Christmas 2017 | Plans, Decorations & Films…

Christmas Day is now just over two weeks away! How did that happen? This year has gone so fast. I know we all say that every year, but really.

The biggest event of 2017 for me and my family, is the addition of my new baby nephew, who arrived at the end of August. We are a small family – neither of my parents have siblings, and so my brother’s and I have no aunts, uncles or cousins. So, for us a new baby – the first grandchild for my parents – is a big deal!

2017 also marks my first full year as a disability blogger. I have acquired a respectable following on social media (respectable according to my expectations, anyway!) and I hope to reach an even wider audience throughout 2018.

Plans for Christmas

Every year, our small family congregate at my parents house where my Mom cooks the traditional turkey roast. My Nan, who has just turned 91, insists on watching the Queen’s speech and so we all gather around the dining room table after that lovely treat.

As kids, we would open all our presents upon first waking. But now we usually wait until after dinner to open them all together. It’s something to look forward to on Christmas afternoon… apparently!

Every year we have a real Christmas tree – my Mom insists. Having never had an artificial one, I can’t really compare. But I must admit, it is much more traditional and exciting to have a real tree, with the natural scent of pine, the imperfect shape and shedding needles all over the floor. Some people complain about the effort and the mess they make. But to me, that’s all part of the charm and the count-down to Christmas.

Decorations

Here is our real tree, decorated by my folks and I (a team effort), with plenty of colour, lights and an Angel on top!

I also made a wreath to adorn our front door – get me and my creative skills!

   

What do you think of my finished wreath? I hope it’s a pass – I burnt half my fingers off with that bloody glue gun!

Film Recommendations

There are so many great Christmas films to get you in the festive mood (there are also some pretty shocking ones out there too). But where do you start? Some people want comedy, others have kids to consider and therefore need a family friendly option. Some want tradition and then there are those who would like to see something more meaningful and dramatic.

A few of my favourites include Home Alone (1990), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Elf (2003), and The Family Stone (2005).

I’ve tried to cater for everyone here, although obviously we all have our own go-to Christmas movies. For those of you who haven’t seen any of my recommendations, maybe start with Elf which is a charming and cleverly witty family film about Buddy, an elf played by the irrepressible Will Ferrell. A good choice to keep the kids entertained now that school has ended, this non-stop comedy is both sweet and slapstick at times. I’m 29 and I still love this one!

My next choice is another hugely popular family friendly festive film about a young boy mistakenly left home alone when his family fly to Paris for the holidays. Macaulay Culkin was at his prime here, offering a highly entertaining and endearing performance that more than matched his established co-stars (Catherine O’Hara, John Heard and Goodfellas Joe Pesci). With plenty of comedy, capers and action, Home Alone will excite and enchant both young and old.

Who hasn’t seen A Muppet Christmas Carol, seriously? What is there to say about this one. Charles Dickens classic story is invigorated and enhanced by the Muppets unique blend of humour and musicality. With the addition of England’s very own Michael Caine who is perfectly cast as Ebenezer Scrooge, this is a must see come Christmas Eve.

My final suggestion is less well known though possibly my personal favourite of the four mentioned. The Family Stone is a heartfelt comedy-drama about a modern-day ecclectic American family who reunite for the festive period. One for the grown ups, Id advise settling down with a glass of wine to watch this one before bed. I’m not overly sentimental but admittedly this movie always makes me shed a few tears. But don’t be put off, there’s also plenty of laugh out loud moments throughout. The ‘Christmas message’ is, in my opinion, subtly yet effectively delivered. Frankly I could watch this at any time of year since it’s simply a good drama about the trials and tribulations of family life.


Well, that’s it for my Christmas round-up. I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If so, please give it a share!

Here’s hoping you all have a happy and healthy Christmas

Emergency Care: My Experience

Muscular Dystrophy UK | #AmbulanceAction campaign

Throughout my 28 years, I have on many occasions had to call on the Emergency Care services.

I live with the progressive condition, Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy. Consequently, I have contractures of the joints, a severe ‘S’ shaped scoliosis, and respiratory decline. I lost the ability to weight-bear at the age of 10, and now use an electric wheelchair to get around. I live with my parents and employ a part-time carer as I require support with daily activities including personal care.

My primary medical concern is respiratory related. Ambulances, A&E and hospital wards are all too familiar to me, having endured several bouts of acute pneumonia, a collapsed lung and pleurisy.

Although general knowledge of my disability is limited within all areas of Emergency Care, on the whole my treatment has always been thorough and adequate, if a little clueless at times!

I have found that whenever muscular dystrophy is mentioned, medics immediately assume it is the Duchenne form. This can be incredibly frustrating as it clearly indicates a lack of education and awareness.

There are many different variations of MD, the effects of which are wide ranging. I do feel that comprehension of these various forms needs to be increased throughout the Emergency Care services.

Each time I have called for an ambulance or been admitted to hospital, I need to relay every detail of my disability and how it affects me. This becomes unnecessarily repetitive and extremely tiresome.

Worryingly, there does seem to be a large gap in the most basic knowledge of muscular dystrophy.

I cannot complain about the care and conscientiousness shown towards me by paramedics, nurses and doctors. However, I am concerned about being in a position where I’m unable to answer their questions regarding my condition.

For instance, it can be dangerous to give those with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy supplementary oxygen as we retain carbon dioxide. It is therefore preferable to support breathing with non-invasive ventilation such as a Bi-pap machine. Failure to communicate this vital information can be literally life threatening.

Furthermore, the fact that I require the presence of a carer whilst an inpatient can be problematic. This again, has to be explained again and again, thus demonstrating a complete lack of awareness.


Find out more and join the #AmbulanceAction campaign.

Please share ~ Thank you!

Life Update: Part 2

Carers and my first ceiling track hoist


Hey everyone, hope you’re all well.

As promised, here are the developments following on from my previous life update

Care

Having re-advertised for a part-time carer to replace my current PCA, I interviewed seven applicants, plus one who’s interested in ad-hoc cover. All were enthusiastic, though as any employer will know, things often change in the days that follow.

There was only one no-show which actually isn’t bad at all compared to my previous attempts to recruit new carers.

One of the seven ladies later asked to be a backup as she decided she couldn’t do every weekday. From the six remaining, I invited three to shadow, knowing that at least one would change their mind. I was right; they did.

The first was a no-show (yes, another)! After I contacted her to ask if she was going to attend, she simply replied, “I forgot”. Needless to say she was scrubbed from the list.

Number two messaged me a few days before shadowing, to say she had reconsidered and felt there weren’t enough hours. This left me with one applicant.

Thankfully she did show up. Seemingly reliable and keen to take on the role, I offered her the job on a trial basis from Monday 30th October.

My current PCA is leaving in December to pursue a career as a paramedic. So, fingers crossed all goes well with the newbie…

Ceiling track hoist

To my surprise, I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by Prism Medical to arrange a date for installation. Finally, after waiting for so long and constantly pushing the matter, I would get the much needed ceiling hoist on Tuesday 24th October.

In preparation, my Dad had to remove the glass intersection above my bathroom door to allow through-access.

Before:

After:


When the day arrived, we cleared the room and waited for the workmen to arrive, as expected, at 9am. An hour later and still no sign. Becoming impatient, I called Prism Medical but was told they wouldn’t be coming due to a technical issue.

What?! What technical issue?

Prism Medical claim they left a voice message, on the previous Friday, explaining they couldn’t connect the single rail going from my bed to the bathroom door, with the H-frame in the bathroom. We received no voice message. They also claim to have contacted the Community OT’s. They too have had no calls or messages from Prism.

A rep from Prism previously visited my home to take measurements, draw up plans and provide quotes. They then corresponded with a Community OT (or so I’m told) and agreed to install the ceiling track hoist. Yet despite all this, they have suddenly decided they’re unable to carry out the work. Excuse my language, but what the actual fuck?!

As you might expect, the remainder of Tuesday was spent on the phone: trying to get hold of an occupational therapist, complaining to and about Prism Medical, and negotiating with County Council Equipment Services.

I’m hoping to get funding approval for TPG to do the work, as they too had sent out a rep to provide a quote.

Naturally the County Council opted for the cheaper quote from Prism. That’s worked out really well, hasn’t it!

Final Thoughts

Today is Thursday 26th October. There has been no notable progress since Tuesday. Essentially, I am back to square one – harassing the OT’s daily to ensure my case is not ignored. Unless you constantly pursue the issue yourself, frankly nothing happens.

I am so angry and disappointed with the whole cock-up, though sadly not overly surprised. In my experience, unless you’re prepared to self-fund, this is the service (or lack thereof) you can expect!

I will be putting in a formal complaint and am seriously considering writing to my local MP. If we allow companies and organisations to get away with such failures and blatant disregard, nothing will change.

So, once again the saga continues. I will keep you updated – *Keep an eye on Twitter and my Facebook page*


Thank you so much to each and every one of you who has offered advice and support!

Scoliosis | Why I chose not to have a spinal fusion

In my latest piece for Muscular Dystrophy Trailblazers I explain how and why I chose not to have a spinal fusion as a child.


My experience

I was offered corrective scoliosis surgery at the age of nine. Back then I was able to walk short distances wearing leg splints and had a general diagnosis of congenital muscular dystrophy. Many years later this was specified as Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy.

I had no idea why I was going to see a consultant orthopaedic spinal surgeon. I was nine! To me it was just another aimless, inconsequential appointment.

There was no faffing around; this doctor was straight to the point. I was told I needed imminent corrective surgery to prevent further decline. I was horrified to hear of the graphic details, the lengthy recovery and how it could even prove fatal.

Of course I now appreciate that with any surgical procedure, doctors are obliged to inform the patient of every potential risk and outcome, including death. But this was unexpected news falling on my young shoulders.

How I made my decision

As a child I attended Birmingham Heartlands Hospital annually where I saw a paediatric neuromuscular consultant.

My parents and I were never given a prognosis nor any indication regarding if or how my condition might progress. Life expectancy was never discussed and no doctor could tell if I would, in time, come to rely on a wheelchair. We were very much in the dark, living day-to-day.

Frankly these appointments frustrated and bored me to tears! We would wait hours – literally, hours – to see the doctor, and would leave knowing nothing more than we did before. I have in all honesty learnt infinitely more as an adult, through my own research, social media and from others with muscular dystrophy.

My point here is that my parents and I had nothing to base our decision on. It’s almost twenty years since I was told I needed a spinal fusion. This was pre-Google and pre-social media. We weren’t put in contact with anyone who had experienced the operation. So, other than a verbal overview from the consultant, we had no other information or point of reference.

After leaving the appointment in a state of shock, my parents told me that ultimately the choice was mine. I decided I didn’t want to put myself through such an ordeal. I was, at that age, considerably more able than I am now, and none of us had any reason to think I would deteriorate as severely as I have.

Do I regret my decision?

At the time, it was, or at least seemed the right decision for me personally. I was able to weight-bear, finding clothes wasn’t an issue, I was pain-free and did not require any inhalers, medication or respiratory support.

The procedure then was very different compared to today, and I was very young. My condition was stable, I was happy and relatively able. Under those circumstances, the disadvantages outweighed the potential advantages.

However, I do often wonder how my life could have been improved if I’d undergone surgery, two decades ago.

No one predicted that just a year after the offer was made, aged 10, I would become completely non-ambulant within a very short space of time. Had I any indication that this might occur, my decision may have been different.

Though my scoliosis was considerable, the ‘S’ shaped curve is now much greater. Consequently, my respiratory function is significantly affected and basic comfort is a distant memory.

On bad days when I’m in pain and struggling for breath or when I’m ill for months (yes, months) with respiratory infection; I do regret forgoing my one opportunity to correct my skeletal deformity.

But, what’s done is done, and cannot be undone. I’m stuck with me! I can’t change past decisions. I simply have to make the best of what I have and keep moving forward.


I’d love to hear about your experiences with scoliosis and spinal surgery.

– Can you relate to my story?

– Have you too turned down corrective surgical intervention?

– Have you had a spinal fusion? If so, how has your life changed as a result?

Thanks so much for reading, and please leave a comment.

1 Year Old Today! | Blogiversary

It’s now been one year since my blog, Life on the Slow Lane, was created. I finally bit the bullet on 5th October, with my first (proper!) post going live on 11th October.

As you can see from that first shabby entry, back then I lacked a specific objective. I just wanted to get going after contemplating blogging for many months prior.

Over time I have (I hope) managed to focus the aims and purpose of my blog.

I now concentrate primarily on disability issues, specifically those relating to muscular dystrophy. Here I share my thoughts and experiences, having lived my entire life with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy.


Blogging opportunities

Over the past twelve months, I have been extremely fortunate to write for other notable publications including Muscular Dystrophy Trailblazers, Disability Horizons and Limitless Travel.

Life on the Slow Lane has enabled me to interact with many other disability bloggers. The amazing Simply Emma generously invited me to guest-blog for her, which I did in May and July. Then more recently I collaborated with the lovely Gemma over at Wheelescapades.


My blogging highlight of the year

A particular highlight for me was the overwhelming response I received for the piece I wrote about my life with UCMD. The fact that it is an especially personal and exposing piece makes the positive feedback all the more touching. To date, this, my most popular blog-post has been viewed over 11,700 times.


Final thoughts

Admittedly, it’s been challenging and time-consuming. I have so many thoughts and ideas, yet not enough time to execute them all.

I often feel like I’m playing catch-up, mistakenly comparing myself to other much more established disability bloggers.

I’m not a big fan of computers and otherwise avoid them if at all possible. Initially, I had no clue how to even set up a blog, let alone edit and customise one.

I realise many of my peers are adept with design software, graphics and managing websites. But I’m just not. Computers are in no way of any interest to me. I’m old school! So this, along with social media, is something I have had to familiarise myself with.


Blogging goals for the next year

• Continue to upload regular posts
• Reach a wider audience and increase my readership
• Raise awareness of Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy
• Meet other like-minded disability bloggers


Thanks to you

I’d like to thank each and every person out there who has read any of my articles. I truly appreciate your feedback and support!

As long as Life on the Slow Lane attracts an audience, however small, I will continue to write.

Get to know me | Interviewed by Wheelescapades

I recently collaborated with fellow disability and lifestyle blogger Gemma Orton, aka Wheelescapades, on a ‘20 Questions‘ blog post.

We initially got chatting on social media and found we had a few things in common ~ We’re both arty/crafty types, we have a mutual love for all things Disney, and we are both wheelchair users. Gemma has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2 (SMA2), while I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy.

To get to know each other even better, we gave each other free rein to ask 20 personal questions!

Here you can find my previous post, in which I interview Gemma.


And below are my answers to Gemma’s 20 questions…

1. What made you decide to write a blog?

I had been thinking about it for a long time, though it took me several months to begin. I wanted to do something productive and worthwhile but didn’t think anyone would care or be interested in what I have to say.
They say you should write what you know. I have been disabled since birth and so consider this my expert subject. However, disability isn’t a particularly popular or fashionable topic to blog about. I knew it would be a challenge and it has been. I do feel like I’m constantly playing catch-up and at times I wonder if it’s worth the time and effort. But when I receive positive responses from complete strangers, I am reminded why I’m doing it.

2. What do you want your blog to achieve?

I want to raise awareness of muscular dystrophy, particularly Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy which is the rare and little-known form that I have. I want to share my thoughts and experiences, having lived my whole life as a physically disabled individual, in the hope that it may in some way help others.

3. What is the most difficult thing for you about having a disability?

Blimey, I could write a list! There are many challenges and frustrations. My condition is progressive and so the difficulties become greater with age. I think perhaps, for me, the most difficult thing about living with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy, is the limitations it inflicts. I am limited physically – I cannot run, dance, walk or even weight-bear. Just to be able to stand and support my own weight would make a world of difference! I am life-limited! Yes, UCMD is a life-limiting condition. I will not grow old or see my new baby nephew become an adult. Furthermore, my quality of life is limited. To put it briefly, when I am ill I’m REALLY ill. I have spent much time in hospital with respiratory related issues including repeated bouts of pneumonia, pleurisy, and a collapsed lung. I have literally lost months of my life to UCMD – housebound, unable to eat and reliant on non-invasive ventilation.

4. What is the biggest positive about having a disability?

The positives are much more light-hearted! Concessions, being able to skip to the front of the queue and designated parking (although disabled bays are often occupied by sports cars lacking a blue badge!)

5. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?

Hmm, tricky! I do like variety. I guess I’d have to choose… mash potato?! That way I could always mix it up by adding herbs from the garden (or is that cheating??)

6. An apocalypse is imminent, you have 30 minutes to prepare, what 3 items do you pack?

Well, I guess if the apocalypse is coming then it doesn’t really matter as we’re all doomed anyway?! But, I think I would still pack a bottle of Lucozade (I live on it! Purely for the energy boost), my dog and my family!

7. When making tea would you pour the milk or water in first?

Water!

8. What is your favourite way to relax?

I like to shut myself away, snuggle up in bed and listen to music or watch a good film.

9. If you could interview any human, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask?

Wow, I really don’t know. God! (who I don’t believe in – what a cop-out) He has a lot to answer for.

10. What would be your dream job?

I’m one of those people who never knew what they wanted to do. I’ve never been career focused or academically ambitious. All I ever wanted was to have kids! But, if I could be absolutely anything, I think I’d be a dancer. I’ve always loved everything about dance. And yes, I’m a huge Strictly fan!

11. You’ve just won 10 million pounds (congratulations!), what 3 things would you do with the money?

Sort my family out – erase any debts and buy them homes, cars and whatever else they might need or want. Make sure my closest friends are comfortable! Buy a holiday home(s). And finally, a home for myself, FULLY adapted!

12. Where in the world would you most like to visit and why?

Australia. For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to visit Australia. The snakes are a little off-putting but still, that’s where I’d head to first. Closely followed by America. I’d absolutely love to do a road trip – Route 66!

13. What one thing would you change about yourself?

Only one?! Again, I could write a list. Buy I’d have to say my body. It doesn’t work too well and I’m flipping uncomfortable in it!

14. If you could play any part in a film, past or future, real or fiction, who would you be?

Men get all the really great roles! So, if I were male I think I’d play the Joker in The Dark Knight. How much fun would that be! Since I’m not a man, I’d play… I don’t know!! Maybe one of the sisters in A League of Their Own (1992) or Uma Thurman’s roles in either Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill.

15. If there was a pill that would freeze you at your current age and you could live forever as you are now, would you take it? And why?

Nope, definitely not. I wouldn’t to live forever. It would get pretty boring after a while! Plus outliving all my family and friends would be Hell.

16. If you could trade lives with one person for an entire day who would it be and why?

My brother. He has the life I’ve always wanted. He is physically fit, handsome, funny, charming, popular, successful and he has a lovely wife, baby and home. Of course I don’t resent him for it and I want nothing more than for him to be healthy, happy and fulfilled. But to experience his life for just one day would be bliss. I’d never ask for anything else.

17. If you could time travel, where would you go?

Good question. There are so many periods throughout history that I’d like to visit. But it would be great to go back around 50 years, when my parents were kids and my grandparents were young. I never knew my maternal granddad who died when I was a baby. So I’d especially love to meet him.

18. If you were made Queen and allowed to pass one new law, what would it be, and why?

Argh, the pressure! I have no good answer to this. So I think I’ll just say longer sentences and harsher punishments for serious crimes. There really is no deterrent in this country.

19. What personal trait has gotten you in the most trouble?

Voicing my opinion and failing to filter! Over the years I have become more outspoken and more impassioned about certain issues. I tend to over-analyse and question everything. Oh and I am rather stubborn. If I believe something in something, I won’t budge.

20. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?

Just happy I guess. As I said before, I never had a particular job or career in mind. I’ve considered various options and ideas over the years. But all I ever really wanted was a home and a family of my own. That’s it. Not much to ask, eh?

I don’t think it is.


I really hope you enjoyed this collaboration with Wheelescapades. Let me know in the comments.

I’d also love to hear from you and find out how you would answer these questions!


To keep up to date with Gemma, go and check out her blog and connect with her on social media.

https://wheelescapades.com/

https://twitter.com/gemmaorton

https://www.instagram.com/wheelescapades/

https://www.facebook.com/wheelescapades/

A Welcome New Arrival 🍼

Hi folks! How is your September so far? Mine has been pretty amazing for one very important reason.

At the end of August, my big bro and his wife welcomed their first child – a bosting baby boy! This makes me an incredibly proud and immensely excited auntie.

Here I shall refer to him aptly as Mr Squidge. But don’t worry guys, the new parents have gone with a nice traditional name that’ll see him through school unscathed.

Mr Squidge is, thankfully, a healthy, happy and content little bundle. He is a super cool character – by far the most chilled out baby I have ever known.

When he’s not closely examining ceiling lights (which are hugely fascinating!) or contemplating life’s many mysteries, Mr Squidge enjoys milky time, sleepy time and lots of poopy time!

A particular highlight was when he casually peed on his granddad’s lap! Well, when you’ve got to go…

Squidge is now three weeks old and it’s amazing to see how much he has developed already. His baby blues are wide open and ever inquisitive, and he is determinedly trying to hold his own head up.

Today, my mom and I spent all afternoon with him at our house. His Mama was here too of course. He’s not quite advanced enough to drive himself over. Not yet anyway.

While I was holding him, he spent quite some time studying, and trying to grab my face, no doubt giving me the once over. Can’t blame the kid really. I’d be suspicious of me, too.

We’re a small family, fortunate to live in close proximity. Being only a 10 minute drive away from my new baby nephew means that I can see him often and be a hands-on auntie (or as hands-on as my disability will allow).

I can’t wait to watch him grow, to comfort him, read to him, get messy at meal times, to blow bubbles, paint, draw and play with Play-Doh! Come on, who doesn’t love Play-Doh?!

But equally I’m reluctant to wish away the time and fast-forward his life. Every day is so precious and so cherished. …Too gushy??

Anyone who knows me personally will tell you how much I love kids. Give me a gaggle of kids over a room full of adults any day. The play, the silliness, the cuddles; the unpredictability and informality – what’s not to love?

So, suffice to say I am on cloud nine right now. If you read my recent life update, you will know that things have been somewhat stressful of late. But, the squidgey new addition to our family has truly mitigated all other worries.

Life Update ~ Carers, Hoists and OT’s

Hi folks, I hope you are all healthy and happy.

I feel like it’s been a while since I blogged about the goings-on of my day-to-day life. Not a particularly exciting post, granted. But I thought it might be useful to share these ‘goings-on’ with you, as I’m sure there are some of you facing similar struggles.

I have for the past few months been occupied with life crap – specifically, disability-related life crap – which has meant that blogging has unfortunately had to take a backseat.

Righty right, I’ll try and keep it brief…

Care

As some of you may know, I live with my parents who are my primary source of support. I do have a part-time carer who I employ, but otherwise my Mom (yes, I say Mom vs Mum) is my main caregiver. Sadly she herself suffers with progressive osteoarthritis, and following exploratory surgery in October, it was decided that she needed a full knee replacement.

This in fact took place on Sunday 20th August, although it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that Mom was given a date for surgery. However, prior to this I had to put in place provision for my care needs. This involved recruiting a second carer and ensuring I have all the equipment I would need.

For the past 4 months I have searched for a second carer. I advertised everywhere and anywhere – newspapers, news agents, local shops and the post office, job sites, Facebook and so on. The response has really surprised and frustrated me – so many no-shows, let downs and people failing to read or understand the basic job specification.

I ask very little of applicants. I don’t request references, qualifications, experience or even a CRB/DBS (criminal records check). I interview informally in my own home, and with employees I am flexible, easy going and more than fair, taking into consideration their individual circumstances.

However, despite the fact I am completely non-ambulatory, I have never used a hoist. Thus far, family and carers have always preferred to lift me manually as it’s much quicker and frankly less faff! I’m only tiny – approximately 5 feet tall and 5.5 stone in weight. So until very recently, it has always suited to go without a hoist.

Understandably this is off-putting to potential applicants. But, every carer I’ve ever employed has openly admitted that working for me is a breeze compared to any other job they’ve had, and that for them the lifting is a non-issue. Nevertheless, I appreciate that most would prefer not to lift – that’s fair enough.

Hoists

With this in mind, I instigated the process of applying for a ceiling track hoist to be installed in my ground-floor bedroom/ensuite bathroom. I will need a H-frame in the bathroom and a short track from my bed to the bathroom.

Not a huge ask really, particularly as I have never received any support in the way of equipment. Everything I have – wheelchairs, bed, bath lift etc. has been self-funded. The post-code lottery is a very real and unjust thing, people! But that’s a topic for another day…

Dealing with Community Occupational Therapists

I contacted the community Occupational Therapists, explained the situation and requested a needs assessment. I was initially fobbed off with the excuse that they’re vastly understaffed and that I would need to be terminally ill in order to qualify. When I asked how they suggest I manage after Mom’s operation, the OT replied that I should “camp out” and be dressed, bathed and toileted on my bed!

Disgusted at her casual disregard, I asked how she would feel having all her personal care needs carried out on the bed she sleeps in. “Oh well, this is the situation we’re in. It can’t be helped”, was her insensitive response.

I then contacted my neuromuscular consultant who wrote a letter of support. On receipt of this letter, the OT’s suddenly found time to carry out a needs assessment in my home – shocker! (It’s not what you know, but who you know, right!?)

Following this, two reps – one from TPG, the other from Prism Medical – came and measured up in order to provide quotes for the ceiling hoist. I have since learned that the second quote is unusable, which frankly is no surprise, as he clearly had no clue what he was doing; at one point asking to see the gas meter. Even the OT who accompanied him questioned his experience.

In the meantime I have been issued with a portable hoist, though it has taken many weeks to receive a usable sling. Rather than measuring me, then visiting me in my home with a variety of slings to try, the OT’s insisted on sending one at a time. After much harassment from me, a community OT finally conceded and actually attended to properly assess me for a sling.

Honestly, they complain that they have a backlog of work and no time, and yet they waste so much. The sling issue could have been carried out in one appointment. Simple, done, move on. But instead, they chose to drag it out for weeks simply because they wouldn’t visit or listen to the patient.

And now…

Today is Sunday 10th September, and no further progress has been made with the ceiling hoist. Yet again I will have to chase the OT’s, otherwise nothing will ever happen. Sad but true.

I had taken on a second carer who began shadowing at the beginning of August. She was very enthusiastic, supportive and accommodating – said all the right things. Then whilst on my way to visit mom in the hospital, two days after her surgery, I received a message from the new carer, who was due to work that evening. She issued a stream of excuses as to why she couldn’t (translate: wouldn’t) do the job.

Until then, my current carer had always been present. Essentially it turns out she was happy to come and get paid to watch someone else do the job. She just didn’t want to have to do any work herself. Now I know why she’s had so many jobs!

So, as it stands I am managing as best I can with my one part-time PCA, though she is planning to leave in late October to train as a paramedic; thus posing yet another obstacle.

Having realised how long this post is, I think I will leave it there for today, though there is much more to tell. Suffice to say, the saga continues…

What’s in my bag: UCMD edition

The ‘what’s in my bag’ post is a popular one amongst many bloggers. I guess it’s our innate curiosity that makes us so eager to know the personal contents of a complete strangers bag. Nosey beggars we are!

Nevertheless, most people carry around the same few items on a day-to-day basis, right?

– Wallet, phone, keys…

But what does a wheelchair user routinely carry with them?

Here’s an insight into what I, a young woman with muscular dystrophy, take with me in my bag.

  1. Ventolin Salbutamol inhaler with Haleraid – I keep one at home but also ensure I have one of these in my bag at all times. I find these inhalers difficult to use without the Haleraid device, which I highly recommend for those with small or weak hands.
  2. In addition to the usual house and car keys, I have a Radar key which provides access to over 9000 accessible toilets throughout the UK.
  3. Empty bottle – if you read my blog, you may be aware that I have a suprapubic catheter. So, when out and about, I have found it a good idea to keep an empty bottle with me. I’m sure I need not explain why…
  4. If using public toilets, it’s good practice to carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser. I get mine from Primark as they’re super cheap and portable. I’m also susceptible to coughs and colds so this helps me to avoid community acquired viruses.
  5. Wet wipes – I prefer a smaller bag as I’m rather petite. So I usually leave a packet of wet wipes in the car. These things are invaluable and versatile, particularly for us girls!                                                                After indulging in fast food, using public transport and toilets, refuelling the car, for cleaning a dusty wheelchair, or simply freshening up on hot summer days. Wet wipes are a must.
  6. Tissues – you can guarantee the one day I don’t put a tissue in my bag is when I’ll desperately need one.
  7. It’s now June and around this time of year I suffer with hay fever. As you may know if you read this previous post, I’m also allergic to horses. I therefore keep some antihistamines to hand, should I run into a horse. As you do.                                                                                                           You can buy Loratadine tablets for less than a pound in some shops. There’s no point spending more for branded versions, they all do the same job. However, if for any reason you struggle with tablets, I recommend Boots Hayfever Relief Instant-melts. They are quite pricey but as the name suggests, they melt easily on the tongue and leave no nasty aftertaste. And they work!
  8. Chewable multivitamins – I try to stay as healthy as possible by taking a daily multivitamin supplement. I have a big pot of tablets at home but on the go, I prefer to pop a sachet of chewy multivitamins in my bag. They’re much more lightweight than pills and you don’t need a drink to take them.
  9. Drink – usually Lucozade (although they have recently cut the sugar content by half resulting in a distinct change in flavour. Damn them!) I’m not in general a fan of energy drinks, nor do I have a sweet tooth. But this stuff got me through Uni. As I get older, I become weaker and more fatigued due to my muscular dystrophy.                                                     It’s not the healthiest thing in the world I know, but I’m pretty clean living otherwise. Lucozade helps fight exhaustion. Lucozade is my friend!
  10. Straws – I can still lift cups, glasses and bottles to drink from, but a straw just makes life so much easier, especially if you’re en-route and jigging about in the back of a wheelchair accessible vehicle! I often swipe them in bulk from the cinema or good old Maccie D’s.
  11. Ensure compact milkshake – if I’m out all day or travelling for several hours, I’ll take one of these with me for convenience. They’re easy to pop in your bag and one small bottle provides 300 calories. Some people complain about the taste. I’m not going to lie and tell you they’re delicious, but they’re certainly not offensive. And for those of you who struggle to keep your weight up and achieve a nutritionally complete diet, these do the job.
  12. Chewing gum – apart from the obvious purpose of maintaining minty fresh breath, gum really helps to relieve bloating. Like many with scoliosis, I struggle to eat a lot as there’s little room for expanse. But, sometimes my eyes are larger than my belly and I force myself to eat more than my body will allow. I then feel uncomfortable and even tight-chested. Chewing encourages a faster rate of digestion, thereby easing this discomfort.                                                                                            Furthermore, I’m not a particularly anxious person but I have noticed that chewing gum helps somewhat. Is this just me?
  13. Phone – everyone carries a mobile phone with them nowadays, but for me it’s essential. If I’m out in my car and it breaks down or there’s an accident, I can call someone. Similarly, if there’s a fault, malfunction or damage to my wheelchair, I would be stranded without my phone.
  14. Cards and cash – well, obviously. I wouldn’t get far without any money. I always have some cash with me for parking as well as ID since I look about twelve. I was born in the 80s, I swear.
  15. Blue badge – This lives in the car and it really is a huge help for us disabled folk. I’m out, here and there in my car most days and ever in search of accessible parking spaces. I couldn’t be without it.                                    

20 Questions Tag!

We Brits have endured turbulent times of late. So, in an attempt to inject a little light relief into proceedings, I’ve devised my own 20 questions tag.

I’ll kick things off and tag a few fellow bloggers who will then (hopefully) answer the same 20 questions. Not the height of excitement folks, I know. But it’s a brief respite from the continual political talk going on right now.

Ok, here goes…

1. Morning or evening person?
Evening. Always have been, even as a kid. I just don’t function in the morning.

2. Night in or night out?
These days (because I’m so old) I prefer a cosy night in with a good film and good food. The weather here in England is generally crap so I really have to force myself to leave the house when invited out on a cold, rainy evening.

3. Lots of friends or a few close friends?
A few friends. My closest circle of friends are those I have known for almost 20 years. It’s best to keep them sweet, they know too much!

4. Time to yourself or time spent with others?
As sad as it may seem, I actually love my own company, especially as I still live with my parents. It’s not as though I have a home of my own. So, I appreciate time to myself all the more. I’ve always been able to occupy myself. My folks often say I would happily play alone as a tot. Take that as you will…

5. Holiday at home or abroad?
Abroad, definitely. I rarely have the opportunity to travel so when I can, I prefer to go abroad, mainly to escape the British weather.

6. Countryside, seaside or city?
Seaside. I live in central England so I’m several hours drive from the nearest coast. It’s a rarely seen sight for me. I always wanted a house overlooking the sea. I just love everything about it.

7. Hot climate or cold climate?
Hot! I have muscular dystrophy and poor circulation. Thus I really feel the cold. I always feel so much better in every sense when in a warmer climate.

8. Books or films?
I’m a big film buff. Admittedly I watch a lot of films. Box sets seem to be the ‘in thing’ at the moment. I’ve been told I should get stuck into Game of Thrones and Stranger Things, among others. I may do at some point. I did watch Fargo season 2. That was decent. But I just don’t have the patience for TV shows. I like to settle down at night and watch a good film. 2-hours and you’re done.

9. Rice or pasta?
Rice. I like pasta but it’s much stodgier. Due to my MD, scoliosis and respiratory decline, I have limited space for food as it is. Plus I find rice more versatile.

10. Tea or coffee or..?
I like the smell of coffee but hate the taste. I’ll drink tea but I’m not a huge fan. I live on Lucozade. Bad I know. But it literally got me through Uni. Can’t believe they’ve changed the recipe! Bloody sugar tax. It really doesn’t taste the same anymore.

11. Cook, takeaway or eat out?
Ooh, I enjoy all three. Depends how I’m feeling I guess. I rarely have a takeaway so when I do it’s a treat. It’s nice to eat out with family or friends. And I do like to cook because it means I’m involved and can eat whatever I want. I’m a bit of a bish, bash, bosh type. I don’t like to be restricted by a recipe.

12. Formal or casual?
Casual, all the way. I don’t do formal!

13. Dogs or cats?
I love both and have always had cats and dogs. I’ve never known life without a pet. If I had to choose I would probably say I prefer dogs. Generally more loyal I think.

14. Play it safe or be daring?
I wish I could say I’m a spontaneous type, but unfortunately MD doesn’t lend itself to such a lifestyle. I hate routine and monotony. I’m as daring as I can be.

15. Idealist or realist?
Realist. I have to be. My whole existence requires consideration, planning and organisation. It’s nice to dream every now and then but dreaming tends to lead to disappointment.

16. Lead or follow?
I guess I’m a bit of both, depending on the context. I prefer to follow as I don’t like responsibility or being held accountable. I’d rather go with the flow. But I am an employer -reluctantly – since I hire my own PA’s. Therefore, this calls for a degree of leadership.

17. Work or play?
Play. Life’s far too short!

18. Lennon or McCartney?
Lennon. Sorry Paul.

19. Love or money?
Love, no doubt. Cliché maybe. Money helps, of course. I wouldn’t turn it down. But at the end of the day, when the shit hits the fan, all you want is your loved ones around you. All the money in the world won’t cure my MD. But love makes life worth living.

20. Share your problems or keep them to yourself?
I’m often accused of being secretive, guarded and evasive. I do bottle things up. I know “it’s good to talk”, and all that. But I just don’t find talking about my problems helps. I don’t like people to know when I’m unhappy or ill or struggling.
I’ll be honest, I find it difficult sharing so much about myself on my blog. I hold a lot back. I’m not a fan of social media and it took me months and months to finally submit. Months and months of friends pushing me to give it a go. I still require the odd kick up the ass to persist.


I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know what you think.

I tag:

Uncanny Vivek
SimplyEmma