doctor insisted that he use a handicapped placard to support his independence. This placard is used two times a week, at most, within our local community. In other words, he doesn’t use it much – but when he does – it is used for good reason.

Twice a week I take him bowling to get him out of the house. In fact, the bowling serves as his physical therapy because it forces him to stay balanced and upright, forces him to work on overcoming his depth perception issues with having only one eye, and thus provides various other residual benefits for his strength, coordination, eye/hand control, etc.

Unfortunately, people just see a guy wearing an eye patch and don’t bother to see anything beyond that.  They don’t live our life to know there is so much more involved.

Enter stage right:  DRAMA.  My husband was publicly chastised and I am NOT happy.

This notice was distributed tonight to all the people in our bowling league without the permission of the bowling management or league president. This was a one-woman effort to make her point known….which I feel was handled in all the wrong ways.

Handicap hissy fit

While I sympathize with her feelings and emotional platform, I knew exactly who she was singling out.  BUT giving benefit of the doubt, I went to the distributor of this flier to say up front that I was sorry for the loss of their mother, and asked if they realized that my husband has a handicapped placard to park in a handicapped zone. I thought I was being exceptionally nice to approach out of respect and with courtesy on my part.

It didn’t go so well. Here’s what happened:

She said, “He can walk, can’t he?”

“Yes, he can, but he has mobility issues that you may not be aware of.  He also has problems stemming from having only one eye.  His doctor insisted that he use a handicapped space in order to facilitate his independence.”

“Well, I don’t think that is right – and he really doesn’t NEED one.”

“Excuse me?  You don’t think he needs one?”

“That’s just how I feel. He needs to park someplace else and walk across the lot like everyone else.”

“Did you know that the only time he leaves the house is to come here to bowl, that it also serves as his physical therapy?”

“No, but I really don’t care. That’s how I feel and that is the way it should be.”

{I take a REALLY deep breath}

“As my husband’s fulltime caretaker, I am here to say that I will NOT have my husband publicly chastised because YOU think you know more about medical necessity than his doctors do, and furthermore, I will not have him disrespected in his own community. If it is that offensive to you, then ask management to open more spaces up for more handicapped drivers, but do NOT chastise my husband publicly again. Ever.  You should be thankful that he took that bullet to the head so you could have the freedom to say how you “feel” to begin with.”

She didn’t speak to me for the rest of the night.

And me? I went on to bowl my best game yet.

Here’s the lesson of the day:  You can try educating others on invisible wounds, you can even try to understand the emotional place inside them to fuels their beliefs, but you absolutely CANNOT educate those who just close their minds to anything but their own truth.

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    • says

      I was clearly frustrated beyond belief. Someone tried to give assurance with “I am sure she wasn’t talking about DAN…gosh, not him!” But, there is no doubt left in my mind after our little exchange.

  1. Marsa McCool-Solis of Ourazfamily says

    Your husband is not the only Disabled Veteran who has this problem. We’ve encountered it numerous times including people confronting us in the parking lot. They seem to ignore the fact that my husband’s Handicap plate says Disabled Veteran, What they can’t see if the permanent neurological damage he has to his lungs, they need an MRI or and Xray to see them. Perhaps I should display them in the back window of our vehicle? They also can’t see his chronic pain and don’t seem to notice that his walk isn’t right. All they see is a younger person using a handicap spot. Some of them have had “Support our Troops” bumper stickers on their car. But its obvious they don’t know what that truly means. I’m so sorry your husband had to go through this and so did you. Its so wrong, people don’t understand just how many disabilities there are that can NOT be seen. Including heart disease, etc. My friend with MS has had this happen to her as well. People are just ignorant… But my husband has a hard time shaking off these things when they happen to him. Especially when they have that Support our Troops bumper sticker.

  2. says

    Ohhhh wow! Betty Lee needs to mind her OWN business! Just goes to show that there is stupidity everywhere…wonder where she keeps her medical degree and license?

  3. says

    It’s an all-too familiar story. Non-veteran friends of mine (head injury,MS) have experienced the same thing. Wonder if your local news outlets would do a story? Of course, you’d be ultra-classy about it, which would help your case!!

  4. says

    I became aware of this form of discrimination as a young child. My grandfather (whom I guarantee was just as dear to me as Betty Lee’s mother was to her) had lived through two heart attacks and a penetrating TBI, and he had a handicapped placard. His cardiac problems caused poor circulation in his legs, so walking was slow and painful. Any objective observer saw an old man, slightly stooped and shuffling but clinging to his dignity (sometimes accompanied by a little girl who kept skipping ahead and then remembering to wait up for him). Yet despite the obvious, many people shouted comments like “You should be ashamed of yourself–you can walk!” or even the fully illogical “That’s nice–you can afford a Lincoln but you take a handicapped space from a poor person!” Such insults accumulate. I’m sure they caused him to sometimes park in a regular spot and walk farther than he should have, and I know that in his final years, his legs burned constantly. His third heart attack killed him. Do I blame his death on the people who attacked him for parking in a handicapped spot? No. But will I ever accept a handicapped placard for myself? Probably not, even though my own injuries (which are a hangnail compared to Dan’s) would qualify me for one right now. It’s unfair and irrational, but this is one battle I would rather avoid. So I’ll just stoop and shuffle, clinging to my dignity and feeling conflicted for not modeling better self-care. I know that ice and meds and rest will ease my physical pain in an hour, but I learned from the people who were mean to my grandpa that it takes decades or more to be free of verbal shrapnel. There you go, Betty Lee, you really are influential.

  5. Sara says

    Though my hubby has never had something this bad happen to him he has gotten some pretty awful glares from people. Just because someone looks young and capable doesn’t mean they are. I think the hardest part for people to understand is that he has good and bad days. Some days he is paralyzed and is wheelchair bound and others he is not and can walk. Then there are the days where he is really weak but can still walk but not for long distances. If we don’t use the handicap spots and he can’t find the van he gets really flustered as anyone with a brain injury would if they think they might get lost trying to find where they parked. I also get really angry when I see people parking in the spots that have no placard and are clearly just lazy. It is difficult to explain invisible wounds and people overall don’t really care to hear it all. My husband gets tired of feeling like he has to justify why he is disabled and why he needs to use the handicap spots. He is also 100% disabled and housebound and I also receive the tier 3 caregiver stipend and other benefits for taking care of him full time. I don’t know that I could have been as polite or kind as you were and lets just say I hope that I never meet Betty Lee.

  6. Aquino says

    I love what exactly this topic did for me and people I know. Through knowledge of your tips you have given will really make you a much better person and more helpful for yourself, family plus your community.

  7. Kat H. says

    I was doing research for a school project about the negativity of support groups when I came across your site. After reading your post about leaving the support group, I had to read the post that went with it, then another one, then another one, so on and so forth. I am by no means trying to compare situations here but I feel your frustration on a lot of levels. My 11 year old son is autistic. I have often heard the “Well, he doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong with him” too many times to count. Not to mention the automatic thought that autistic means mentally retarded. His autism has left him with special needs to accommodate his lack of awareness of danger. This means he wears a necklace with his name, phone number, medical information, etc. on it in case we are ever separated. I have had parents, PARENTS, point out to their companions that my son must be one of those dumb kids who can’t think for themselves.

    I applaud you for everything that you have done and are still doing. Your shoes may be a different size than mine, but I believe that we do walk similar paths.

    Best wishes.

  8. Suzann says

    I am glad you stood up and made your point, and I agree with Marsa. I have been publicly cussed out by someone accusing me that I was “too young” to be a disabled veteran and must be using someone else’s handicap as an excuse to park in a handicap spot. I get plenty of looks because I can walk fine for a little while, but my spinal chord injury prevents me from walking or standing for long periods. By the time I am leaving the grocery, I can barely stand on my own without using the grocery cart for assistance to get me back to my car.


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