Musings on the road to recovery

Wheelchair 101

Please learn from my rookie errors and, should you ever find yourself to be a passenger in a wheelchair, keep these tips to hand.

1. Do not allow your husband’s friend to push your wheelchair, the temptation to run with the wheelchair on smooth surfaces is overwhelming, and you will find yourself hurtling towards glass doors while they stand there giggling until they lose control of their bladder.

2. Avoid hills when being pushed by the husband. He will find it incredibly difficult to resist letting go of the wheelchair, whilst gleefully watching, as you hurtle towards your inevitable doom.

3. Avoid steps unless you have an inbuilt seat belt. If not, the husband WILL come across a step that you deem to be too big and, in an effort to prove you wrong, will persist in trying to get you up the step and which, inevitably will lead to you being pitched out of the wheelchair.

4. Test the brakes before use. Hurtling down a steep slope with your husband shouting that the brakes don’t work, as he futilely presses the brakes and the wheelchair careers out of control does little for lowering your blood pressure.

5. Many shops are not wheelchair friendly, so, make sure that you stay alert and prepare for sudden stops, as your husband may forget that you can’t squeeze through a miniscule space and, fired up with testosterone as if he was driving a Ferrari, may drive you into display cabinets without your intervention.

Independence

I do my best planning in the shower, well, I plan in the shower, whether it’s my best planning or not is merely subjective, in between drowning and washing my hair. Unfortunately the drowning is a reality. This evening Mr RR came racing up the stairs, deeply perturbed by the coughing and choking noises emanating from the shower. He peeked around the curtain, asking if I was OK, to which I responded “I was moving the shower curtain, and with the water and the breathing, well it became complicated.” Oh yes ladies and gentlemen,there we have it. Teacher, educator,scholar  moulding the future generation of the nation with a post graduate qualification, a degree, numerous GCSEs and A-Levels and I can’t manage to move a shower curtain and breathe at the same time.

You see, I was testing out my new bath board, a nifty appliance which will enable me to have a shower. All.by.myself. This is a momentous occasion. Indeed, had Mr RR not been summoned by the choking noises, he would have been free to continue watching Star Trek, The News or whatever else had taken his fancy.

It led me to think of the varying occasions in my life when I thought myself to be independent. Does the path to independence begin when we start to crawl and take those few tentative steps towards an expectant parent? Is it when those steps turn into a purposeful walk,choosing where we want to go?Is it the sneaky cigarette as a teenager, spraying deoderant and chewing gum furtively to ensure that you’re not caught out?  When we get our first paid job, feeling the warm glow which accompanies being paid an often meagre amount but knowing that money is yours to spend as your wish? With the purchase of a beaten up, battered second hand car that you believe yourself to love more than your sister, and indeed, are prepared to sell your sister (and your brother too, if it came down to it) to put this wreck through its MOT? Or moving away from home for the first time to university, not recognising that you’ll still spend most of the holidays at home, counting the minutes until you will be free to do as you wish, come home at any time without the ringing in your ears of “You treat this place like a hotel?”

In truth, it could be any one of these rites of passage or a myriad of many others, but for me, today, a little piece of indepence came in the form of a plastic bath board. Good things come in little packages, it would seem.

Cooler weather

As we seem to be lacking the Summer heatwave which has been (forgive the pun,) warmly anticipated since approximately April, today heralded the start of what felt like mid-Autumn. The wind was howling outside, the temperature dropped and it was the type of day where you want to spend the afternoon wrapped in a blanket, with the heating on,toasty warm, sipping a mug of hot chocolate with marshmellows, watching a film and cuddling up to the person who you hold most dearly, well, who you hold most dearly most days of the year.

Today is not such a good day for me. The cooler weather has affected my joints, causing them to seize up if held in the same position for a couple of minutes,making them more painful and the pain has started spreading, currently to my hands.I feel a wee bit sorry for myself if I’m being completely honest. Mr RR, however is being stalwartly optimistic, pointing out the silver linings and trying to keep my spirits up. I don’t know what I would do without him.

I hadn’t realised that I would be faced with so much choice when buying a wheelchair; self propelling, lightweight, heavyweight (less said about the user the better), snazzy off roaders,sports wheelchairs, travel wheelchairs, the list is endless, although if you’re planning on buying an off roader ,make sure that you have your chequebook to hand /gulp. It seems that, no matter what your budget, there’s a wheelchair suitable for your needs. Well, unless you’re me.

None of the wheelchairs that I have tried so far have been suitable. None of them carry the tag “suitable for languishing in the car boot until the user pushes herself too hard and has to send her husband to the car to get it.” Odd that, really, you’d think they’d be remarkably popular. I did however try one which may prove to be the one. Although I was hoping for one with go faster stripes, alloy trims and a massive stereo to allow me to “get down with my homies on the streets”, strangely enough the salesman didn’t have one fitting my description. He did, however, have a non descript black one which was roomy enough to fit my ample derriere (J-Lo has nothing on me, I fear) and which didn’t creak and shout for help as soon as I sat down on it. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. I am, of course, disappointed that the wheelchair of my choice wasn’t available, but Mr RR has promised that we can add purple ribbons to the wheels to make it prettier. I am, therefore content. (Such a GIRL!)

I must confess, however that I was hoping for a mobility scooter, after borrowing one at every occasion when shopping, I love the zoominess of them, how you can nip around, speeding round corners and doing laps around shopping centres when they have shiney floors. (Like I would ever do laps around shopping centres, timing myself each lap and muttering under my breath when OAPs accidentally step in my way. Much.) Mr RR, however, has declined. My husband, you see, knows me well. He knows that I can derive pleasure from zooming around at 10mph on a scooter, narrowly missing nipping people on their ankles and mowing them down. He knows that, should I have one, I’d be tempted to use it on occasions when I should push myself that little bit further and so, has told me that, if I am to have a mobility aid other than my walking stick, that it is to be a wheelchair.

I could do the expected rant about how I don’t want to use a wheelchair, I could stamp my feet that life is unfair and that I’m too young, etc etc yet in all honesty, I’m simply glad that I can get my life back on track and start doing things that I want to do again. I have a list of places where I want to go, and in my true money saving spirit, have narrowed those down to places where there’s a discount for disabled people, as far as I’m concerned, if I have to be disabled, then I might as well try and save money while I’m at it. My beloved husband, during the compiling of this list, sat there ever patiently, nodding his head and making token protests when it was somewhere he really didn’t want to go but I think mostly he’s just pleased that my joie de vivre is returning. That I want to go places and see things and that I’m not prepared to let my disability hold me back any longer. Surely that’s worth celebrating?

Addiction

I have a confession to make. I, Mrs RR, have once more developed an addiction for chocolate. I shall hang my head in shame, as although I’ve previously managed to kick the habit to the curb (imagine I’m doing a Ricki Lake type voice and actions here please), it’s slowly crept back into my life. A cornetto here, a Mars icecream there, and before I know it, I’m making changes to my main meals, in order to fit in some quality time with Mr Cadbury et al.

I’m certain that I am not alone in this, although I am concerned that I’m fulfilling a gender sterotype, but, to my mind, there’s nothing like an evening in, watching a decent film accompanied by box (or two) of chocolate. There’s something about the sweet taste of the chocolate melting slowly onto my tongue which seduces my taste buds and lures me into a comfortable state of sensory bliss.

Unfortunately this habit does not seem to go hand in hand with my latest WeightWatchers attempt. While the chocolate is calling to me tantilisingly, the little voice of willpower, urging me to remember that I have to weigh in in a few day’s time and reminding me that I am to be a bridesmaid in 6 weeks, is quickly overriden. I wish I could be one of those women who is able to resist an open box of chocolates. One of my colleagues divulged recently that she has a single chocolate after dinner, it’s presented on a plate, accompanied by a cup of coffee and she is satisfied. Honestly? Compare that to me when presented with an open box of chocolates, I even eat the ones I don’t like if the box is open, even if they are coffee and sickly strawberry flavoured (yuck) although I did not notify her of this, afraid that she would judge me for my gluttony.

I looked at her with a real sense of horror, open mouthed with incredulity. My mind simply can not compute how you can eat ONE chocolate. One chocolate, alone on the plate. I mean, if you’re counting a Terry’s Chocolate Orange as one chocolate (the way that the segments are so fiendishly hard to separate underlines the fact that it’s intended to be eaten as a single entity?) then I’m with you all of the way. However a solitary, lone chocolate? Pull the other one.

Am I alone in my shocking lack of willpower or are there others who feel the same?

Long time no see!

It’s been a wee while since I last updated, mainly due to trying to hold down a full time job with all of the difficulties that crop up. I managed to make it to the Summer holidays in more or less one piece and am now recovering before starting a push to improve my stamina before I go back to work in September.

Largely, if I was asked to sum up the last three months with one word, it would be “difficult.” I can’t tell you how much I wish it was jackpot (not that I’m dreaming of winning the lottery…much). It has been difficult adapting to full time teaching with the amount of pain I am in, and accepting that, for me, energy is less of an abstract concept as it was prior to the accident, but more tangible. Pacing myself has become central to managing the pain at work, I lose count of the times when the pain ramps up to unbearable levels but these days I know, even when it’s unbearable, that I can manage it.

I know that sometimes people, especially colleagues, don’t quite believe that I can be in as much pain as I am and can want to work but it has helped greatly with my sense of worth and with the Depression. I feel that I have a purpose and that I am useful, something that eluded me when I was off work.

The other word I’d use to describe the past 3 months is “rewarding.” I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed teaching again. I have found that the skills required to help me to manage the pain are incredibly transferable and I have more patience than I had before, allowing me to develop a better rapport with the pupils. I have been astounded by the generosity of spirit that the pupils have shown; opening doors, nudging their friends out of the way in case I get jostled, picking things up off the floor when I (frequently) drop them. (Oh the irony, I was teaching a Year 8 class the meaning of “maladroit” (clumsy), trying to act out the meaning so that they could guess what it was (a bit difficult when you’re sat on an office chair,. but I couldn’t back out of a challenge) the other week, when I dropped my walking stick, got it wedged under the office chair and sat there chuckling at my own clumsiness. Luckily the children saw the joke too.)

So, this leads us to the Summer holidays and I, for one, am very grateful to have reached this point. The enormity of what I have achieved hit home yesterday when I had a Pain Management review, where they took me back to the sheets I’d filled in on the first week of the course where I’d written my long term goal was to get back to work, but I didn’t have a hope in hell of achieving this. That was written eight and a half months ago. They highlighted how it really was a huge turn around and how it was down to my tenacity. I have had to accept my restrictions in a number of areas, I’m currently scoring E-Bay for a wheelchair so that we can go out over the Summer and Mr D is still doing everything for me but I do feel, increasingly, that I’m getting my life back to normal. While the pain remains, I am determined to live my life as normally as possible, the next big goal is to get back to horse riding. Well, you can’t say that I don’t have ambitions, even if they are a tad unrealistic at times 😉

When pottering around in a local shop with a trolley, trying not to ram the trolley into unsuspecting strangers’ legs as I inevitably end up with the wonky wheeled trolley, and, flushed with success that I’d managed to escape the house without Mr RR noticing, (bless him, he’s better at gauging my condition than I am, and sometimes I am my own worst enemy), I was let loose in a shop. In a Pretty Woman esque manner, big mistake, HUGE!

In any case, I had seen bottles of Diet Coke on offer (Diet Coke – my achilles heel. Imagine how a 5 year old would feel after eating two tubes of old fashioned, full of e-numbers Smarties and transpose that to a 29 year old woman after two glasses of Diet Coke. It’s not pretty) and wanted one. I looked around for a shop assistant as, naturally, they were on the bottom shelf and asked the assistant for, erm assistance. I was surprised, however when a stranger, instead bent down and picked up a bottle and placed it in my trolley. When I thanked her, she replied that it was her pleasure, and with that, she went on her way.

Afterwards I was pondering upon this display of kindness and realised that, since my return to work, the pupils have responded with what may be slightly uncharacteristic kindness. Pupils rushing to open doors for me, making sure that their friends move out of my way, ensuring that I’m not jostled and that if I drop anything, they pick it up immediately. To be treated in this way warms the very cockles of my heart every time it happens.