When I first used a wheelchair it didn’t really bother me, because it was better than falling over which I was doing with surprising regularity. I had no idea of the difference between being confined to a wheelchair and using a wheelchair.
I thought that people who kept going on about this terminology were boring but in retrospect using a wheelchair is the best way of putting it because you don’t say people are confined to a car.
My first wheelchair (1983)
My first wheelchair was a standard NHS chair – I don’t remember how or when it arrived, but it had no lap-belt and more to the point I had no back-up or assistance and had no idea what an OT was (Occupational Therapist).
It’s really strange that in retrospect I realise that one needs quite a lot of information on how to use a wheelchair and you need somebody to tell you what you need to make it work properly, i.e. seatbelts, as I often used to spasm and fall out of it. Luckily I was able to get back in it at that time. This is not the best way of doing things and the learning curve tends to be very bumpy.
At that time I was still able to walk on level ground and still travelled to work using public transport. I was not phased by the wheelchair but when the family decided to go to Picketts Lock for a firework display there was absolutely no way I would be able to walk over rough ground, let alone stand for hours. So the wheelchair was essential.
Second chair (1986)
My second chair was for work purposes; it had lovely sloping arms, which would fit under desks or tables sweetly. I was never able to get arms like them again (such are the joys of social services). I would travel to work by cab and the security guard would wheel my chair out to the cab, I’d get in, and the cab driver would take me up to my office. I had seen on TV wheelchair users playing basketball and doing all sorts of acrobatics in their wheelchairs. So I thought I must be able to do the same, and proceeded to try a wheelie in the comfort of a large office. Needless to say I ended up flat on my back, gazing at the ceiling… thinks, there must be more to this than I thought. Luckily I was still able to get myself up, so my pride remained intact. I therefore concluded that all I needed was one of these super light-weight chairs. I later tried out this theory at the Naidex exhibition and found that I couldn’t even manage to stay upright in one of the backless light-weight chairs. So another of my brilliant plans turned to dust.
In retrospect, what I really needed was the advice; not the equipment. I have found out after some terrible mistakes that some dealers will sell you anything you ask for, rather than what you need.
No cushion no seat belt (1988)
After I left work and joined the ranks of the ‘retired’ I would sit watching daytime TV but unfortunately I didn’t know much about spasms and was prone to becoming rigid and slipping out of my chair. Sometimes I could get back in it, but on a few occasions I had to call the cab firm to help me get back in my chair (luckily they knew me well).
Wrongly clamped on bus, tipped back (1989)
My first outdoor spill was on a vehicle taking me to a wonderful art group arranged by the adult education ‘special needs’ department. I was still using my manual wheelchair. In the days before four-point clamping (where the chair is fixed to the vehicle in four places), I was clamped behind the rear wheels, and as the bus pulled away my front wheels left the floor and my head joined it! Despite no apparent injuries the driver insisted I went to casualty where I spent the next few hours. Luckily this was the days before government targets so I was seen the same day.
A whole new world
I got my first electric (powered) wheelchair in 1990. I got it second hand – and being a tight-arse I stuck with it. In retrospect I was probably ripped off. But a whole new world opened for me. I was able to leave the house and drive to the market or the Disability Resource Centre ( DRC), and generally the world became my cockle. I then was able to become the token ‘crip’ on many committees.
Climbers Fallers (1990)
Whilst at the DRC, I was driving along quite happily, chatting to people in the garden when I decided to drive back across the yard. Unfortunately the bit I drove across was not level, and I reversed over the edge of a kerb. Once again my attempts at daytime astronomy caused all kinds of frenzy amongst the Dial-a-Ride drivers who observed my acrobatics from the portacabin. They rushed to my assistance. Once again I was unhurt because of my total obliviousness, and spent a good couple of hours irritating Dial-a-Ride with my tales of daring do.
Capel Manor star gazing (1996)
I had joined the DRC photographic group, and during one of our many assignments at Capel Manor I was driving quite happily along a rough path and went up over a step. It was somewhat steeper than I had estimated and in an attempt to do even more daytime astronomy, my chair tipped back. Fortunately this chair had stabilizer wheels at the back, thus I was left suspended with front wheels in the air as I balanced on the stabilizers. I could not move either forwards or backwards. Fortunately other members of the group, after taking shots of my predicament, put me back on terra firma.
Wheels locked on new chair (1997)
My first outing in my super chair (my chair until April 2009) which had kerb-climbers was to Unit 17 (the local MS Centre). There was a small step to negotiate which I thought should be no problem for my new chair. Unfortunately the chair was not totally road-worthy when delivered to me and one front wheel locked and wouldn’t go up the step. The tyre then fell off… Fortunately Julian and others were able to help me drive into the centre where we called Wheelchair Repairs who were able to put the tyre back on. It turned out the kerb-climber hadn’t been fitted correctly.
Tipped back at
On a day out to
On one of our many photographic outings
with the DRC we found ourselves at the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI). We
had been through the Southbank on photographic jaunts before so perhaps I was a
bit blasé and it wasn't looking where I was going as carefully as I should
have. The kerb had been marked and was clearly defined, 'onest yer 'oner, so I
drove straight over it and it did have very rapid downward motion. Luckily my
seatbelt held and I didn't tip out.
We have a villa in
The plus side of this is that I was having an awful lot of problems with my kidney stone and my kidney was totally blocked and muck was coming out of my back, I had to use a bag to cover the hole. After my wonderful death dive it seemed to unblock the kidney and I now no longer use the bags. Sometimes good things happen.
It is now May 2009. I have a new chair (a Viper Plus) will this chair star in another event…Hopefully not.