My First Set of Wheels

Rollo arrived this week. Thus named as when I was little I used to call the wheelchair my Grandad was in a 'rolling chair' and now naturally my wheelchair has been re-termed, by those who remember this, as a rolling chair too. Rollo has become it's nickname.

Rollo is a small self propelling wheelchair but I have to be pushed quite a lot of the time as I don't have the arm strength or energy yet to wheel myself any length of time. I can wheel up and down the hall of the house and turn around on the spot now though and I managed one small shop without help. I'm getting physio the week I come back from London to help with exercises to build my arm strength and also try and find a way to better support my shoulder that I keep dislocating when I use that arm.

My wheelchair arrived this Friday with a slightly embarrassing moment as the delivery man thought it was for my Grandmother! The stereotype that you must be old to be a wheelchair user is becoming apparent.

The dogs have very mixed reactions to Rollo. Shep has taken it, as he does all things, in his stride. He does have a habit though of coming and lying in front of the wheels so I have to be careful not to run him over. However other than sitting next to it he has given it no more notice. Floss meanwhile started off terrified of it and wouldn't even been in the same room it was in. She has gotten over this now, although, is still not keen and doesn't like it if I'm not sitting in it.

We decided I needed to get out and about in it very quickly so I wouldn't get nervous and avoid using it. Mum and I took Rollo for a test drive up and down the track leading to our house. This taught us Rollo is easily defeated by cattle grids. Hills are a challenge equally for going down as going up. However, I was outside and got the furthest distance for a while.

Next level of becoming a wheelchair pro meant taking Rollo into the world where more than just cows, herons and gulls could see me. We headed into town. Unfortunately it was throwing it down with rain. First mission therefore was to find a raincover for Rollo and me to avoid going for a swim rather than a walk! It turns out when you live in rural Scotland nobody stocks them. Even chain shops that normally sell them don't stock them here so I was a bit stuck. After some improvisation I ended up with a poncho and a bag over my legs. The raincover issue is still to be resolved but I now have a catalogue for this. It turns out however as with all things mobility/assistance aids- all thought is given to practicality and none to potential fashion conscious users. While I wouldn't say I'm particularly fashion conscious with grey or tartan being the only options for everything wheelchair related, a fan I am most definitely not! Unfortunately nobody seems to have noticed this gap in the market within the UK yet, although there are some websites in the USA such as 'pimp my wheelchair' which have and you can get everything from wheels that light up to custom designed cushions and gloves, drink holders to nice looking wheelchair bags!

The trip out to town was an eye opener to how unaccessible many places are. Many shops have steps and so can't be accessed, others have aisles or items so close together there is not enough space to wheel down or turn. It's also strange being shorter than everyone again. We had some fun as people don't like to move to one side to let you through and continue to walk three in a row along a pavement or cut in front of you last minute. However for all that was difficult people stared at me less and I had none of the comments I had been warned about getting. Even when I stood up from my chair to get my train tickets for London (the counter was a lot taller than me) this didn't cause shocked reactions that a miracle had just occurred so that was good.

Rollo is not the first set of wheels I had hoped to get or in any way imagined to get, yet like getting my own car, this does have the potential for considerably more independence than I've had since getting ill. Therefore as much as my feelings where mixed about becoming a wheelchair user I actually think this could be a positive step. It's really exciting to be able to get out again and go further than I've been able to in months. It's also the first time there has been a glimpse that I might be able to do things by myself again. Best of all though was that I was out and was able to spend just over an hour doing normal everyday activities and did not once feel faint or like I would throw up. A novel experience that has not happened in months.

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