“It’s like I’ve lost my right arm” said a good friend of mine after disaster struck and his wheelchair broke down in the middle of our holiday in Cyprus. I chatted with him about it for a while and whilst I knew how much I use mine, it really hit home how fragile our relationship with our wheelchairs are. How closely we rely on them, how much we depend on them and how utterly screwed we are without them.
Before I had my powerchair, following my spinal fracture, I was reliant on my two crutches, the good help of friends and the understanding that P would be there for every moment of everyday.
Using the crutches all the time meant that I spent virtually all of my time in excruciating pain as I was pushing myself and my body too far. Needless to say I didn’t go very far either. My mindset was that I didn’t want to believe the specialists when they said that this nerve damage was permanent and the Pain now had to be managed not cured. I thought if I just increased my mobility bit by bit, I would be able to get my body back to somewhere resembling ‘normal‘ but after a while, it really did dawn on me that that wasn’t going to happen.
My introduction to ‘mobility aids‘ was in the middle of Newport Town Centre when, after struggling to walk from the car, we stumbled upon a mobility shop. In the window was a second hand scooter which wasn’t particularly expensive. P suggested, somewhat tentatively bless him, that we go in and have a look. As I was in too much pain to throw a strop and walk away, I agreed and that’s how I found myself having a test drive around Newport.
All of a sudden, I could go faster then P, I could get across pelican crossings before the cars started to toot me for being so slow, I could go in any direction I chose and I had a brand new feeling……FREEDOM!
Now, I still had to battle with the ‘I don’t want to look like an old granny’ mindset and was still maybe mentally not quite there yet but after demolishing quite a few tables outside cafes with my truly appalling and dreadful steering, I decided to look at and buy a powerchair of my own.
I can’t quite believe now, looking back, quite how completely ‘arsey‘ and rejecting I was of any kind of mobility aid – why couldn’t I see how much better life would be with a wheelchair? What did I have against it all? I can tell you what it was, I’m a stubborn, obstinate, contrary, pig-headed and too proud by far person. (I’m sure P would completely agree!) I couldn’t accept help from anyone, no matter what the scenario was. In work, I was head of department and I could manage quite nicely thank you; at home, I knew what I was doing thank you very much so to actually buckle under and ask for or accept help was an anathema to me.
“Ask for help? ME?
Accept help? ME?
– is exactly what my brain kept saying but what my body was saying was that I needed help and that I had to accept it all. Curiously enough, the Pain had a sly hand in persuading me to do something to help – with a wheelchair, I had freedom and independence, without one, the Pain ruled my life and I was always dependent on someone else.
So I decided to go with freedom and independence and was swiftly the owner of a Rascal Compact 320 powerchair. And if that wasn’t the best decision I ever made, I don’t know what is! I was off! Albeit like a somewhat wobbly rocket but I was going anywhere and everywhere, even things like getting around the supermarket was an experience when beforehand I’d had to stay in the car.
Suddenly our world opened up. Suddenly days out could be organised, visits to family arranged, holidays planned, a viable future at last.
Fast forward to today, 2 years later.
“Sorry, but the controller on your chair has broken”
“When will it be be able to be fixed?”
“Well, it’ll take a couple of days”
“What the hell will I do until then……….?”
It’s one hell of a position to be in and it really brought back to me how these so called ‘mobility aids’ are so much more than that, they are our limbs, our legs, our independence and our freedom.
And if it’s not my best friend ever, it’s definitely a very close second…..😉