From legs to wheels

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There isn’t a lot for me say about my first month or so in hospital as I was in ICU waiting for my spinal fixation. I was just too poorly to have that done straight away and needed constant care and four nurses turning me every two hours. I have a lot of bad memories from all the pain killers and drugs I was on and couldn’t ever imagine going through that again.

After my fixation I was finally ready to go to rehab. I was lucky to be offered a bed in the spinal rehab centre in Salisbury where I would be introduced and taught how to start my life in a wheelchair. It feels strange to say but I was looking forward to the first time getting in the chair after being bed bound for months. When the day finally came I didn’t realise that meant being hoisted from the bed and then only 15 minutes in the chair. Wow I had so much to learn! I couldn’t believe I was only allowed 15 minutes, what was I going to do in that time. What I wasn’t aware off was blood pressure can be affected but also to be carful with skin. Skin care is a huge part of being permanently in a wheel chair and paralysed as you are at a high risk of developing skin ulcers.  When being wheelchair bound you need to relieve pressure or change position every 15-30 minutes, as lack of oxygen to the skin can damage it.



I was assigned a lead nurse, a brilliant physiotherapist and had regular wheelchair skills training. The biggest shock for me was the realisation of having no balance. I had no idea how much balance was affected, how was I ever going to ride? I couldn’t even sit on a plinth without someone behind me to stop me from falling backwards. I had weeks of this and me trying to balance, it was so frustrating. My physiotherapist kept showing me ways to counter balance with my head to help with transfers but for me I just kept thinking that won’t help me ride.

I had to accept that when I was in hospital the physiotherapists would only be teaching me the basics such as transfers, stretching, a few exercises and helping me stand using a standing frame. All of these things are such an important part of rehab to keep my body strong and healthy but I wanted more.

The wheelchair skills trainers were good fun and made sure that we were entertained. We would have to weave in and out of cones, pretend to be carrying our favourite drink to practise pushing with one hand (mine was tea or champagne of course) and once we had learnt the basics it was trying to back wheel balance and curbs.

The scary thought for me once I had learnt all of these skills was how was I going to manage these on uneven surfaces, or catching my front casters on the many stones on the drive way. I was imagining face planting the whole time once I got home.


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