Miles on my tyres

I’ve officially had the Jive for three months now.  

And I’m pleased ro report that I didn’t come anywhere near falling out of my chair in month three so that’s an improvement on the previous two months.  I did freak people out on two occasions but I think that’s always going to be the case with this chair because of how the spider-trac suspension works – when i go up a steep ramp it shoves me really down onto my back castors and the front castors come slightly off the ground.

I did 93 miles in my chair this month and set a new record for the most miles done in a day/between charges – 9.2 miles.  I was away for a few days and won’t be commenting on the rumour that I deliberately did an extra loop around the shopping centre by where I was staying to get that extra mile.  It did surprise me how much distance I covered just getting ready for the day and going for breakfast in the hotel each morning.

I was sure that if there was going to be a month when I did over 100 miles in the chair it would be this one with the number of times I went to London.  But I’m now beginning to suspect that is a goal I won’t meet.

Going to London

Wednesday, mid morning my mobile rang.  It was a friend of mine who works for one of the organisations I volunteer with.  She was calling in her professional capacity with good news.  A project I organised and ran has been shortlisted for some form of award.  The ceremony is in London, in February. Did I want to go?

Obviously I said yes straight away.  We chatted a bit more and then said goodbye. I spent some time looking up the venue online and being excited and then got on with my day.

Yesterday, a bit before 5pm my mobile rang again.  It was still in my bag where I’d been out all day and I missed it.  I’d just gotten to where I’d left my bag and picked it up to hunt my mobile out when my landline rang – the same person who’d just called my mobile.

“Hi is that Emma?” the unknown voice said.  I said it was and she continued “it’s such and such from so and so publishers, you expressed interest in one of our reader workshops and I just wanted to check when you might be available. We’re thinking [these dates] and we’re in London near Leicester Square.”  We chatted a bit more and she told me they’d be in touch when they settled on a date. Then as she was saying goodbye she mentioned they wouldn’t be able to cover my travel expenses but I’d get a big goody bag with lots of books (I’m not sure our definition of lots of books will be the same). I said I was happy with that. We said goodbye.

I spent sometime online trying to figure out exactly where they are and how I’d get there (I still haven’t quite pinned it down as I can’t until I have details but there are options). And being very excited.

I just spoke to my mum and she said “have they got wheelchair access” and I realised I was so excited I forgot to ask. Oops. I did mention I used a wheelchair however but just in passing and they may not have registered it.

And I tell you what if I get to the end of today without another surprise phone call offering me a day out in London I’m going to be very disappointed!

A Properly Poorly Powerchair

I’ve got a poorly powerchair. I’ve known for a fe weeks that it didn’t feel right but I couldn’t put together what was wrong with it.

Then mum and I went to Oxford to see The Mousetrap and on our way to the station afterwards (I had gone in early for drinks with a friend) she said the back of my chair struck her as wrong. When we got back to the station she had a properly look as we had time before the train and said she wasn’t sure. But I mentioned that I’d thought it felt off and had had a feeling it was something on the front right.

I’d been not saying anything to anyone because I wasn’t sure if I was right and anyway denial was a nice comfortable place to be and meant i didn’t have to do anything to sort it out. But she said I was right and that my front right wheel (my chair has six wheels) was coming on and off of the ground as I wheeled and actually I could see that in the reflection in a shop window.

So I emailed the guy who does my powerchair (at the moment I have two wheelchair technicians because my manual is NHS and they provide servicing for free. Consequently I see a lot more of the technician who deals with my manual). And I also mentioned that I definitely needed new tyres and suspected I was beginning to need new batteries. We spoke on the phone and he said he’d come out yesterday.

In the mean time I was using it as usual and trying not to worry about it. A few people had said to me since then it didn’t look right including a new staff member at Reading Station I’d never met before. I told him I knew and was working on it but in the mean time I preferred if we could pretend there wasn’t anything wrong. I’m not sure he got it but he tried to pat my shoulder in what I take to be sympathy. Let’s just say that I was whipping through the station quickly between trains and he was walking next to me and it wasn’t my shoulder he got…

The technician came mid morning yesterday and within about five minutes had spotted that it had a broken shock absorber, I asked if I could keep using it until they had the part and he paused at which point I added “bearing in mind I went all round Ascot in it on Saturday and round Oxford yesterday…”

Anyway, basically it’s not safe to use.

We chatted a bit more about the chair and he asked me if wanted the armpads replacing while he had if. I showed him a bit that I needed putting back after it had fallen off (the battery cover) twice in the middle of Oxford the day before and he went “are you trying to wreck it?” And well I had to admit that I wasn’t but it really does look that way.

Then after he asked me about book blogging having seen my email signature and I tried to explain, I’m not sure successfully, he left.

Taking my poor poorly powerchair with him.

And they’ve had some of their courtesy chairs stolen so they don’t have any available for me to borrow.

Several hours later he called me back. With what he described as “good news, bad news, and news”

When he got back to the workshop he found my chair has also got a cracked chassis and needs a whole new one. This, apparently, is not unheard of which I find very concerning. Especially as I’ve got a Quickie Salsa M and I’d always heard that Quickie and their parent company Sunrise Medical are one of the most popular/best brands out there.

This was the bad news, along with the fact that I’m not getting my chair back until next week at the earliest. The good news was it’s covered by the warranty (I’ve had the chair since Feb 2012). The news which was in between good and bad was the details how much my new tyres and batteries will cost. Let’s just say its £extortionate but cheap when you work out how long they last and how much taxis would cost (my dad is giving me a lift somewhere tonight. If I had t get a taxi it would be about £6 each way it’s not much more than a mile)

So I’m powerchair less at the moment which makes things interesting.

But it does mean my do NaNoWriMo in a low key way plan is out the window and I’m getting loads of writing done 🙂

In which I ramble and am grouchy when it comes to “awareness”

(I was going to title this “why I’m not blogging about CP awareness day” and then I realised that by writing this I pretty much was blogging about CP awareness day just not in the way most people are and that would be a pointless title)

So. Word on the street the internet is that 25th March is CP awareness day. i.e. that tomorrow is CP awareness day.

Except,  to me, it’s not, really.  It’s national CP awareness day in the US.  I’m not in the US and I sometimes feel like the entirety of the fucking internet resolves around people from the US  and that those of us not in it get forgotten about (do you know how many book competitions etc I can’t enter because they’re US only?! Too many).

I just deleted everything I’d written after this point.  I’d somehow managed to hit 443 words without even beginning to cover the point i wanted to make with this entry. Clearly I suck as a concise writer. Particularly when I can actually sum my point up in one TL;DR sentence. Which is:

I don’t really see that there is any need or point in awareness days in general and particularly for CP.

I don’t know what they do.  I find that a lot of people assume I have MS but when I tell them it’s CP pretty much everyone has heard of it. (I did have one rather amusing conversation last year with someone who had CP and CF (cystic fibrosis) confused but…).  I’m not sure why I might need more people to know about CP.

It’s not like there’s some Sheldon style mad scientist in a lab somewhere who has never heard of CP and is sitting there going “hmm I’ve found a cure to some random neurological disorder affecting people from birth and mostly causing mobility difficulties and spasticity but I just don’t know what disorder it is. If only someone could make me aware of it’s existence I could change the world for the 1 in 200 babies born every day with it. What a dilemma.  If only… if only…”

I don’t need a cure.  I’m pretty much perfect just the way I am.  I’m the person I’m meant to be right now.  Plus, given that I’ve spent 31 years using my body in a way it wasn’t designed to be used I’ve got some unusual wear and tear going on (hip issues for one) that curing my CP could halt or possibly improve but wouldn’t get rid of. Also? CP is brain damage. Ain’t no one touching my brain.

And most importantly I can’t help the part of me that reads or hears things about the desperate need for a cure for CP and thinks “there are plenty of other conditions out there that need curing more.  Ones that kill people.” Focus on those.

I class disability awareness and CP awareness as different things.  I believe disability awareness is important.  It’s through the disability rights movement that the community as a whole can improve access and achieve things.  Focusing on little things for one condition or another can’t do as much much as focusing on the majority.  Which is why days like the International Day of Disabled People are much more relevant and important to me (the fact that the entry I wrote for it last year remains one of my most powerful in my opinion is nothing to do with that, honest)

I truly believe that the best way I can help myself and others with disabilities – be it those with CP in specific or disability in general – is just to live my life and get on with things. If people see me doing and being I think I achieve more than if I do some specific stunt to raise awareness of CP.  Because to me CP isn’t just one day – it’s everyday.  And I’m much too busy to do anything more than live my life.

Disability in the media

I’m paying a second visit over at Bea Magazine this month.  I wrote about the disability issues which were raised by the news that paralympian Oscar Pistorius has been arrested on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

You can read it here:

Disability and the Reeva Steenkamp Murder

The coverage of disability in the media has always been problematic but I’m really hoping this might be the beginning of it changing. I suspect that it’s more likely that it will change the way violence against women is covered by the media than disability.  Still I hope.

Last year I was asked to speak to the local paper about my sailing group having some new equipment after fundraising for over 6 years and raising half a million pounds for it.  It was on the phone and I did tell them I was a wheelchair user because it was relevant (the equipment will mostly help wheelchair users and means I can be more independent).  I didn’t tell them that I had CP.  But in the article it said “Ms Crees who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair said…”  Because that’s what defines me in their eyes.

That and another experience a few years ago where something I said was taken slightly out of context to make it appear like a terrible disability thing in a news clip mean I would be very wary talking to the press again. Basically they obviously really wanted to me to answer yes to a question and wouldn’t stop asking me varients of it.  In the end I said along the lines of  yes it seems like that to you but…”  The final news clip had me just saying “yes it seems like that.”

And I’m just me.  A regular crippled girl who writes and likes to sail.  I’m not high profile at all.  The fact that Oscar Pistorius is high profile is a big part of the reason why there are so many issues relating to disability in the coverage of Reeva Steenkamp’s death but it’s not the only reason. Crimes are committed by disabled people every day.  People are murdered everyday, sometimes by those disabled criminals or by others.  That doesn’t always hit the news. This did and brought with it issues about disability magnified to a whole new level.

I didn’t think of this until after I wrote the piece for Bea but I suspect disability is why it’s getting so much coverage.  If a regular Olympian, say, Greg Rutherford (being only he was the first to come to my mind) was accused of the same crime it would be a big deal.  But I’m not sure it would be quite as big a deal with so many people shocked and talking about it as when it’s the so called “Disabled hero”

I’m not the only blogger who has been tackling these issues.  William Peace has also written about the problem of disability role models (in which he also covers Helen Keller) over on his blog Bad Cripple.

Rekindled

I’m reading a good book at the moment.  I hope to finish it tonight and I’ll review it for my blog in the next few days most likely.  When I flicked to the back to see how many pages it has I noticed that on the page after the end of the story there is the following quote.

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”
Albert Schweitzer

I’ve had a tough year I think it’s fair to say.  And things are greatly improving and I feel like I’m not in the best place I’ve ever been in but I’m certainly in a much better place, possibly even a good place.

I love quotes as anyone who has read my blog for a while will probably realise.  This resonnated with me a lot.

I’ve spent time this year feeling as though I was worthless.  As though the ridiculous disablism I experienced at the hands of the NHS (something I don’t think I ever shared fully on my blog and I doubt I ever will) destroyed my self esteem and confidence.  It’s coming back but I still feel more fragile and a lot less confident than I used it in some ways.

Putting myself back together isn’t something I can do alone though – I’m only where I am now because of the people who “blew my light into flame” if you will.

My family.  My friends. The ones who get the problem when I explain it and the others who get my text and immediately text back “oh fuck.” because that’s all there is to say and they know I can’t handle being told not to worry. The ones who point out the bigger picture.

The people from the You Know You Have CP When… group for providing me with a sense of solidarity and understanding I’ve not felt in a long time (seriously, 300+ CPers – you know you can post and at least one other is there to say “yup, been there.” HUGE.).

The people who had nothing to do with what happened but tell me the way I was treated was unacceptable and they’re sorry and will see what they can do. The guys at one of my favourite Oxford venues who at a point on Sunday when I was about to lose it inadvertantly made me laugh.  Those who lurk in the background.  The ones who deny they’re doing anything special. And, sadly, the ones who show their true colours making me realise I can’t trust them as much as I thought I could.

Those who do things I would never expect.  On Sunday the Oxfordshire NaNoWriMo kick off meeting was at a venue I’ve been to once before but not since I’ve had this chair.  I’d forgotten that the entrance wasn’t properly ramped which meant I couldn’t get in as trying to go up it triggered the safety cut off thing.

My friend is one of the organisers this year and came over to see what was up. She said she was really sorry (to which I said it wasn’t her fault) and that next week we’ll go to another venue which has great access plus totally rocks. By this time I’ve got the cafe owner trying to make stupid suggestions of what I can do to get over it (it’s a mechanism which kills all my momentum if I try and go up something particularly steep to prevent the chair tipping and it can’t be overridden or pushed past  “Go as far as you can then stop and try again and “go backwards” won’t work). When my mate then asked what about now I said I was leaving because I couldn’t handle any more faffing and knew I’d cry if I had to.

10 mins later I was almost to the station when I had a call saying was I on the train yet because all 14 of them were leaving the cafe for the accessible venue. I went back to meet them and got there before them. Two of that 14 are my friends and three others I’d met briefly before. I was blown away that a group of mostly strangers would do that for me. Hell in the past I’ve had difficulty getting groups where practically everyone knows me to use venues I can access.

I try to always say thank you to those who prop me up and support me but I fear I’m not always clear or successful enough.  My light wouldn’t have come back anywhere near as quickly if not for all the people who surround me.

Thank you.

>Just Keep Swimming

>Day 42 of 100.

Just Keep Swimming

Splash!
Straight into the water
It’s cool
Not cold but definitely noticeable
Soothing on too hot skin
Sinking down and down
Wet all your hair
Refreshing
And then keep your shoulders under
Smile at the kids on the other side
Say hi to a friend and chat for a few minutes.
Waves waves waves
Up and down
Up and down
Thrown around
Body surfing
The unexpected storm
Watch the aqua aerobics group
Try and fail to copy their movements
Surrounded by water
Stretch and savour
And only then
Do you swim
Front crawl
A lazy attempt at breast stroke
And a long float on my back
A few kicks don’t achieve much
But must be done
Right leg more than left
People think it’s just a swim
But it’s more than that
A rare taste of mobility
Without my wheelchair

♥ Emma