WORDS OF WARNING !

I’m not sure if it is pretty standard for every husband of an R.A. sufferer to be constantly issuing words of warning to their wives. Such as ‘don’t walk too far’, ‘be careful with that knife’ and ‘watch that you don’t slip’, etc. etc.  My loved one is always at it or maybe I just need holding back (!), so it was with some touch of glee on my part that he went outside on Wednesday afternoon and fell ass-over-tits in the mud !!
The first I knew about it was a plaintive cry from the kitchen to come and look at his foot, which admittedly did look a bit swollen.  Like every man he refused point blank to go to the doctor, so I put a compression bandage on it and an ice pack and it was agreed that if it was still bad in the morning we would seek medical assistance then.
Morning brought a weary and tetchy husband who had been awake most of the night feeling sore so we set off to drive the 70 mile round trip to Bantry and its new Accident Unit.
I will digress slightly here as you may remember from my last Blog that I had slightly slipped a disc in my back that weekend and was really sore.  Luckily by mid week I was feeling a bit better so it was up to me to drive to Bantry and back.  Me, who hasn’t been allowed to drive more than a couple of miles since my last foot operation two year’s ago ! The road to Bantry from us goes winding up and over 1000 feet through the Healy Pass, plunging down to the sea the other side of the peninsula and eventually links up with a main road from Glengarrif to Bantry and we made it to the hospital with no more exciting events – in fact I think I drove rather well !

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The Healy Pass road

The new Accident Unit at the hospital is very nice indeed.  Small but adequate and ultra efficient.  Pat was taken off to Xray upon arriving and the doctor pronounced that he had not one, but two broken bones in his foot and the possibility of a torn ligament.  He expertly put a light plaster on it and made an appointment for Pat to go to the Fracture Clinic at Cork University Hospital this coming Thursday as they have no MRI machine at Bantry.  So he was put in a wheelchair and taken back to the car and home we came again.
So now we were suddenly presented with a whole change of precedents.  The carer had become the patient and the patient had become the carer – and, of course, the cook/housekeeper/dog walker as well.  Luckily I still have my Quingo and can walk the dogs using that. In fact I rather enjoy getting out on it and going to places my useless legs won’t walk to!  Cooking I can manage blindfolded, though I must admit it has been rather nice having someone doing all the cooking for me over the last two years, but housework I find exhausting and am ready to go and lie down after ten minutes of hoovering!
So I’m finding out now just how well Pat has been looking after me and I fear he rather expects me to reciprocate !  On day 2 he was ‘bored’ with sitting around and my offer to let him use my painting gear was met with derision, so how does one entertain a man who is forced to sit still and where do I find the energy from to become Superwoman ??
I am so looking forward to the 180 mile round trip to Cork on Thursday and sitting around in the Fracture Clinic for hours on end – I don’t think !  So I have made myself a hair appointment and shall probably need just a touch of retail therapy to get my legs moving again before the return journey, so maybe all is not lost after all, though I wonder if I too shall resort to words of warning over the next few weeks in my new role as carer !!

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View from the Healy Pass

A FEW WARM THOUGHTS…….

At this time of year when my joints are all protesting at the cold weather, my thoughts do not turn to ones of love, but to lovely warm sunshine, long sandy beaches and summery nights when it’s just too warm to put on a cardigan over your strappy t-shirt. It’s unlikely to be like that here for some months to come and I find my mind recalling my first ever trip down to Australia one wintery January.
I was just 3 months post-op of my hip replacement when my daughter invited me to come visit them in Cronulla, which is a suburb of Sydney and. as Pat was away working, I had to make the journey on my own with wheelchair assistance from the airlines.  Not having a clue about how long the journey was, my son took me to Cork and Aer Lingus flew me to Heathrow where I was met by a wheelchair and taken to the Malaysian Airlines Jumbo Jet first to Kuala Lumpur and from there to Sydney.  We sat on the tarmac at Heathrow for nearly two hours whilst the plane’s wings were de-iced, which then made it about a 14 hour trip in all to get to KL.  It was my first long haul flight and, after struggling up to the top deck, I thought I would never manage to sit still for that long.  But despite my fears the hostesses were wonderful and encouraged me to walk around the very tiny space near the stairs and then after a lovely meal, I stretched my seat out as low as it would go, swallowed a couple of sleeping tablets and turned on my headphones.
Luckily we flew through endless night and I had no idea of what time it was when we landed at Kuala Lumpur, but it was still night time and there was that lovely hot and humid air that tells you that you are somewhere tropical.  Next plane was not a Jumbo, but a much wider one and because I was in a wheelchair, I was boarded first.  I put my handbag down under my seat and went to try and understand the remote control that would move my seat, massage me, etc. etc.  Of course the minute I put it on, the seat mechanism got wrapped around my handbag and much to my chagrin, an engineer had to come on board and get it out again !  This caused somewhat of another delay and when my cross co-passengers boarded I found myself in the middle of a Visa Convention consisting mainly of Americans who were flying round the world courtesy of all my credit card payments !  The man next to me wanted to show me all the endless photos of his daughter’s wedding, so I just had to try the remote control again (with my handbag firmly on my lap) recline the seat and feign sleep for another eight hours.
I had no idea what day it was when we landed at Sydney, but Gemma drove me back to their house which they shared with about three other people and after dinner I retired to bed.  What I had not realised in my jet lagged state was that the bedroom had all the floor to ceiling windows wide open and just mesh to stop all the Ozzie hazards (spiders, scorpions, crocodiles, etc.) coming in to share the bed with you.  So at 5am when a bunch of kookaburras started up a dawn chorus, I shot up in bed thinking they were right there in the room ! I’d never heard anything like it !
Gemma and Ben had taken time off work and the next day we went on a driving trip round S.E. Australia. It felt to me like we had driven all around Australia as we did 6,000 km in 10 days taking in Ned Kelly country, Adelaide and the Barossa Valley (for a touch of wine tasting!) and then on to Melbourne.  From Melbourne we went all along the Great Ocean Road and then from there up the coast road and back to Sydney. Such amazing sights and sounds and, oh boy was it hot !  In the middle of the day in ‘the bush’ (which is composed of the most beautiful striations of red rocks and dust) it could reach nearly 45 degrees Centigrade, so we just had to get up early each morning at 5am and drive till it got too hot to go any further.  I can clearly remember the misty Murray River with its paddle steamers moored in the early morning swirling fog and acre after acre of vines growing for hundreds of miles on either side of the dead straight road undulating in the heat haze.  Every morning we would keep an eye out for the Golden M (MccDonalds) as it was the only place open that early for breakfast and I ate dozens of ‘pies’ in Ben’s search for the best one in Australia !
Pat had warned me not to buy any wine, but it was just too good not to purchase so maybe just one wouldn’t hurt so by the end of our trip we had bought a few dozen and, as the trunk was not air conditioned, poor Gemma had to sit in the back of the car trying to stop them all from toppling on to her as well as a few smelly cheeses that had seemed like a good idea at the time !  Getting the wine back to Ireland was a whole other story, but each one brought such amazing memories back of this spectacular place they call Australia, its friendly people and, despite the odds, my hip replacement survived it all !

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The Great Ocean Road

more WHEELCHAIRS……..

(I hope you all have noticed that I managed to sort out a text widget and a photo widget ! Took me all day, but I got there eventually !)

Now, when I had my first hip operation, I decided that I would need a wheelchair to get from a to b. So after having a minor fit at the price of the electric variety of wheelchairs, I went out and got an ordinary fold-up one. Reasonably comfortable, but as I soon discovered, I couldn’t move anywhere unless someone pushed me ! It was fine for moving me from the car to the house and vice-versa, but useless if I wanted to go to the loo and nobody was around ! Anyway, not so vital for the hip as walking is supposed to be good for you !
When I had my left foot done and couldn’t walk and my husband was away working in Tunisia, I had real problems. So next stop was a power chair. ( Dutiful son came over and built the ramps again !) A power chair is like an electric wheelchair on steroids !! I was very soon to discover that it’s seriously fast and responds to the slightest touch. My hands (full of arthritis) are not my most sensitive appendages and I did some very fast rotating on the spot and hurtled into a few walls before getting the hang of it. The speeds seemed to vary from stop to rocket launch mode, but at least I could get around inside the house. My recovery was slow due to my RA and I soon found myself looking out of the window wishing I could get outside. Once again my husband came to the rescue with a Quingo.

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What’s a Quingo you may well ask ? Well its a five wheeled, battery driven, brilliantly stable mobility scooter which can easily cope with our tiny roads and the grass growing down the middle! It has all the bells and whistles needed to take it on any road around here and the fifth wheel in the middle comes into play if the others tip in any way at all. As its quite large and needed to be indoors when not in use, we had to plug it in down in Pat’s tool shed to keep it charged. This meant that my long suffering son had to come and put more ramps in to get me from inside to outside and then create a path down through the gravel on the driveway to the shed so that I could whizz down on my power chair and get alongside to get from chair to Quingo. Once there I was free as a bird with a range of 80kms before running out of battery and able to walk the dogs all by myself. They soon learned that on hearing a car coming, if they came and sat down beside me they got a treat !! All sorted and my son has now learned that when he takes up the ramps previously installed, he keeps them nice and safe and ready for the next time! Its over 18 months since my right foot was operated on and I’m back walking very slowly with sticks and the various wheelchairs are put away ready for the next time, which I hope will never come !

Wheelchairs and the like……

WHEELCHAIRS and the like …

I have discovered that there are all manner of wheelchairs throughout the world and due to my RA I find them a necessity when travelling – especially in airports ! I can walk, though slowly and not very far, In Gatwick you used to have to walk halfway to Ireland before getting on the plane, though they have recently shortened this distance. If you need a wheelchair when flying, do book it in advance and make sure it is booked for the way out and the way back! You will be asked a number of questions, such as can you make it up the aircraft steps or are you bringing your own wheelchair? As long as I am pushed from check-in to departure gate and possibly to the door/steps of the aircraft, I’m happy.
I can recall once arriving at Frankfurt Hahn on our way home to just being given a folded up wheelchair at check-in. Luckily Pat was there and able to push it, but several other disabled passengers had no one to help them and had to struggle through to the security check and departure hall clutching their wheelchairs ! In the departure hall, we could clearly see our plane just outside, so I folded my wheelchair up neatly and tried to go through the boarding gate only to be told by the stewardess that I needed a wheelchair! I pointed to the one I had and said I was quite capable of walking the 20 feet to the plane and up the stairs, but she refused to let me (or Pat, though I’m not sure why he was included) on board. She then summoned a sort of tilting cart with full body harnesses and strapped me into it. I was then formally wheeled the 20 feet to the plane steps and let go again, by which time all the overhead bins were full and Pat and I had to put our hand baggage on our laps and feet – not happy travellers at all ! Thank you Ryanair !
As a travel a lot on my own, I make a point of chatting to the poor person having to push me and give them a small tip if I can. They are, without exception, happy, cheerful people and have to come through all the pre-departure security with me. When the Shoe Bomber was caught and we all ended up having to remove our shoes in security, this originally gave me a problem as I have trouble putting my own shoes on and off. The trick is to travel in slip on shoes and bare feet ! Being a Bionic Woman with all my new hips, knees and feet, I certainly set all the alarm bells ringing ! This necessitates a full body check to see if I am armed as well ! What I really like is when they check the wheelchair too and I tell them it is their chair, not mine – all to no avail.
Some wheelchairs are comfortable, some are definitely not. Newer ones are made of hard plastic , really comfortable for my bad back and allow for your hand luggage to be put underneath. After the 2 and a half years it took me to recover from my botched knee operation, I could not have any hand luggage dumped on my lap, so it got put on my feet instead ! In Tunis one time, there were two wheelchairs to meet the plane and mine only had 3 wheels ! Undeterred the man pushing tilted it up on to its two back wheels and ran me down to arrivals – quite exciting really !
In Singapore the wheelchairs are motorised and you sit facing backwards clutching your hand luggage whilst the driver whizzes along at great speed weaving in and out of the other passengers hooting loudly ! Quite took my breath away!
I have more stories, but you will just have to wait till next week and the next blog for them…….!!