Late night police visit to pick me up

Police on your doorstep late at night is never a good sign. If their business cannot wait until the morning, it must be serious, right?

And, so, it happened. Just before midnight, a car pulled up and two uniformed officers came straight to our house.

No, we had done nothing wrong – they didn’t want to question us… or worse! There had been no accidents involving family or friends – they were not bringing us sad news. So, why were they here?

Well, as silly as it sounds, they had come to pick me up ……. off the floor.

You see, I had slipped while transferring from the sofa to my wheelchair, and ended up on the floor.

Despite continued and varied attempts on my part, I was unable to get up – so called 112. This is the emergency number here in Spain, equivalent to 911 in the US and 999 in the UK.

The operator was attentive, reassuring, and efficient. He listened to the facts, understood I have esclerosis multiple (multiple sclerosis), and, after ascertaining that I wasn’t injured and did not need medical assistance, said help was on the way.

And, just 15 minutes later, two Local Police officers arrived to pick me up. This they did quickly and effortlessly and were both courteous and friendly.

Talking of police in Spain, perhaps I should point out that we have three forces – the Guardia Civil, the Policia Nacional and the Policia Local.

The Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) is Spain’s conventional police force which is organised along paramilitary lines and controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. The Guardia has wide ranging responsibilities for national law enforcement and have the resources, powers and facilities of a normal police force. The Guardia Civil polices rural areas and smaller towns as well as the country’s highways.

The Policia Nacional (National Police) is the urban police agency of Spain. They are under the sole authority of Spain’s Ministry of Interior. Like the Guardia Civil it is a conventional police force, that polices cities and larger towns. It is also responsible for border security and issues residencia certificates for anyone wanting to become a resident in Spain and the essential national-registry identification number (NIE). It also undertakes the security of the Spanish royal family and the government. 

Policia Local (Local Police) is the force that is controlled by the relevant regional or local authority. It does not investigate crime but deals with minor matters. These include parking, local traffic control, bylaw issues, and, of course, picking me up off the floor. 

Some thoughts on making your home wheelchair-friendly

Wheelchairs remain a fear in the minds of many of us who have grown up hearing the phrase “confined to a wheelchair”. While that is not part of our current language about disabilities, a fear still remains about needing to use one.

In truth, however, a wheelchair is a tool that can make our lives easier.

Whether you can propel yourself around in a manual or a motorised chair, one of the most important things to get right is finding the right home – or making changes to your current one. And these changes, or adaptations, must not only make it wheelchair-accessible. They need also to make it easier for us to move about and do things, to live.

Steps and doorsteps are hazards that need to be overcome. Ramps can be built to overcome outdoor steps up to a door.

Talking of doors, it is imperative that all doors inside the accommodation, not just the external ones, are wide enough to navigate and get through comfortably.

Living in a one-floor accommodation is best but if you do have a staircase, not to worry. There are chairlifts that can transport you up and down – you will just need a second wheelchair upstairs.

Decide on the ideal bathroom for your needs

The bathroom is a key area to get right. Here you can choose a walk-in roll-in shower with a suitable seat and handgrips. If you prefer to take a bath, you could use a hoist to get you in and out or, alternatively, a walk-in bath is a possibility. Whichever you choose, don’t forget to include a non-slip floor.

There are a range of toilets that you can choose from. These include those that can wash and dry your nether regions to simple elements that can increase te seat height. Once again, hand grips are important. One more item worth thinking about is a roll-under was basin to make it easier to use.

To make the kitchen more usable, lower or adjustable units are available.

wheelchair

Carpets can make it difficult to move and manoeuvre a wheelchair.

One crucial feature is the floor. I have already mentioned the necessity for a non-slip floor in the bathroom, but you need solid floors everywhere. Carpets, especially deep pile ones, are not wheelchair-friendly. Solid floors make for easier movement and make the wheelchair simpler to control.

There are lots of other bits and pieces that can be changed, such as light switches at lower levels. Mine are all pull switches, but you must make your own choice.

Just remember, as much as we try to avoid having to use a wheelchair, sometimes it is unavoidable. In that case, just keep in mind it is not a prison. a tool, a mobility aid that will make you wheelchair-enabled.

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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.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

A helping hand so readily offered to wheelchair-users

I never cease to be surprised by the willingness of people to offer a helping hand.

Regular readers will know that, because of mobility problems resulting from multiple sclerosis, I use a wheelchair.

Several times recently when out and about in my wheelchair, while Lisa stayed at home, members of the public have been read to offer assistance.

It is never strange when store staff lend a helping hand but I really don’t expect it from fellow shoppers – but that is what has happened.

a helping handIn a local supermarket, other shoppers have:

  • Unloaded my shopping cart;
  • Helped pack the goods into the bags;
  • Taken my shopping to my car;
  • Placed the bags into my car.

On Friday, I needed to go to the bank. Not a difficult job in most circumstances, even when using a wheelchair – but it is not so easy in our local town, Cuevas del Almanzora. Here, in sunny Andalucía in the south of Spain, we have to overcome problems associated with accessibility ramps.

Access can benefit from a helping hand

They do exist but the engineers who make them often miss the fact that they are supposed to drop down enough to make a smooth transition from road to sidewalk. Here, the ramps often leave a small kerb (curb in American English) to overcome. Then there are thoughtless drivers who park across the ramp, making it useless.

Of course, there are places where accessibility rams just don’t exist. Outside the bank being one such example. So, on Friday, I chose the lowest possible step up and, by tilting my wheelchair backwards, managed it. But a passing motorcyclist stopped and rushed to help – perhaps unnerved by the awkward backwards tilt. Still, he didn’t leave m side until I was safely in the bank.

Returning to my car after venturing out, it is relatively easy for me to place the wheelchair inside but it does require some effort. And that’s why, I am always grateful when a passer-by offers to help. Yes, I could persevere and complete the job by myself and, more often, it is what I do. However, when help is offered, I don’t want to appear rude by turning down their kindness.

My desire for independence does not stop me accepting offers of assistance. Do you feel the same way?

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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.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

MS: Don’t fear wheelchairs – users are not broken

Soon after I was given a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, I was told that only 25% of people with the disease end up in wheelchairs.

Whether the figure is right or wrong is not what concerned me. The use of words ‘only’ and ‘end up’ had such negative connotations for me, and still do to this day. People in general tend to regard those of us in wheelchairs as in need of pity and sympathy. Meanwhile, many with progressive illnesses seem to look at the prospect of using a wheelchair with fear and feelings of dread.

I have found that such feelings are unnecessary.  A wheelchair is a tool for our benefit, not some curse to be abhorred. The equation is simple: whatever mobility aid we need, we should not be afraid to use it – from walking cane to wheelchair.

Bearing this in mind, I was delighted to read an article written by wheelchair-user Jennifer Digmann, published by multiplesclerosis.net.

not broken

Dan and Jennifer Digmann.

Headlined I’m Not Broken Because I Use a Wheelchair, Jennifer says that, as a person with MS who has to use a wheelchair, she is instantly regarded as someone who is damaged and must be fixed. Someone to feel sorry for, or who could improve her health if she only tried a little harder.

This is because they assume she can’t be happy, fulfilled and productive if she has to live her life in a wheelchair.

I miss it but am not broken

Jennifer writes:

It’s as though being able to walk is a prerequisite for having a good life. Yes, I would love to walk. Yes, I miss the days when I could stroll through the parks. Climb a flight of stairs. Stand all by myself to get into bed or go to the bathroom.

But my aggressive disease quickly progressed, and I haven’t been able to walk in nearly 16 years. This is who I am as a person. I’m not broken.

And for as much as those of us in the MS community are eager for others to understand what we’re going through, (my husband) Dan and I are hoping for the same from people living with our disease.

We often hear people with MS say to us things like “I’m afraid I’m going to end up in a wheelchair” – and I’m sitting right there.

Maybe they’re doing what I want them to do: See me and not my wheelchair. Or, maybe their fears supersede their sensitivity to present company.

Either way, I get it. I felt the same way when I was diagnosed more than 20 years ago.

But now that this is my reality, I feel I need to verbally stand up for myself and others who need to use a wheelchair.

Make the most of life

I, like so many others, am making the most of my life as it is.

And don’t get me wrong. I’m not complacent, and I haven’t given up hope that someday researchers will find a cure for this disease.

Would things be easier if I didn’t have to use a wheelchair? Sure, but I’m not putting my life on hold because I need to use one.

You see what I did there? I USE a wheelchair, I’m not CONFINED to it.

My wheelchair is the key to my independence. It helps me experience life. I can do things like go to the grocery store. Gather with friends for dinner at an accessible restaurant. Meet a cute man and get married. Travel throughout the United States. Attend classes as a non-traditional graduate student and earn my master’s degree (BTW: I was non-traditional because of my age and not my disability).

I hope that I’m helping to show that life doesn’t necessarily end if your disease progresses and you need to use one. In some ways, both literally and figuratively, my life didn’t really start rolling until after I started using a wheelchair.

To me, Jennifer is a great advocate for those of us who are wheelchair-users. She, like me, is not broken but is ‘wheelchair enabled’. We have both grasped the independence granted by our wheels.

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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.

* * * * *

Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Changing “I can’t” to “I can” – determination is key

Determination is one of the best qualities to which we all can aspire. Whatever our disease, condition, or disability, we can all try to have more determination in our lives.

It is that quality that changes “I can’t” to “I can”. It is about making every effort in life.

Of course, I am not talking about anything that is beyond our individual capabilities.

We might not be able to walk far, if at all, but is there anything we can do to make life easier not only for ourselves but also those nearest and dearest to us.

If we can find ways to get up after a fall, without needing help, we have made a good start. But finding ways to stop falling is even better.

In my own case, my mobility has been increasingly affected over the years. In gradual stages, progressive multiple sclerosis has taken its toll.

determination

Menai Suspension Bridge, from which I abseiled in 1997.

Thirty years ago, as an adult leader in the Scouts, I was an accredited mountain walking leader, went rock climbing and enjoyed abseiling. On one occasion, for a medical charity, I abseiled from the Menai Suspension Bridge in North Wales, UK.

Twenty years ago, my difficulties in mobility had begun. Walking was a task that no longer came naturally. I was forced to think about each and every step.

Fifteen years ago, my inability to left my left leg led to a diagnosis of MS.

Ten years ago, after several falls, I started using a walking stick/cane outdoors. This minimized falls but could not prevent them. A year earlier, I had found it impossible to continue working and so tried to find ways to help move about.

Determination to be independent

First, I tried mobility scooters but these were not deal for me. You see, scooters are designed to be driven using both your hands which did not suit my left arm and hand which are so weak that I cannot even use them to eat.

While continuing to use a walking stick for short distances, up to 10 yards or so, longer distances required a wheelchair. This was the only way to avoid falls

Initially, I tried a self-propelled manual chair but soon found that I needed to have someone push me. My weak left arm/hand meant I could make great left-handed circles but going straight just wasn’t possible.

This was followed by my first electric power wheelchair. Now, this gave independence when using it, with one-handed joystick control. However, I still needed help getting it in and out of my Chrysler Voyager. My beloved Lisa still had to manhandle a folding ramp, so it wasn’t ideal. In fact, she said that she’d rather push the manual chair than fight with the ramp.

So, how could I regain some independence and not cause more work for my nearest and dearest?

new normal

The lightweight folding electric wheelchair that I use today.

The answer was surprisingly easy. I bought one of the lightweight folding electric power wheelchairs now on the market. This I can easily get into and out of the car using just one hand giving me independence to reach anywhere that has no more than a small kerb or step to overcome.

It means that now Lisa can choose to stay in our car, while I get out to run one errand or another.

For me, determination has paid off, and continues to do so. How about you?

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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.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Technological advances, wheelchairs, and exceptional customer service

Modern technology gets ever more advanced all the time. As it does, equipment we use every day becomes increasingly complicated to use.

customer service

High tech, need help? Ask a child. (Pic: pixabay.com).

Not only do we face that problem with a host of computers, tablets, and smart phones (just where is there a 5-year-old, when you need one), there are also satellite tv boxes, DVDs and Blu-rays. Then there are those microwaves with so many controls you feel as though you need a pilot’s licence to operate them

Vehicles have certainly progressed over the years, so much that manufacturers are now road-testing driverless cars. Whether that is an exciting development or a terrifying step-too-far depends on your point of view.

Wheelchairs have also developed though, to be honest, not to the same scale. Of course, there are chairs that can climb steps, and others that support the user in a standing position. Impressive, I agree, but I want to talk about chairs used more widely.

I have two wheelchairs. One is a manual, technically capable of being self-propelled, the other is a foldable, lightweight electric-powered chair.

My disability is caused by multiple sclerosis that mainly affects the left side of my body. This means that I cannot operate the manual chair, I can only use my right hand and end up going around and around in left-hand circles. Instead, I need to rely on someone, normally my wife Lisa, to push me. That’s why I now use an electric-powered chair that I can control with my one good hand.

More advances, more to go wrong

The trouble is, the more advanced anything is technically, the more likelihood there is that it will suffer a breakdown and need repair. That’s just the way life is, things go wrong and need putting right.

hsct

That’s me in my electric-powered wheelchair visiting the HSCT centre in Moscow in 2016. Pictured with me are Dr Fedorenko and his assistant Anastasia.

A couple of months ago, my power chair started acting up. It kept on losi.ng power suddenly before puling to the left and stopping. Fearing a faulty motor or other issue with the electrics, it was with some trepidation that I contacted Shaun Atkinson, owner of the supplier, Better Products for Disabled People (BPDP). But I shouldn’t have been worried, he listened, he understood, and diagnosed the problem. Then he told me how to fix it. It was simple, no new parts needed, all fixed in five minutes.

What impressed me, though, was the great commitment to customer service.

That was further illustrated when one of the front wheels got caught, sideways on, on a concrete ridge and the power of the back wheels caused the trapped front wheel to collapse.

Again, I contacted Shaun at BPDP and was amazed that he arranged for a replacement for the broken part to be sent the very next day  

Now, that’s what I call the very best in customer service. Well done, BPDP.

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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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Cherish your independence but value all help

Independence is a value that we all prize and, perhaps, it’s the one that people with disabilities prize most highly.

Whatever type of disability we may have, we try to overcome it. We try, as best we can, to hold on to our independence as long as possible, sometimes beyond what is realistic.

While independence is one of those qualities that helps us be human beings, it is wrong to be discourteous when offered assistance. Even if I can manage without help, I either accept or decline politely, always saying thanks for offering.

supermarket shopping in a wheelchairFor those of us who use wheelchairs or scooters, or have problems reaching upwards, shopping in supermarkets can test our independence. Getting what we need from the highest shelves.

We reach up as high as we can, in an attempt to secure the item. However, in most cases, those pesky targets remain safely on their shelves, looking down at us with an air of defiance. Almost laughing at us.

At first, I glance around quickly to see if there is a staff member nearby. If so, they will be pleased to assist. If not, I’ll ask a fellow customer. I don’t feel shame or embarrassment, just gratitude for being handed whatever item I need. After all, I use a wheelchair because of a disability that results from MS. That’s not my fault, so no need to feel ashamed.

In one supermarket, when it is not so busy, they go even further to help anyone having problems. They have one of the staff take your shopping list and bring everything you want to the checkout. Then, once you have paid, they are happy to carry it all to your car and place it safely inside.

No shame, no guilt

When you make your own selections in the aisle and someone passes you a sought-after grocery, or other, is it any different than someone holding a door open for us? No, it isn’t. There is no need for any of us to feel guilty.

Of course, this also applies to anyone who cannot reach the topmost shelves. Also, those who are unable to bend down to reach the lowest shelves are equally in need of help.

There are, though, plenty of other people who can have problems getting what they want from those same difficult to reach shelves.

Such people may be of shorter than average adult height, they may have arthritis or another medical condition that diminishes their flexibility. Or they may be feeling the effects of being more advanced in years.

Whoever and however lacking we may be, we must cherish our independence and, at the same time, readily accept assistance. And, we must also do all we can to support others, according to the best of our abilities.

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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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.