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Lions and tigers and a runaway wheelchair: oh my, indeed


The Bright Side: Joe Bushue

The sky was a beautiful blue and the warm spring breeze was flowing. It was a gorgeous day. Right after I’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I’d been inside for way too long, and my wife and sister decided I should get outside and came up with the idea of going to the zoo. That sounded great to me. Little did I know how great.

By now, I wasn’t using a wheelchair day to day, and we’d returned the one we had borrowed. But because of the hills of the zoo, and its size, we borrowed one of theirs.

That wheelchair was one of those molded fiberglass chairs mounted on a pipe and metal frame with small wheels. It could only be pushed and not controlled by the rider at all. That was OK with me because all I had to do was sit there and enjoy the ride and the view.

My wife and sister pushed the chair together. We were at the top of a slope heading toward the lions.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if we let go of him?” one of them commented. They were laughing so hard, they were on the ground, and soon I found myself careening down the hill (actually, quickly rolling, but for drama and the story, careening sounds a lot better), right toward the lion exhibit.

Now the way the exhibit was constructed, and with the 10-inch-high concrete barrier before it, it would be impossible to even get in if you tried. But at the time, as I was careening toward those lions, I was thinking what the headlines would say in the paper the next morning: MAN IN WHEELCHAIR MAULED TO DEATH BY HUNGRY LIONS!

After my wife and sister regained their wits and some semblance of composure, they finally caught up with me against the curb and the metal railing of the lion’s cage. We went on and enjoyed the rest of the zoo, but they giggled at every hill that day, and I was somewhat nervous.

All in all, believe it or not, that experience made that trip a little more memorable. For during the time I was rolling uncontrolled toward the lions, I not only completely forgot that I had just been diagnosed with a weird disease, I also realized that things in general could have been a whole lot worse.

When we were heading home, I suddenly felt pretty darn good.

Longtime Boom! columnist Joe Bushue is a travel agent and lifelong Gresham resident who has been tolerating multiple sclerosis for 30-plus years. This column, reprinted from a past issue, is one of his favorites. Reach him by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..