Three years have passed to the day that my NHS wheelchair arrived.
It feels so long ago, yet in typical cliche fashion as if it happened in the blink of an eye too.
I remember the day and the feelings so well. A lot of people think of an able-bodied person transitioning into needing to use a wheelchair most of the time as a really negative thing, something to feel sadness about or something to be put off right until the very last moment before it becomes an absolute sorry necessity… but for me, that last 18 months before my wheelchair arriving were hell. When it came, it was like a dream come true. A delivery of some of my life back. Some freedom. Some relief from pain. The chance to feel more of a mother and partner again.
Four years ago I was either dragging myself on double crutches on a bus 4 times a day in excruciating pain or having to rely on family to take and bring my youngest son to and back from preschool at 9am and 12 noon every day. When desperately looking for some kind of help I was told as preschool wasn’t compulsory attendance, if I physically couldn’t get him there and back, it was fine for him just to not ever go. The health visitor was appalled by this as she knew how much preschool was helping us both (me for some much needed rest time and my son for his pathway to an Autism diagnosis) but it was what it was.
I couldn’t go out and enjoy the weekends with my kids. I couldn’t go out. Most days I couldn’t even make it to the kitchen. I clearly remember one evening wishing out loud to my husband for a horrendous accident to happen to me, render me numb or amputated from the waist down just so I didn’t have to live with the relentless boiling agony radiating from my back and hips. I hated feeling like that emotionally; bitter, angry, resentful, terrified. I remember not having my crutches one afternoon and having to drag myself with a closed umbrella for each side support and my parent’s help in to my GP surgery to beg for different painkillers or an operation or anything as nothing was helping.
Life isn’t perfect with my wheelchair. I still live with chronic pain daily but my ‘chair helps me keep mobile and somewhat independent. I have a lot of restrictions of shops, places and transport I can access safely or even at all, I have to fight for 1 of 30 disabled access tickets for a show I’d love to see rather than 1 of 10,000 (it can be so hard to get wheelchair access tickets to anything, even a simple local fireworks night or a disabled car park space outside a hospital), If it snows or heavily rains I’m screwed, if the lift in my high rise block of flats breaks down (or has maintenance works – the next lot predicted out of action for up to three weeks…) then I’m literally stuck indoors. However without my wheelchair being unable to leave my home would have to be my normal. Being unable to leave my bed would have to be my normal.
So thank you NHS Wheelchair Services and thank you shiny red wheelchair for being my lifeline exactly three years ago today. Here, have a wheelchair pun. I love ’em.