My very gradual recovery has, thankfully, got to a stage where my fatigue doesn’t force me to be housebound every other day. Woop woop! On some of those “low energy days” I might still be able to be active a bit. But my leg muscles are still not strong enough to support walking about every day, so my physio suggested I got a wheelchair to use sometimes.
Because people often see wheelchair use as a negative thing, a sign of failing, or giving up, I thought I’d write briefly the places I’m looking forward to going, that at the moment it’s difficult or impossible to do on crutches. In some cases it’s stamina that limits me, a few it’s speed, and some it’s not having enough spare hands while using crutches. I sometimes can only stand for a few seconds before my legs start to shake. On a few occasions I’d ask others to push me, but in most cases I’d self-propel. A wheelchair would give me the independence for all of these places:
Places to go
- The library
- Weddings and days out that are very long
- Buffets and refreshments tables (though saying “surprise me, I’ll be sitting over there” to the next person in the queue has been fun)
- Shopping – TKMaxx in Kingston has an accessible changing room, Foyles bookstore has just had lifts put in
- The Park, when my legs are sore. I am bored of the sight of my bedroom walls!
- Social tennis (apparently) and maybe I could dance again
- Spontaneous social trips in big groups – so I can keep up with a crowd wandering rather than getting left behind
- Museums (but I might take a periscope for the high displays)
- Church, which yes, has steps, but I could drink tea better in a chair than sitting on the floor on my own
- Momentum! And other camping trips or holidays where energy conservation is essential over a few days
People to see
Today I haven’t seen anybody, and I’ve had two phone conversations, and in both the person on the other end was in a hospital. Anything is an improvement. And people are so keen to see me, but it’s clear that if I reject them for much longer, the invitations will begin to dry up. So a wheelchair, combined with the right support, would open up not only immediate contact with existing friends – birthdays, weddings, holidays – but also give me the freedom to meet new people, and replenish circles of friends which have been depleted. This happens very naturally, by people getting married and moving out of London, but also as a result of “dropping” some people whose attitude to my illness was making me feel awful.
The effects on my long-term mental health of any social contact will be many, as well as being able to keep my mind active by modest trips to museums or the library. At the moment, I’ve still seen people at weekends – a coffee on Saturday and church on Sunday – but my health has taken such a blow by doing so that it’s unsustainable. Even one day a week where I could see people without damaging my health would be a great improvement.
I’ll write about the negative aspects later, but this overwhelming argument in favour of part-time wheelchair use frames the problems within the hopes of a much-improved quality of life.