The Stars of Track and Field

Even when I was ‘healthy’, I think it’s safe to say that I was never going to be a star athlete. At school, I was pretty good at everything apart from PE which I was truly terrible at and hated. Since going to university, I became more active and particularly enjoyed hill walking – I even had a vague idea of ‘bagging the Munros’, and it was rare for a day to pass without me doing at least 10000 steps.

Now, I can’t walk without help from mobility aids and my dreams of munro bagging are well and truly behind me! I thought I would write a blog about the different mobility aids I need to use and how they have improved things for me. I’d obviously rather be in the position of not having to use them and having a ‘normal’ level of mobility, but as I can’t and don’t, they have, each in their own way, been a lifesaver.

I use a frame to get around the house. It’s fairly simple and easy to use, even if it does attract the kitten when she hears it! I’ve been using it to get to the car as well, but it’s not really meant for outdoor use, so we recently bought one which is. It also has a tray on it so I can try making myself drinks and getting snacks, as carrying things and walking at the same time is a bit beyond me!

I use a stick on the stairs – this has probably been the case of least adjustment needed because I was using a stick before diagnosis due to joint pain. I found it really useful on public transport as a visible reminder (to myself and other people) of the fact I needed a seat if there was one available, as well as giving me the confidence to actually leave the house. Both my current stick and the frame were provided by the hospital. I originally bought a stick, but that went missing at some point in the hospital!

I’ve written before about the wheelchair – initially we borrowed one from the Red Cross, and then I got my own. It’s nothing particularly fancy (though wheelchair sports are looking increasingly appealing, but I’d need one which was much more expensive and specially adapted for that, even for wheelchair croquet!)

I only need to use the wheelchair outside, so far. I can transfer in and out of it and while I normally get pushed around, I’m able to operate this one if I need to. It gives me some freedom and independence, which means so much more than it might sound.

One of the things I’ve learnt in the last few months is that muscle wastage happens a lot quicker than I necessarily thought, so while the temptation is to move as little as possible, (partly through tiredness and partly through fear of falling over) that’ll just make things get worse. On Friday I had a physiotherapy appointment and while those are always hard work, they are very rewarding! This time I got to try an exercise bike – it was a specially adapted one, and so I don’t think I’d be able to use the one we have at home (I can’t even balance on a standard bike!) but it was nice to be able to push myself a bit, and to see what I’m capable of doing. Because doing a PhD (not that I’m doing anything for it at the moment) is mostly in your own head, I always found it useful to try and have breaks from that where I pushed my body instead. There’s a danger that you’ll push your body too far but something about that very different pace and emphasis works for me. So hopefully I will get to use the bike again next time I have an appointment.

And who knows, maybe I will be a star of track and field after all…

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