When I Close My Eyes: By Karen Richards

The frigid air gnawed through my skin like a parana’s sharp little teeth. I watched the other kids playing on the playground and I hated them. I hated them because they were different than me. They didn’t have so many chronic illnesses, they could run, they could jump, they were normal. More than anything I wanted to be normal. I felt like a stranger and I missed my home. My family had to move because all of my important doctors were in Boston. I refused to wear any of my warm clothes because if I were home then I wouldn’t have to wear warm clothes. For the first few months of spring I was freezing. 
I was an angry little girl in a wheelchair. Looking back, it is astonishing how immature and ungrateful I used to be. I felt isolated, like I had been locked away in a coffin and buried underground. I wasted my childhood trying to fit in with the rest. The concept of being normal enchanted me and I became obsessed. The tears I cried had no power over my life and eventually I realized that I would be happier living as if I never knew. Because I can go to school and see my friends a week after brain surgery or I can lie in bed at home after brain surgery.
Growing up, I wish I had seen more kids like me in books and stories, but no children’s author wanted to write about handicap kids. I wish that I had read more inclusive books, not just for disability, but for gender and social status as well.
Whenever people hear that I have had 21 surgeries, they are always shocked. Whenever people learn about my many diagnoses, they usually say “I’m sorry.” I have noticed that the concept of illness makes able-bodied peoples uncomfortable. For years, I have been trying to communicate that an illness is not something that can keep you from dreaming. Even when I was placed on strict bed rest (I couldn’t even get up to go to the bathroom!) I would close my eyes and suddenly my imagination would take me away. I have never lost the will to fight, even when the fight seemed impossible, because I always have places to be and people to see.
My rare disease is genetic. The doctor’s are dumbfounded by my family and don’t know what to make of it. My brother, mother, and myself are all diagnosed with “a connective tissue with unknown origin” Our diagnoses changed when abnormalities were found in our cranial vasculature. Nine brain surgeries later, I am still alive and I am still fighting. My brother however is only eleven…
I love my brother with all of my heart. Alex and me are best friends, it has always been that way. Alex wants me to take a gap year, because he doesn’t want me to leave just yet… I love my brother, but I am ready to go to school. However as an older sister, it is my responsibility to mentor him and help him grow into a beautiful and wonderful person that I know he is.
Instead of taking a gap year, I wrote my brother a book. A short story that will hopefully remind him that no matter what, you can always dream. 


When I Close My Eyes

By: Karen Richards


When I close my eyes,

I grow wings and fly,

I fly way up high,

up in the sky.

One day, I come across a dragon!

Breathing fire on the villagers cabins!

I cannot let this happen!

I draw out my sword and I tell the dragon — BE GONE!

The dragon looks at me sadly and says “Okay” as it flys away.

The whole village is happy,

except perhaps me,

I have places to be,

I have people to see.

When I say I am leaving,

Everyone cries.

I am sad to leave,

But I cannot stay behind!

With the money I have,

I buy a boat

And sail away.

I’m almost in Madagascar when Blackbeard finds me,

He is big,

He is hairy,

But most of all,

He is scary!

He takes out his sword and says: “may I climb aboard?”

I look at him with shock and say, “Why of course!”

Together we sail the seven seas,

Collecting Treasure completely carefree,

Never have I ever felt so free.

I am rich and

I am happy,

But I know it is time to leave,

I have places to be,

I have people to see.

As day becomes night,

I wish to grow gills and fins so that I can swim

My wish travels across the sea

It is morning when Poseidon finds me.

Poseidon looks at me and says, “so it is you who wishes to swim away with me?”

With a nod of my head, I finally get to swim!

As I leave all my treasure behind,

Poseidon shows me to the lost city of Atlantis!

Oh how enchanting!

I feel so lucky for the adventure I’ve been granted!

The sky,

the earth,

the sea.

There isn’t a thing that I haven’t seen.

When I open my eyes

I realize it’s gone…

The dragon,



And my legs…

I am back in my room,

I am back in my wheelchair,

But I still have wonderful memories of my adventures out there.

This is my bed,

This is my life,

This adventure is different,

Although one thing remains the same

I have places to be

I have people to see.

If you would like to visit my book on Amazon.

1 Comment on When I Close My Eyes: By Karen Richards

  1. Karen, your book is phenomenal and you are an incredible writer. Alex is blessed to have such a wonderful big sister and role model. Watching you grow up from that “angry girl” into the wonderful young adult you are now, has been inspiring to say the least. Your family has given you the gift of life – the way you want to live it. You’ve done things that nobody thought you would ever be able to do, defying all odds. You go girl!!! Enjoy every minute of your life and do what you want to do. “Life Is To Be Lived”!!!!

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar