Credit to Puiu Adriana Mirabela
Today I went to a Chronic Pain support group. I love going, it’s quite a great feeling being in a room full of people who know exactly what you’re going through. Sadly it usually clashes with a work day, so I’m not able to go. We spend the time just talking about our current issues – sharing things that have worked for us, having a bit of a vent and quite often having a laugh at ourselves.
Speaking of work, things came to a head when I went to see my GP recently and explained how low and stressed I was feeling. She then said she wanted me to have a break from work, and signed me off for a month. She also referred me back to the chronic pain clinic at the local hospital to see if they can try something new, and decided to put me on Prozac, to see if I can kick this depression.
Work took it in their usual way. I have an occupational health assessment tomorrow, which they asked me to have when I joined the company. I’m quite nervous about it, but will see how it goes.
I’ve been trying to think of something new to do a fundraising event for Fair Access to Colchester. The group has no money, and I desperately want to advertise and do lots of other things that cost money. I’ve run some pamper days for a village hall charity before, and I wanted to do something different.
At the same time, I was trying to arrange a craft themed meeting for Fair Access. I have found lots of disabled people are into crafts, and that’s how I got into them myself really – by looking for a hobby that could distract me from the pain. I suddenly realised the craft theme could work on a larger scale – by getting a large hall, and having lots of different crafters in giving small lessons. For example someone would come in a pay a small fee to make a bracelet, or a card, or paint something. That way people get to do something fun and try out something they may not have done before. It’s expensive starting a new hobby, and you want to make sure you’ll like it before you spend money.
I thought I could have some tables selling crafts, some children’s stuff and maybe a raffle or something.
Last weekend I went to Colchester Zoo for a Sensory Day with some members of Fair Access to Colchester.
I tried to get a scooter from Shopmobility for the day – they usually have a Paris Shoprider that easily breaks apart to go in a car, which I’ve taken on holiday numerous times. Sadly, someone had taken it out for sixteen(!) weeks and they only had one.
Option two was an electric wheelchair they found in the corner of the storeroom. It hadn’t been used in some time, and didn’t fold up. They charged it up and we went to collect it. We put the seats of the car down, and three people lifted it in with some difficulty. The massive battery underneath made it incredibly heavy and it didn’t disconnect.
Uh oh! How were we going to get it out? Luckily my mum, with help from two other people managed to get it out, and we were off.
The chair was the size of a normal wheelchair – not those massive things you see, and the battery tucked underneath nicely. It went at a decent speed, and was easy to control.
The zoo is incredibly hilly, although they have a yellow line going round that follows the most mobility-friendly path but it was still pretty tough going. It was fantastic. I could choose where I wanted to go. I could keep up with everyone, and no one was exhausted pushing me. Unlike a scooter, I could go right up to things, and manoeuvre myself to see what I wanted.
There were a few hairy moments on steep hills where it didn’t respond to my controls, and someone had to grab the chair before a bowled over an entire family!
Then the battery started draining. It started on five, and seemed to dip down with increasing speed. But we hadn’t reached the elephants – basically what we’d come to see! Determined to make it, we rushed on, skipping the smaller attractions.
An African elephant at Colchester Zoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We made it just as the battery died completely at the furthest point of the zoo. The zoo had an elephant feeding for what they deemed as “registered disabled” people only (although there is no such thing as registered disabled anymore.) We then crowded round the chair to try and find the switch to make it manual, but realised with horror there wasn’t one. It was a dead weight, the wheels totally locked, and weighing a ton.
Finding a zookeeper, we told him off our plight. He radioed the office and asked someone to bring a manual wheelchair, and send help for the other chair. Four zookeepers joined us, and three of them picked up this heavy chair to walk it all the way across the zoo to put it in our car. My mum went with them to direct them, and they then found out our location and drove her back to us. They were total stars and saved the day.
The manual chair was fine for the flat bits, but they were few and far between. My guilt wouldn’t let me ask others to push me up hills, so I had to keep getting out which meant I reached my limit extremely quickly, my back went into spasm and I was totally exhausted. Everyone took it in turns to push me on the flat sections and were so helpful.
So massive thumbs up to Colchester Zoo for rescuing me, although please don’t try and attempt it with a manual chair!! We sent a letter of thanks to the men that carried the chair back to the other, and the one that brought the manual and pushed me for a little while to reach the others who’d continued to the next section.
Colchester Zoo have regular Sensory/Disability Open Days which include BSL Demonstrations, feeding sessions for people with disabilities only, and more.
Their events page shows when they will next be having an open day.