This One Goes Out To All My Tets…The All Too Familiar Awkward Hand Shake

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quadriplegic hand shake option "Fist pump"When I was first injured at the fifth cervical vertebrae I was categorized as a quadriplegic because I have paralysis in all four limbs. That paralysis includes my hands, which means I can’t move my hands and fingers, therefore they are always in a closed fist. The confused look people gave me when I said quadriplegic followed by their “but you can move your arms” statement was a regular occurrence. I think the medical field ran into this problem as well, because shortly after my accident I started hearing the term “tetraplegic.” Tetraplegics, or Tets as I like to say, are quadriplegics with some upper body movement.

This one goes out to all my Tets…the all too familiar awkward hand shake




quadriplegic hand shake option "wrist shake"It’s time to address the all too familiar awkward hand shake. First off, I hate hand shaking anyway, because it’s a very unhygienic practice. Secondly, when you extend your open hand for a solid handshake, I have no choice but to offer up a closed fist, which I’m fine with but the person who offered up their hand has immediate regret. The deer in the headlight look ensues, there’s a pause, the person questions if they should shake my fist, wrist, or fist bump me. I can see the sheer terror in the face of a new stranger who fears they offended me in some great manner. That’s not the case, in fact I derive some sick joy from watching people squirm.

I know, I’m screwed up in the head, but that’s been long established. While I enjoy the fact my quad paws get me out of nasty handshaking, I would do anything to get my hands back. When I was first injured I would awkwardly and uncomfortably place my fight ready fist out in response to a hand shake proposition. Then I realized something, THEY were WAY more uncomfortable than me. I’ve gotten to the place I joke about it shortly after the awkward interaction, and laughs of relief always erupt. I’ll often joke, “So how awkward was that handshake?” I embrace the awkwardness, address the issue, and eliminate the elephant in the room. When I do that people can stop thinking about if they offended the disabled girl, and instead get to know me. I know some Quads/Tets like the “fist bump” thing, personally I feel like a frat boy when someone does that. I’d rather just not fist bump your hand honestly.

As time has gone on I’m way more comfortable with my handshake, hell, I’m happy to be able to extend my arm! Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed of your closed fist, at least you’re always Jersey Shore ready! I guess the moral of this short article is MOVE TO JAPAN where they understand handshaking is icky, that way you don’t have to shake anyone’s damn hand!!

Gina Schuh, Editor, Law and Advocacy

Gina, a C-5/6 quadriplegic, describes herself as a “politically incorrect foodie who is an equal opportunity offender.” Beyond that, Gina is a law school graduate who grew up on a farm in California. Gina’s true passion is food, and you’ll often find her posting food pictures on her Instagram under Culinary.Quad . Raised by a strong mother who had an insatiable appetite for any educational psychology materials, Gina swears she was raised by an unlicensed psychologist which led to her being so introspective. After people observed her success in dating, they asked for tips, which eventually led to her regular contribution here at Push Living on issues of dating, disability parking, and medical supply reimbursement, leading to the role of Editor of Law and Advocacy.

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