Freedom! Independence! Being able to leave the house! These are all things that most people take for granted, but if you have a disability that affects your mobility, they often become treasured.
Until I got my wheelchair, leaving the house was difficult, painful and required military planning. I had to know exactly where a car was going to pull up, what kind of car it was so I could think about how I was going to get my body into the car and what would happen at the other end.
I needed to think about where benches were which made it difficult to go anywhere unfamiliar. I held tightly to my mental map of York’s steps and slopes and cobbles. And doing all of that, before even leaving the house, would leave me exhausted.
As I am not eligible for wheelchair funding – a different issue to be covered another time – I struggled and struggled until I couldn’t struggle any more. I remember a key day. I was trying to get to a work event that was not especially accessible by car. The taxi had dropped me off as close as they could but that still left me struggling on my crutches for the last little bit. The breaking point was when a wave of nausea hit me and I realised I was in so much pain I was going to be sick. I had had these waves of nausea before but it wasn’t until that day that I realised it was because of the agony I was in.
That was the day I realised, somehow, some way, I had to find the funding for a powerchair. These don’t come cheap. I couldn’t get a manual wheelchair as I can’t self propel and at that time I didn’t have enough care to help me outside the home. So, several thousands of pounds later and I have a powerchair.
If you’re reading this, you might be starting to feel a bit miserable, a bit down, it hasn’t been a very happy story so far. But, and I promise you this is a pivotal but, that rather expensive piece of kit gave me my freedom and my independence back.
My world was no longer restricted to where someone could take me in a car, or when someone could take me somewhere, I could leave the house and go to the end of the street without needing help. I could pop to the shop by myself.
I could give more to work, because I was in less pain and I had less fatigue. My mobility aid, my powerchair, meant I could carry on working for a little longer. As someone who loved their job and their colleagues, this was such invaluable time.
Outside of work, I could go out with my camera and take photos, engaging with one of my favourite hobbies. It’s hard to explain how amazing it feels being given back your hobby – yes I could take photos from my flat but I like nature, I like outdoor photography and it’s well known that hobbies have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.
Admittedly, powerchairs do come with their own limits – they don’t do steps for example, but nor could I when I was on foot. Mine doesn’t like the cold, but nor do I so I can’t really blame it. Sometimes they run out of charge at inconvenient moments – I shall forever be grateful to my old neighbour who, upon being woken up on a Saturday morning by a phone call from me, proceeded to push me and my heavy heavy powerchair up a hill and back home. After having had a late night at the pub. Once again, thank you!
The financial cost was high, but the benefits to my health, my wellbeing and my quality of life have been immeasurable and I love my powerchair.