Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On giving assistance.

I'm now in Belfast, Northern Ireland helping my sister compete in the Boccia World Cup 2011. Boccia is a target game played in singles, pairs or teams of three. The aim is to get the most number of your own blue or red balls closest to the white target ball (known as the jack) at the end of four rounds of six to eight minutes each.

Soft boccia balls

I help my sister by being her sports assistant and caregiver. Athletes with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or others with limited control of their upper bodies, are classified into four different categories based on their ability to throw or catch the hand-sized, soft, leather balls. In the BC3 category, athletes use assistive devices such as ramps to roll the ball from various heights and angles, and head or mouth pointers to hold the ball.

Adding ramp extensions

The sports assistant, being merely the arms and legs of the athlete, is not allowed to turn around during the game. My sister tells me to shift or turn the ramp left or right, forwards or backwards, 'a little bit' or 'a lot'. Then I pick up the ball she chooses and I place it along the ramp. She is the final one to touch the ball, and she releases it accordingly. Then, I adjust the ramp (turn it left and right to change its position from the last throw) and wait for her next instruction.

Individuals play side by side

So, there's a lot of waiting in between. I amuse myself by watching the game going on in the opposite court, looking at the linesman who patrols the players to make sure they don't have any wheels or devices on the white line of or outside of their 1m x 2.5m box during their turn, or observing how the opponent sets up his devices and releases his ball.

Caregiving is another matter altogether. Most of us carry about our daily activities without even thinking about how we brush our teeth or put on our clothes. But for many of the athletes here, they need assistance with every little part of their bodies' actions - some even need towels because they cannot swallow their own saliva. Most of us are not aware of the fact that we turn during our sleep - something some cannot do on their own and need help with.

Father and daughter
What's nice though, is seeing fathers doing caregiving for their sons and daughters, wives for their husbands (although I have yet to see the reverse, haha.) sisters and brothers taking care of each other, though sometimes they are unrelated too, like friends, teachers, or coaches. Every type of caregiving relationship is just that, giving in its own way.

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