Saved from the lions' den

The Bright Side

Joe Bushue is a travel agent and lifelong Gresham resident who has been tolerating multiple sclerosis for 30-plus years. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The sky was a beautiful blue, and the warm summer breeze was flowing. Right after I'd been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I'd been inside for way too long. 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.

At the time, 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; the rider could not control it 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 got to laughing so hard, they did just that. I found myself careening down the hill (actually, quickly rolling, but for drama and the story, careening sounds a lot better), headed toward the lions' exhibit.

The way the exhibit was constructed, and the 10-inch-high concrete barrier before it, I couldn't have gotten in if I'd tried. But at the time, as I was careening (or quickly rolling) toward those lions, I was thinking what the headlines would say 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 caught up with me against the curb and the metal railing of the lions' 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, that experience made the trip a little more memorable. While I was rolling uncontrolled toward the lions, I not only completely forgot that I had just been diagnosed with a weird disease, but I realized that things in general could have been a whole lot worse. Thank God for that 10-inch curb and metal railing.

As we headed home, I suddenly felt pretty darn good.