Posted in may 2021

An Open Letter to Stagecoach & Arriva Bus

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Dear Stagecoach & Arriva Bus,

I’m writing you an open letter as one of your disabled service users, and a frequent customer. I’ve had a few issue traveling before but today took the biscuit. Myself and my two young children were using your service to travel home from a hospital appointment. We flagged a Stagecoach bus down first. The driver pulled over, explained that he had already allowed two prams on, one was in the allocated buggy area and the other in the wheelchair space; neither parent wished to fold their pram down or move and off he went. I was more than slightly shocked as this is against your covid-19 policy which is listed on your site. I’ve screenshot it below, along with a picture taken from another of your buses which points out that it is law for a buggy to be moved from the wheelchair space should one need to board. Yet we were left in the rain.*

Stagecoach Accessibility FAQS
Sign stating the law that wheelchairs have priority

Arriva Bus, it was one of yours that we flagged down next. This time, there was only one pram on board. Inexplicably the parent and pram had placed themselves in the wheelchair area despite the buggy section being free. When your driver asked them to move so we could board, they refused to move and the driver simply shook his head at me said “Sorry, love.” And drove off. This caused quite the stir at the bus stop, with others asking if this was something that happened often. It is quite disappointing to say that this is not the first time that has. Here is a screenshot from your own website Arriva of your policy for wheelchairs and prams.

https://www.arrivabus.co.uk/help/conditions-of-carriageArriva Bus Carriage of Wheelchairs and pushchairs

Considering how much time has passed since Doug Paulley first brought his discrimination case to the supreme court back in 2012 over this matter I really expected this issue to be non-existent/on its way out. However experiencing it twice today within a matter of minutes is beyond a joke. How do you explain it to a four year old that two bus drivers didn’t want to follow the law? “Sorry we are not getting that bus either because the driver didn’t want to point out that it’s actually law for her to move over into the pram space. Despite it being his job.” Its disheartening, upsetting, discriminatory and lazy.

I would ask that both companies refresh your drivers memories on your own policies, and on the law. You may have stuck signs inside the buses but that is pointless if you are not going to act on them!

R. McDowall

*I want to acknowledge the kind stagecoach driver who was coming towards the end of a break and witnessed all of this. After waiting a few minutes and realising it was a while before anymore buses going in our direction would be there, cut his break short and drove over to us to let us on. I couldn’t have been more thankful.

Posted in may 2021

Ambulant Wheelchair Users

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For those who don’t know me personally when they see me coming along me in power chair they naturally presume that I’m wheelchair bound. It’s always an interesting situation when they see me move my legs so I’m more comfortable, or stand up to get in to the house. Sometimes I need the chair full time due to injury or severity of spasms, other times I need it due to length of time we’re out for and my body cannot handle it.

Whilst I’m confident in using it and appreciate how much freedom it provides. I’m not quiet used to the interactions yet with people with nothing nice to say. There’s been a few occasions of people telling me if I lost weight I wouldn’t need the chair, or to stop being lazy and walk. Presumptuous really considering they have no clue why I’m in it but also hurtful. I’ve always been a sensitive soul and I need to learn to toughen up.

I’m currently using my chair full time due to yet another injury thanks to my EDS. I find it odd how many people still are surprised by ambulant chair users. It’s an area that deffinently needs more discussion and awareness. I’ve used wheelchairs on and off for years due to my many conditions, as my EDS has deteriorated the use has increased. It enables me to still function and go about my day to day life independently, something that is very important to me. I couldn’t be more greatful for my chair.

Using my power chair to get home from church.

Posted in may 2021

Looking forward

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Recently I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions. Hence why I didn’t automatically return to blogging following my son’s operation in March. I wasn’t sure where my head was at and needed to work through it. A handful of events had triggered it and I was up and down more than the seesaw at the park.

I’d had an assessment where I need to provide extreme detail of all my conditions right from the start to now. You can imagine how emotionally exhausting that can be, explaining to someone why you had to give up your dream midwifery degree, relieving the rapid decline in health over the years and what I do to cope. I hadn’t anticipated it to affect me so strongly but it did.

It’s taken awhile but my head’s back where it’s stronger. I think during these covid times where we don’t have our usual coping mechanisms it’s quite easy to feel sucked under. Previously I could have rung up my friends and been at the soft play laughing over a fruit shoot, while the kids ran themselves to sleep. Spirits lifted, dark cloud averted.

Im looking forward now, and focusing on the future. On the post lockdown adventures with my family, with having friends in for a brew and a natter. But also accepting that lockdown has taught me that I don’t need to be on the go and out every day. If my body’s saying no then PJ’s, Disney and baking is it. That’s perfect too.

What are you looking forward to?

Posted in March 2021

Medication Success

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As I have mentioned previously following a discussion with my neurologist I tried a couple of different medications to see if we could get a better handle on my spasms. In particular the spasms around my jaw as these cause me significant issues with pain, dislocations, and make it next to impossible some days to relocate my jaw; I’ve had the joy previously of coming round from an operation to have my jaw relocated under GA, only to dislocate when I wake up due to spasms, and have my surgeon coming running over to put it back in and bandage my jaw up. Not a pleasant experience.

Trihexyphenidyl is the medication we have added into my daily regime and it has made a huge difference. Little things like I can brush my teeth now with an adult sized toothbrush rather than a children’s one are possible, and instead of dislocating my jaw by brushing my teeth, my jaw is just in a small spasm and achy. My son commented the other day on the fact that my face isn’t wonky all the time and asked if my Jaw Dr had fixed my jaw. We had a quick chat about mummy’s silly brain and moved on, but for me that showed just how amazing this medicine has been.

I saw my neurologist the other week and he has suggested increasing the dosage further as I am currently not experiencing any side effects. I’m waiting to receive a copy of his letter to my gp explaining that I have the go ahead to do this at my own pace, so we can see just what improvements we can get.

Right now, thanks to lovely female hormones, I’m sitting here feeling quite sore all over as my body goes downhill each month due to the fluctuating hormonal changes. I’ve had several subluxes today in shoulder which have in turn aggravated neck spasms. Normally I’d be quite grumpy about all of this, and yes I’m not exactly thrilled, but having the Dystonia side of things more controlled doesn’t half make coping with the EDS etc, easier. Everything just feels that little bit more manageable right now, and that’s fantastic.

Posted in Archive, covid-19, february 2021

The Positive To Lockdown With Chronic Illness

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Chronic Illness in Lockdown memes

Whilst the multiple national lockdowns have come with there fair share of complications, for example cancelled treatments, the stay at home message has been a blessing in disguise for me. My body has been going through a decline/more frequent dislocations lately, which is less than an ideal. Now prepandemic I would have ignored my bodies pain signals, and ploughed through the day. A bad cycle, and habit that I had formed. Only collapsing in the evening, spoonless, in pain and annoyed at myself. Lockdown has relieved the social pressure to attended multiple groups a week, and be on the go all the time. For my particular lot of chronic illnesses it’s meant I have rested when I have needed to. I’ve had the opportunity to relearn my bodies distress signals.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not literally doing the above meme, though it has its appeals. But it has removed the guilt I felt on slow mornings when we watched a Disney film and had a slow start to the day, rather than rushing about. I still finish the day with no spoons. That is just life with chronic illnesses. However I rarely exhaust myself to the point that I have impacted the next day, which prelockdown was a frequent occurance.

Post-lockdown this is something I need to remember; that it is perfectly fine to acknowledge if my body is saying no not today. We can watch films, craft and bake in the house instead and have a lovely day. Just being kind to my body more often will allow more days out and in the long run that’s what works.

Posted in Archive, february 2021, poems

Dislocations; Smashed Avocado Toast

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It’s the breath stealing, heart racing moments.

Nostrils flared, knuckles white with a fierce grip.

Head back, focused. Can’t swear.

Sausages. Bananas. Smashed Avocado on freaking toast.

Hospital? No. What can they do.

I’ll only spasm and dislocate again at one, then again at two.

Pass me Olaf, he needs his teeth done.

Sausages. Bananas. Smashed Avocado on freaking toast.

Fifth Knee dislocation of the day.

The spasms. Just. Wont. Stay. Away.

Still need to be a Floogal Rescue Machine.

Sausages. Bananas. Smashed Avocado on freaking toast.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Disabled Parenting: A Learning Curve

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Being a disabled parent is something that three years in I still have not got my head around how to nail. Though does anyone ever nail the toddler years? My children are, at the time of writing, three and 19 months old. Both children are owners of strong, hilarious personalities. Both currently are sound asleep, I know my daughter will wake up in the morning with a rendition of either Baby Shark or Let it go, and my son will wake up just before 6am, delighted that it’s early. I’ll wake up and relocate my knees.

Each day for us is always an unknown to some extent. We try to pace our days by following an activity timetable, which gets switched about at the start of each week. The timetable was introduced not only to help manage with being housebound more due to shielding, but also to encourage subtly paced activities without making it too obvious. The children, know that mummy is disabled and needs to do things differently to daddy, but I do try minimise to some extent how much of that they see.

It is a fine and difficult line to tread. On one hand it is important to me that they understand that everyone is different, some people are disabled and that’s perfectly fine; however my son has a very caring nature, and does worry, so I do try to shield from him some elements that at three he doesn’t need to worry about. For example, right now due to hormones all my joints are loose, this has resulted in multiple subluxes, dislocations, general spasms and fatigue over the day. He’s aware I’m tired today, and slightly sore, but he’s also ‘tickled wrestled’ me, so I know he hasn’t picked up on much.

We made the decision quite a while ago that I would no longer cook with the oven for the family. This was due to a range of issues such as seizure, spasming with a hot pan, or dislocating. My partner does the majority of cooking, and on weeks when he is on late shifts we have carers come in to cook the tea. However I still ‘cook’ I use the phrase very loosely, things using the microwave.Today, was just one of those days that was a dropsy day. Everything I touched seemed to be destined for the floor, which is exactly where the kids porridge ended up after I picked it up to heat it up. My hand spasms were so ridiculous the food had ended up on the floor before I had processed quite what had happened. It reaffirmed to me, that whilst I order the food my place is no longer in the kitchen, and provided the kids with a good few minutes of giggling.

Learning my own hacks to make disabled parenting work for me is something that is a slow learning curve that I am just getting to grips with. For example buying a second seat belt for my wheelchair so I can strap my daughter to me when we go out for a walk. Each day is never the same as we adapt to the needs of my disobedient body and the cheeky duo. The kids never fail to amaze me with how well they cope though. I used to get in a state over the possibility of the fact they had to ‘deal’ with a disabled mum. Whereas now I am so proud of the caring nature the two of them have, along with their inquisitive minds.

Posted in Archive, covid-19, January 2021

Disability & Discrimination During Covid-19

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As the world adjust to Covid-19, those of us shielding in the UK (and the thousands of other impacted disabled folk) have read multiple news report to see how it will impact us next. Reading through each new regulation brought in to ‘flatten the curve’ screamed ableism. Whilst I agree the new rules were needed there was no consideration for the disabled people in society. Even under tier three regulations when we were allowed to reemerge from our homes after months of shielding, the regulations had no adaptions for us. They were discriminatory at best; put yourself in our shoes and suddenly being faced with having no access to a public disabled bathroom, having to que to shop with no where to sit when your physically need to, a lack of parking because many disabled spaces are now being taken up by outdoor seating for pubs and restaurants. Many disabled people who were being interviewed for research by Inclusion London reported that they felt excluded and marginalised.

There was a fantastic article in The Guardian today, with an interview by paralympian Sophie Carrigill addressing inequality, specifically around how the needs of disabled people have been ignored throughout our multiple lockdowns; you can read the article here. I completely agree with her, my social media is full of adverts every couple of scrolls trying to encourage me to sign up to one fitness program or another. Even my gym is going live and notifying me, along with influencers left, right and centre. Yet I am aware of only two people currently who cater with workouts for the disabled. What really shocked me though was when I went to comment under the article on facebook. It was disability discrimination and frankly simply disability hate comment after comment. The completely ignorance of people was astounding.

Adaptive Workouts – Disability FriEndly

A fellow Dystonia warrior Gina, runs Adaptive Martial Arts (I’m meant to be trying this when I’m having a healthy run myself!), which you can do via Zoom currently. The second, is a woman I recently found on instagram who teaches dance via her wheelchair her handle is @katestanforth .

Disability Discrimination – The evidence

There has been a significant rise in negative attitudes towards people with disabilities since the start of the pandemic, or to be more specific since the start of the shielding and need to wear a mask. Its not hard to find evidence of this, its all over social media but also sadly there multiple news and police reports on the subject.

A report by the neighbourhood watch found that a recent survey carried out found 62% of deaf and disabled people organisations reported an increase in disability hate crime referrals on the previous weeks – this was just after it was announced face masks were to become mandatory. I myself have twice been yelled at for not having mask on, once whilst relocating my jaw and once yesterday whilst having a sip of a drink.

The findings from Inclusion London Briefing are really quiet troubling about the rise in Disability Hate Crime during the course of this pandemic, you can read it here. To name a few examples 1) A rise in hate crime by neighbours including a rise in hate crime against disabled children whilst they are at home by neighbours. 2) A rise in verbal abuse against disabled peoples and instances of being spat at whilst out of the home due to inaccurate perception the disabled person being a ‘virus spreader’. 3) An in increase in online hate crime, often on social media platforms, in which disabled have been that their lives are inferior and that they are taking up resources from non disabled people.

Disability Inclusion Post Lockdown

Where do we go from here? It’s going to take a lot of work and advocacy to get us to some level of equality – which the Inclusion London Briefing article briefly does touch on. I don’t know when that will happen and how we go about getting the public to flip their perception again. Part of the way that perhaps that can happen is that when we come out lockdown the regulations allows for disabled people to use our bathrooms when necessary, and doesn’t turn our much coveted gold dust parking spots into garden seating for pubs. But that would only be the start, we need a whole lot more to turn peoples attitudes around.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Return To The Gym

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After a lot of discussions with my family and my medical team we decided that it was finally time for my return to the gym. I have not been since my battle with sepsis in January 2020. However if we are being honest there was no way I could have have returned in 2020; I spent a long period bed ridden, my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome progressively worsened and that’s before we factor in Covid. My 2020 health spiral ended with unexpected weight gain of almost two stone in a month. Considering I live on 1, 200kcl a day that comes from perscriped ensure juices, the sudden and extreme gain is disconcerting.

Now while my GP is investigating causes into the gain, I’m also taking a practical approach. I used to have a fair level of fitness and enjoyed going to the gym. Whilst it left me shattered afterwards and with sore joints, I also found I benefited with less extreme spasms after. Today’s reintroduction was a gentle session for the most part, testing what my bodies current capabilities are; I chose a recumbent bike session followed by different weight lifting machines.

First time back in the gym

I certainly don’t feel as energetic as I did this morning; far from it. I’m completely out of spoons and sore. However I am chuffed with how well the session went and am looking forward to the next one.

No spoons

Posted in Archive, December 2020

Chronic Aspiration

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Today I had a meeting with speech and language to assess my ongoing difficulties with swallowing. Some days the issues fade into the background and are not to much of a problem, other times I struggle to swallow anything which has previously resulted in over a week in the hospital on IV fluids and having a temporary NG tube placed. I had no idea what to expect from the appointment as I’ve not met with speech and language before.

She came to my house, and was immediately met with Stefan and Evie talking a thousand miles a minute, both very curious over her PPE. We discussed my symptoms and long medication list and then she got down to examining me. She had a feel of my throat whilst I drank an ensure and picked up my usual spasms. While we were talking I was doing my usual post meal coughing, something that’s mild enough that I don’t really notice it, nor was I aware that my voice then became hoarse something my partner brought up.

The speech and language therapist explained what was happening was due to my spasms that I was aspirating during my meals. She’s arranging a barium swallow so they can get a look at the extent that this is happening. It also explains why I keep getting such bad chest infections; the last one left me needing two rounds of antibiotics and a course of steroids.

She mentioned the possibility of a PEG tube again, something that’s been circled around for a while, as well as refferal back to the dietitian. This will hopefully be after the barium swallow has been conducted as this should show what consistency of liquid will be best for me.

I’m feeling quite positive about it all after today’s meeting and will be hearing from her again in four week for an update.