So I've had a wheelchair for a short while now to help me get out of the house. It's been a lot to get used to but also makes you realise how much you can take for granted as an 'able' bodied person. I really do hate those terms. Or even things you take for granted even with M.E but could get about a bit on very good days. Now everything is like a military operation. Everything needs to be more planned, more organized. I am naturally a planner and love organising but when it comes to just going to the shops or visiting family it would be more a case of just go (well not on my own obviously with having M.E). I used to love living in a city where everything was close by. I didn't even needy my car.
Last week my Mum and Dad were going out to dinner, so I thought that maybe me and my sister could get out and as it would be a Wednesday maybe we could go to the cinema. But of course it's not that simple. First of all there was deciding which cinema to go to. Out of two options both had too much walking to do to even contemplate not using the chair and then the queues would be big with it being a Wednesday and I can't stand for long either. Not to mentioned the time spent getting pick n mix. I looked on the cinemas website and they said that even from the drop off point there was a 50m walk and there could be a further 150m more to walk inside the cinema. That would be like a marathon. There would be no way of going without my chair. So I looked at some more of their access information. There were some designated wheelchair spaces in the cinemas but they are far too close to the screen, which would be both an annoying pain in the neck and a literal one. I didn't really need any more aches and pains especially at the extortionate cost of cinema tickets nowadays. The other cinema did have better seating but not film times that suited us. There is always something isn't there? Of course what I hadn't thought of was that we obviously wouldn't be going out in Mum and Dad's car, we would be going in my sisters. What a thing to forget. I think I just assumed that it would fit but their cars are very different. So we had to do a test to see but unfortunately it didn't fit. So there went that idea. In the end I wasn't very well on that day anyway so I couldn't get out. It certainly did get me thinking about how complex things are when you need a wheelchair to get around.
At the weekend as I mentioned I went to my cousins for dinner. She lives in an upstairs flat but it is attached to a barn with a ramp up so luckily I could get in. Well other than the bit of wood across the door, so I had to get out to manage that. I did get left outside for a while too whilst they were getting drinks but that was okay as it was a lovely day. My legs were quite painful that night though as my legs were folded with sitting down for a long period of time. They don't like that. I usually have to sit with them outstretched but of course we were having a good laugh around the table and I think my cousin had fun racing me around the carpark.
The other day my sister had a day off so we were pretty keen to get out, which sparked lots of military style preperations. We didn't want a repeat of last week. So our first manouvere wad to ask Dad if he could give us a lift. Hehe sounds funny coming from 2 grown women but needs must when my chair doesn't fit in my sisters car. Then I needed to see how accessible the buses and shops were. Yes shopping again! I have travelled on these buses and visited these shops many times but of course you're not thinking "oh, could I do this in a wheelchair." It really does open your eyes. In the process of researching I found some great websites that listed numerous tourist attractions, hotels, transport, shops, cafes and restaurants etc that are accessible to wheelchairs for different towns and cities across the country. One of them was www.disabledholidaysinfo.org.uk. What a great resource. It really does help you see that although you need help to be mobile and require assistance that there are still things that you can do, if you are well enough.
Now for the tale of Lou and Andy's big adventure to Chester. These were our chosen nicknames for the day, based on the Little Britain characters. With going shopping of course I had ample opportunity to use Andy's catchphrase "I want that one". Firstly my Dad let us borrow the car, which relieved him of his taxi duty. We then went on the park and ride. My sister or should I call her Lou kept bumping me up small kerbs, which was terrifying as I kept thinking I was going to be thrown out of the wheelchair and land flat on my face. Don't worry they weren't massive just raised paving stones. If she could lift me up big kerbs then I would encourage her to train to be an Olympic weight lifter. Not that I am fat. We did find if we could get a good run up to them it was easier but I would still be catapulted. Getting onto the bus was interesting. Luckily there is a ramp that comes out of the step so getting onto the bus wasn't too challenging, just a bit of a squeeze. Getting into the wheelchair space though was errr painful as I got bumped all over the place. Much to the cringey shock and uncomfortable laughter of the other passengers. It always seems to be the feet. Fortunately though the bus driver was very helpful and showed us what to do. What surprised me was that you have to travel backwards, which scared me a bit and made me a bit naseous. I gripped the pole the whole of the 10 minute journey.
So we just about got there in one piece now the next challenge was negotiating the kerbs and drops on the roads and pavements. A wheelchair friendly map would be good. At one stage we got stuck on some cobbles and my wheels went haywire. Damn you Romans! I had to get out in the end whilst we got it off them. But it was pretty funny. In the shops wasn't too bad as I could generally propel myself about. Although the heavier the fabric basket on my knee became (oh Primark and your wares) the tougher it became to push myself around. Also reaching up for things was quite uncomfortable. So I needed some help. It was hilarious though when my sister nearly wheeled off with someone else.
Because there was a fair few people out in wheelchairs. I'm not sure whether I noticed it more with needing one myself but again it's good to see people out; showing the world that we don't have to hide away and nor should we feel that we have to. Afterall it has taken us a great deal of effort to get out and to be able to enjoy getting out is a big deal for us. Or it could have been that we drove through an old peoples residential area on a lovely summer day.
The rest of the day was much smoother. I incurred no bruises on the bus and we went and eat our lunch outside in a beer garden. Have to make the most of this weather. Yes dears Britain is having a heat wave! So our focus was more on enjoying the weather more than shopping. So I can't comment too much on other places but I'm sure I will in future posts.
Just as I had been more aware of others in wheelchairs, others were certainly aware of me. From the shy smiles from people that generally would not smile at you. Or wondering if it's okay to laugh when you get bashed about on the bus. Or got annoyed when like a sneaky mini in a car park people don't spot you when you're in between clothes rails, mwahhaha! Then there are others that could not do enough for you. Telling you what tills to use or path to take or asking whether you need help, which was all lovely.
So all in all it was a good day and I am extremely grateful to have a way of getting out. It is all a big learning curve and one that does not come easy. Like I have said there are websites that are catered to helping people with disabilities live as full a life as possible. But then there is always the trail and error factor and bruises and laughter that come with it.