Our trip to hell – part 2 – Los Angeles


LA’s iconic Hollywood sign was one sight we didn’t see.

Our British Airways flight from Madrid to Heathrow was beset with problems. First, there was a ‘technical issue’ with the plane. At least, that was the official explanation but one of the staff at the boarding gate revealed that a bird had got on board and was being removed.

Then, once we landed in London, there was nowhere for us to disembark – no gate, no stand. The pilot explained that earlier the runway had been closed because debris had to be removed. This had led to delays for departing planes and we were suffering the knock-on effect.

Needing to use a wheelchair, we were offloaded after other passengers, which is normal airline practice. Wheelchairs and other special needs are first on, last off. Anyway, by the time we reached the departure gate for our connecting flight to te USA, we were too late. The gate had been closed two minutes previously.

So, off we went to another desk where a replacement flight would be arranged. Unfortunately, this was the next morning, so BA paid for us to stay in a 5-star hotel overnight with evening meal and breakfast.

But our airport problems weren’t over because just as we reached the platform of the underground train service that links the terminals, it went out of service. There was nothing for it but tut to join other airport users on the alternative walkway.

How we made it, I have no idea, but the gate was still open, and it was not too long before we were in the air, heading for the States; London to Los Angeles non-stop.
The flight delays meant that we had lost the first day of our stay in LA and while we arrived early afternoon LA time, we had just flown for 10 hours.

Visiting LA in torrential rain

walk of fame

The city’s Walk of Fame was another attraction we missed.

Lisa had been to California before, the she is American, but it was my first time. Because of this, she had spent ages organizing a programme to give me a great visit. But, sadly, that wasn’t to be.

The next day, we awoke to torrential rain. It was the edge of a rare storm coming in from the Pacific. We had booked a sightseeing tour but with many not being visible because of low cloud and the difficulties of getting off and on the bus with a wheelchair in the rain, we decided to cancel.

The following day was no better and we cancelled our plans again, although this time we had nothing pre-booked. This brought us to Friday and Lisa’s knee suddenly locked and it was obvious that she was going nowhere.

Gary and Wendy at a music festival.

Highlight of the week came on Saturday, when Lisa could walk a bit. That day was a delight as we met, and had lunch with, one of her cousins who lives just north of LA. They had not met before, so we had a great time. Cousin Gary and his wife Wendy are a delightful, friendly couple who happily spent hours with us and even brought a photo album of family pictures. This included some shots of Lisa’s parents and grandmother, pictures that she does not have. Copies are on the way!

Finally, Sunday arrived, and it was time to fly to San Diego for our cruise. On this flight, we were upgraded. This was a first for us, but it was on our shortest trip, typical.

Look out for part 3, our cruise experience aboard Carnival Miracle.

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go fund meUnfortunately, I have been forced to scrap my car and need to replace it, urgently. I also have a large bill from my stay at the hospital in America.

Please help me meet the costs of a wheelchair accessible vehicle and the hospital care. If you can help by making a donation, however small, click HERE.

Thank you

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.


Mobility scooters: A question of cruising

Cruise lovers have widely differing opinions about the use of mobility scooters on board ships. And that affects everyone with mobility difficulties, whether caused by a disease such as multiple sclerosis, injury, or even aging.

Their views are included as comments on a story appearing on cruise.co.uk website. They vary from calls for mobility scooters to be banned to criticism of such opinions, and points in between.

mobility scootersThe main problem seems to stem from a perception that some people choose to use scooters even though they do not have a mobility issue.

Cruise companies comply with disability equality laws and have their own accessibility policies. That’s why mobility scooters and wheelchairs are widely allowed, although individual cruise lines may have their own restrictions.

Some comments were against mobility scooters:

Jeanette Webster: They shouldn’t be allowed on cruise ships they take up to much room,plus they drive them to fast without care for others.

I have to disagree with a ban but mobility scooter users must do so with care and consideration for others.

Angela Hobbs Clarke: Why should we be inconvenienced by them? We pay a lot of money to cruise, and to be able to move about the ship without large scooters being parked in the halls. How would these disabled people get off in an emergency, and how would we able bodied passengers navigate round them in the dark.

Inconvenienced? People who NEED to use scooters are still people. They should be given access and treated equally. That is their legal right.

Paul Lavin: They are a lethal weapon they should be totally banned everywhere. People with genuine mobility problems should use a conventional wheelchair.

What a disgusting attitude. Everywhere? Really? Lethal weapons, indeed! And as for using a conventional wheelchair, what if they can’t use one? Maybe they are alone and don’t have the strength to get about unless someone pushes them?

Carol Hunter: We went on a cruise in May and there was a man driving round on his mobility scooter, making everyone get out of the way. In the evening, he would park it at the side of the dance floor, get up and have a dance with a few ladies. He’d then get back on his scooter and drive off!!

If this is true, I find such behaviour deplorable. From what Carol says, it would seem this scooter user’s mobility problems are not genuine.

Others spoke in defence of scooters:

Janice Derose: Why not? I’ve been on several cruises, no problem at all with them (scooters). People need a holiday, they shouldn’t need to stay at home just because people like you can’t show empathy. None of us are out of this world yet, maybe we should start saving for one.

Fair point.

David Haverty: One day you may well need one. Will you want to give up cruising? I don’t have one and don’t anticipate needing one in the foreseeable future, but feel compact scooters should be accepted, even if with restrictions on cabin choice or total number of scooters on board.

I agree, on both.

Diane Roe: I don’t drive too fast without a care for others. In fact, over the last few years I have noticed more ignorant able-bodied people who push in front and block the lifts, it works 2 ways!!

Scooter users who have disabilities are mostly accompanied by someone walking, so driving the scooter at walking speed is the norm. It’s true about the lifts/elevators. Able-bodies people can use the stairs, scooter users can’t.

Maralyn Lord: Anybody that says no – I hope that one day they don’t need them (mobility scooters) because whoever is using the scooter, the person with them is usually able to walk. Should they be denied a holiday on a cruise ship? Anybody who says yes (they should be denied a cruise), I hope that they never need to use one. Life is not easy. Should we stay at home because it causes a nuisance to people more fortunate than ourselves?

No one should be forced to stay at home and forego a cruise holiday just because they have reduced mobility and use a scooter.

And finally…

Janet Bottomley: My father takes his mobility scooter but only uses it when he goes ashore. He walks with a stick aboard. And if they only allow scooters in adapted cabins it naturally controls how many are on board.

Great that he’s able to do that.

I have cruised, successfully, using both a manual wheelchair and a scooter. Next time, I’ll will use my folding electric wheelchair that I am confident will give me the best of both worlds.

Happy cruising to all.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.


Wheelchairs: Love to Have, Hate to Need


Wheelchairs, scooters and I have a love/hate relationship. Not hate the actual chair, just the need to use one, hate the fact that my mobility is so badly affected by multiple sclerosis that walking, with a walking aid, any further than 10 to 15 yards is impossible without sitting down.

From that, you will probably realise the reason that various ways of getting around have played a part in my life in the last few years and will continue doing so.

Let’s start with scooters. There have been a couple. I remember using one for the first time, the feeling of independence was incredible. The first one bought from a mobility aids store was supposedly a mini sized model. It was certainly the smallest one on display but it was heavy and was difficult to lift into a car.

I next bought a smaller model that easily came apart to pack into a car but its batteries just weren’t up to the job, so that one was a second failure.

Next it was time to give wheelchairs a chance. I’ve had two manual ‘self-propelled’ chairs but as MS means I have very little strength on my left side, if trying to propel myself, the chair goes in left handed circles; forget a straight line. That meant my wife Lisa had to push me and, while that never bothered her, it meant that my independence was curtailed.

j-silver10jMy doctor back in the UK recommended that I have a motorized chair ad, in due course, it was available. It was supposedly foldable but to achieve that two heavy and bulky batteries had to be disconnected and removed and lots more. In fact, to collapse that chair took about 40 minutes with a similar time to put it together again. Simply impossible without meeting the expense of getting a vehicle especially adapted to carry it without collapsing the chair.

More recently, though, I have bought one of the lightweight, foldable wheelchairs being widely advertised online by Better Products for Disabled People. Here, pictured above, is the wheelchair I bought,

Finally, I have found the perfect match for my needs. It folds and unfolds in matters of seconds. It is compact enough when folded to go in the back of our car along with the weekly shopping and is light enough, just, for my wife to lift into and out of the car.


Hey, that’s me in my new wheelchair in the HSCT centre in Moscow, with Dr Fedorenko and assistant Anastasia.

It has two sleek batteries that slide into the chair frame and is brilliant in use. It is easy to control, has the tightest of turning circles, in fact it can turn around in its own length, and can travel so far without recharging.

A couple of weeks ago, I took the chair with me to Moscow. As I was travelling alone, it made my life easy. Whether it was negotiating city streets, a bus station, hours in an airport waiting for the time for my flight, or travelling through the Moscow hospital’s maze of corridors, the new wheelchair coped and, eventually getting home, it still had more than half its charge. And no, I didn’t recharge it while away from home.

All in all, in my opinion, the BPDP wheelchair is the very best for my needs.

To see if it would suit you, just contact BPDP through its website or talk to Shaun Atkinson on Facebook.

new strap

ian profile

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

Wheelchair user’s dream: Motorized, foldable and lightweight

As regular readers will know, I am a bit of an advocate when it comes to accessibility and mobility issues and, from time to time, do address these subjects. Those subjects are of particular interest to me as I have to use a wheelchair as my mobility is severely restricted because of multiple sclerosis.

Occasionally, I come across something that simply deserves to be highlighted because it fulfills a need that people with disabilities have. For example, someone who needs a wheelchair to get about has a general choice of a manual or motorized one.

A manual one either has to be self-propelled, if the user is physically able to do so, or be pushed, so the wheelchair user has to relinquish independence and rely on someone else.

The alternative, as I have discovered, is not much better. Motorized wheelchairs are great to use, easy to maneuver and control and give the user the feeling of real independence. However, they have a major downside too – and that is their weight. They are so heavy.

In fact, anyone that uses a motorized chair and wants to take it to different places needs a specially adapted vehicle with either a hoist, ramp or elevator platform to load the chair on board.

BUT, there is an answer to the problem. There are now good quality, lightweight, folding motorized chairs that make the old problems disappear:

  • They give the user the independence provided by all motorized chairs;06 blue
  • They fold-up in seconds to go in the boot (trunk) of even a small car;
  • They are light enough to be lifted easily into and out of a car by one person;
  • Their batteries simply pull out in seconds to be transported separately on aircraft;
  • They are light enough to be carried on and off tenders if the user is going on a cruise holiday.

Talking of cruises, here is a report from Emma. She had just taken delivery of one such folding motorized chair from Better Products for Disabled People. This is her story:

Earlier this month my husband and I set off on our first ever cruise, heading to the Norwegian Fjords. We had been recommended cruising for its excellent accessibility but had no idea what it would be like.

We were taking my new folding motorized wheelchair but were concerned after the warnings from the cruise company about narrow doors and door thresholds. We need not have worried.

For a week I had more freedom than I’ve had at any point since my MS took most of my eyesight; I could navigate the ship just fine, the wheelchair took it all in its stride. Door thresholds were no problem; narrow corridors and doors were only an issue because of my lack of sight and skill and I improved quickly.

The battery handled it brilliantly; I spent at least eight hours a day in the wheelchair zooming around deck, attending shows, going to meals or out on excursions and never had a single problem.

What I did have were lots of admiring glances which turned into questions about where I got my wheelchair from and how I like it. Who would have thought I would be a travelling sales woman? BPDP folding electric wheelchair you are an international lifesaver.

Now, you cannot say better than that. Much to the relief of my wife, Lisa, my BPDP chair is on order. When it arrives, we’ll have the best of both worlds. I’ll get my independence back as I use a motorized chair and it will come out and go back into the car as simply as a manual chair.


Better Products for Disabled People <<http://better-products-for-disabled-people.myshopify.com>>


new strap


Tomorrow´s wheelchairs and scooters available now

Being diagnosed with a critical illness, disease or disability – in my case multiple sclerosis – is bad news. But when I was diagnosed, in 2002, it was a relief. Relief? Yes, it was a relief because, although not something anyone would wish to hear, I then knew what was wrong.

Over those years, I have become a wheelchair user. Not all the time, just when I need it. At home, I get around without one and can just about walk out to the car, if I sit down halfway. There is a low wall that meets that need.

More recently, I have graduated to an electric wheelchair and that gives me much greater independence to get about without needing to be pushed around. Problem is that these chairs are big and heavy. To transport them, a wheelchair adapted vehicle is required.

So, that got me thinking about the development of tomorrow’s wheelchairs.

I have already written about lightweight folding electric wheelchairs that can fit in the boot or trunk of a small car as well as being light enough to use to go ashore from a cruise ship when it is using tenders to move passengers to and from the port.

But there are other exciting developments too.

Technological advancements are being made all the time, so it should comes as no surprise that we now have tomorrow’s wheelchairs today. Just take a look at these:

Devices that enable paraplegics and people with disabilities to move around in a standing position. This provides better cardiovascular health, the ability to make eye-to-eye contact and the independence to reach high and low heights.

All-terrain wheelchairs (ATW) allow the user to venture out around town or get into the countryside. It can also reach where other chairs don´t dare to go. These include a beach, down muddy tracks, over grass or gravel, or along cobbled streets. The ATW can even push through snow.

A wheelchair user can even get one designed and built to suit their individual lifestyle.

Then there are the electric, powered, add-ons that can be fitted onto an existing manual wheelchair, turning it into a powered chair.

There is a multi-directional chair that allows the driver to move forward and backward, side-to-side, and diagonally as well using a hand-held control system. Extremely responsive the chair can be driven through tighter spaces quite easily.

And let´s not forget disability scooters. These come in various types and sizes including those that break down into a number if pieces to fit in a car. However, there is now a transportable folding scooter that actually unfolds and folds itself.

It´s just my opinion but I find that wheelchairs are more maneuverable than scooters as they require a larger turning circle. What´s more, I need something light, easy to fold and really compact when folded to improve my lifestyle. And that is why I have ordered one of Better Product for Disabled People´s silver chairs. Cannot wait for it to arrive.


MSNT strapline copy


Zika set to hit Europe but WHO plays down risk

The Aedes mosquito is the most common carrier of the Zika virus.

The Aedes mosquito is the most common carrier of the Zika virus.

Health officials are playing down the scares associated with the risk of a European outbreak of the infectious Zika virus – although they admit it is possible as the weather gets warmer.

Meanwhile, 279 pregnant women in the US and its territories have tested positive for infection with Zika. Of these, 157 are in the US and another 122 are in US territories, primarily Puerto Rico, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Back in Europe, a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe said on Wednesday, that the overall risk was ‘small to moderate’ throughout most of Europe but is highest in areas where Aedes mosquitoes thrive. These are the Portuguese island of Madeira and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea.

“There is a risk of spread of Zika virus disease in the European Region and … this risk varies from country to country, said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe.

“We call particularly on countries at higher risk to strengthen their national capacities and prioritize the activities that will prevent a large Zika outbreak.”

The WHO’s European region covers 53 countries and a population of nearly 900 million. It stretches from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Mediterranean Sea in the south and from the Atlantic in the west to the Pacific in the east.

An outbreak of Zika that began in Brazil has caused concern across the world. It has been linked to thousands of cases of the birth defect microcephaly where mothers became infected with Zika while pregnant.

The WHO has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological condition that causes temporary paralysis in adults. GBS has also been linked to other neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.

The WHO’s Geneva headquarters in February declared the Zika outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), warning it was spreading “explosively” in the Americas.

The WHO’s European office said that if no measures are taken to mitigate the threat, the presence of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that can carry the virus mean the likelihood of local Zika transmission is moderate in 18 countries in the region.

A further 36 European countries have low, very low or no likelihood, the assessment found. Aedes mosquitoes are not found in those countries and their climates would not be suitable for the mosquitoes to establish themselves.

Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at Britain’s University of East Anglia, described the WHO’s Zika risk warning as ‘timely and real’ but added that any outbreak would probably be relatively short-lived.

“The risk is mostly in southern Europe and especially around the Mediterranean coast,” he said. “However, even if Zika did start to spread in Europe, it is unlikely to become established as an outbreak is very unlikely to continue over winter.”

The WHO’s European risk analysis took in multiple factors, among them the presence of Zika-transmitting mosquitoes, suitable climates for the mosquito, previous history of transmission of dengue fever or chikungunya virus, ship and flight connections, and population density and urbanization.

It also considered the capacity of the country to contain transmission at an early stage, based on four main factors: vector control, clinical surveillance, laboratory capacity and emergency risk communications.


All new folding electric wheelchair is light enough to be carried aboard some cruise ships’ tenders

Crew members prepare to assist a wheelchair user to board a tender to travel back to the ship.

Crew members prepare to assist a manual wheelchair user to board a tender to travel back to the ship.

If you are fond of cruise holidays, you are far from alone and if you have any form of disability, you can be assured that all cruise companies will do their very best to help you.

What has always been a problem for users of electric wheelchair, however, are those ports of call where the ship cannot moor alongside but has to drop anchor and ferry all passengers ashore using tenders.

To transfer from ship to tender and from tender to jetty, a wheelchair user has to be capable of a taking a few steps with help but also have a collapsible chair that can be easily lifted onto and off the tender. And, up to now, this has really meant using a manual one.

Now, though, things might change.

Some cruise companies don’t allow their staff to pick up electric chairs but others do as long as they don’t exceed their weight limit. For example, Princess Cruises allows its individual crew members to lift chairs weighing no more than 22kgs (49lbs).1

Well, being a wheelchair user myself, I am excited to have just found one potential answer to this problem. I am sure that there may be others but this is the one I discovered:06 blue

It is a lightweight folding electric wheelchair. It folds and unfolds in seconds and can be lifted easily when collapsed. This particular model has two batteries, together weighing 4kgs (9lbs) that can be slid out easily to be carried separately and, without them, the chair weighs just 21kgs (46.3lbs).

The model in question is the Chinese-made BPDP 06J available from Better Products for Disabled People and you can find all you need to know here. That company also sells another folding model, the 10J, which is heavier and more expensive.2


1Please remember to check your cruise company’s wheelchair requirements with respect to tendering.

2If you know of any other folding electric wheelchairs that meet these weight requirements, please let me know and I’ll update the details.


Please note: I am a person who likes to travel and enjoys cruising but needs to use a wheelchair. This blog post is for people in a situation similar to myself as well as family members and carers. It is purely for information and is not in any way commercial.