The Unexpected Emergency – New version

I didn’t plan on giving Mary a big shock that morning, in fact really it was 111 that should bear the brunt of the blame.

The day started fairly normally, for me. It was 2006, it was the last time we were living in Hartlepool and this was before I had the downturn in 2007 that led to me needing a wheelchair full time. I had a routine blood test at the GP surgery. Except it wasn’t as routine as I hoped. Anyone who has had a blood test will know that the comment, “you’ll feel a slight scratch.” is absurdly optimistic. Most times, not only do you feel a very sharp scratch, but it also aches while they take several tubes of blood. That day I felt absolutely nothing, not the tiniest bit of pain. Not the needle going in, not the ache while it was in, not even the nurses hand on my arm. It’s been said before, I am very fast to react to such things and take action. So obviously I totally ignored it, didn’t mention it to the nurse and went home. I did think about it at the time. My thoughts went like this, “that was odd.” At home I thought again, “that was very odd.” So you can see, I was very on the ball.

Actually “that was odd.” Is a favourite expression of mine. I said it several times when our neighbours house was being burgled. I heard the break in, and I said to Mary, “you don’t see that every night”, as I watched the thieves walking down the road with a TV. My brain churns slowly sometimes.

My brain was working just as fast after I couldn’t feel my arm. At home, I rolled my sleeve up at home and touched my arm, it felt like it had been anaesthetised. Finding a pin I tried sticking it in various parts of my arm but it was numb.

Before you think I am a complete idiot I did wonder about a stroke. So I lifted both arms, which I could do, same strength. I could feel both legs. I looked in the mirror and smiled. My straight and goofy face smiled back. Obviously something was wrong, but it wasn’t likely to be a stroke. Mary was in the kitchen cooking lunch and over the years I had caused her enough panic with my illness. So I decided I would check it out with 111 rather than bother Mary about it. I think 111 was a different number at the time.

Our phone was in the hallway opposite the front door and by the stairs. I sat on the stairs. Mary was through the other side of the front room in the kitchen unable to hear anything as there were two closed doors between us. I explained to the 111 operator that I had a numb arm but I was sure it was not a stroke. She told me to hang on a second, then continued to ask questions. Before she had finished asking her questions there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find two paramedics standing there. We lived just half a mile from the hospital, hence the speedy arrival. I hadn’t even known the operator was requesting paramedics, so I was just a little surprised.

Explaining their arrival the lady on the phone said she had requested them immediately and let me go. I was taken into the front room and wired up to a heart monitor and had an oximeter put on my finger. Mary was still cooking in the kitchen with the door closed oblivious to all this. I was fully checked over, heart, oxygen, blood test. As always with any ambulance visit they offered to take me to the hospital for a full check up, but they could see what I had already said, it was not a stroke. I later found out it was one of the early signs of neurological damage I now know that I have.

It was while the two paramedics were standing over me with all their equipment connected that Mary walked through to say lunch was ready. She took finding two paramedics in high vis jackets, standing over her husband who was wired up to a heart monitor, extremely well. If she was shocked and horrified she hid it very well. Her jaw only momentarily hit the floor and her eyes were only a little wide. I’m also not sure it was a gasp she gave, it could have been a sound from the kitchen. The pressure cooker could have been on.

As I began it certainly wasn’t my plan to shock Mary and as you can now fully see it was really all the fault of the 111 operator anyway.

 

Please like and share 

One size doesn’t fit all

I am totally behind more accessible housing and support any move that will increase accessible housing stock in this country. But one size does not fit all. I was a finalist in the Habinteg Essay Writing Competition 2020 and my essay explained that what is needed, as we look into the next 50 years of accessible housing, is variety. I argued for communities that cater for varying needs.

A point has been made that 1 new accessible home is planned for every 15 people over 65 by 2030 and that this is not enough. I would say this, surely the point is not about people over 65 but disabled people. Not everyone over 65 has mobility issues. Shouldn’t the real question be ‘how many people are there now in need of accessible houses and how many will there be by 2030?’ Then a further question is ‘what type of accessible housing is needed?’

One size doesn’t fit all. When I wrote this blog, we were staying at what was once an RNIB training centre and is now a hotel. So, the corridors are laid out to help blind and partially sighted people. This means there are white, raised strips at regular intervals along the corridor and on corners, the bottoms of stairs and by doorways. Obviously, these are really needed and helpful for blind and visually impaired people. The same is true for raised bumps on pathways by crossings generally that you will all have seen. But these kinds of bumps are very uncomfortable in a wheelchair. I would not suggest that they are removed as they are needed for other disabilities. But what benefits or is needed for one disability can be a limitation to another. I am sure that there are disability aids which are a problem to able bodied people too. I am merely pointing out that ‘one size doesn’t fit all.’

My point is this: we cannot say that we need more ‘accessible’ housing, nor that there are more disabled people needing accessible housing. What we can and must say is that there are a variety of needs in our society, among those needs is a pressing need for ‘accessible’ types of housing. Many types to meet many needs. Wheelchair accessible, accessible for blind and partially sighted, accessible for limited mobility, deaf, and various other needs. One size does not fit all. A ramp and a wet room are only really needed for mobility issues. Visual doorbells for hearing problems. Having raised floor markers would be a great boon in a house for visually impaired but a big problem to the comfort of a wheelchair user. That’s before you even look at the heights of units needed if you are in a wheelchair to those not in one. One size does not fit all. The problem is that often these issues are championed and put forward by people without a lived experience of disability. The designers often lack that lived experience, even if they have a second-hand knowledge from a family member or loved one.

The point I argued in my essay was that communities were the way forward. Communities of varying types of housing. When a new housing development is planned it should include all types of housing. Housing to suit families, single, couples, older generation, disabilities of various types including wheelchair users, people of all social backgrounds. If you mix people together rather than ghettoizing by need or age, then you create a supportive environment where people naturally form social networks. We have lost that sense of community and yet the recent pandemic demonstrates that we miss it and naturally want to re-create it.

In 2021 we moved to a new build house on an estate in Hartlepool. Our house was already accessible. It was M4 (wheelchair visitable). After a DFG grant and various other adaptations, it is now fully accessible for my power wheelchair. The community we live in is amazing. It has its own Facebook page. We have found people here to be the most friendly and helpful neighbours you can imagine. In Storm Arwen people turned up to help us. When we had Covid, neighbours have offered and done our shopping. People on the estate have helped us in more ways than I can count. It is a community, not just a group of houses. I feel as if we have moved to a living embodiment of the kind of place I wrote about in my essay. A group of people of all ages and backgrounds who care about and support each other. Ever day I read on the Facebook page about examples of that care and support in action between people on the estate.

Such communities as the one we now live in, don’t replace professional care services. They add to them. Because much of the care provided by professional agencies today is what was once done by friends and neighbours. I am not referring to washing and dressing people. That is a care agency or personal care role. But a world where you need to pay someone to visit you, or go shopping with or for you, seems very messed up. We have a massive care bill; I wonder how much of that bill is for services that most of us would have once seen as being neighbourly and friendly?

Community is at the very heart of care. I started by saying that one size does not fit all. Accessible housing and care needs vary by need. Many things we need are normal human interaction. Other things are more specialist. Each person’s needs are different. Because we are all different.

Please like and share

Never Mind The Quality Feel The Length

A repeat of a post I did a while back:

Is quality a thing of the past? That seems a stupid question, after all everywhere you look things are advertised as luxury, professional or pro for short. Advertising tells us that things are built better, stronger, more durable… yeah right, we all believe that don’t we? In fact we have become the quality control department for most products. Instead of manufacturers checking them, they are sent as is and fail in our home. We then send them back or bin them. Built in obsolescence. Never mind the lack of quality feel the short product life.


I have an NHS power wheelchair it’s a Quickie Salsa M2 and I am really grateful to have such an amazing tilt and tip wheelchair supplied. It’s transforms my life. But I cannot ignore that it seems to be very poorly made. I have had it for three years and well within the first year the frame started to move alarmingly, what I mean by that is it’s become loose and rickety. Add to that the paint peeled so badly that rust was the main colour visible on the frame.

I wonder if the NHS commissioners request poorly built? Obviously not, and when you consider that this chair is available privately and cost about £7000  for the setup I have, I do wonder at the excuse Quickie would have for what appears to be poor quality manufacture. I know the NHS get them for more nearer £4000 so do you think Quickie USA have two production lines? One that only applies one coat of poor quality paint and uses low quality parts that go to the NHS and a better line for private? I am of course joking, well half joking, they will make only one version. I can’t see how the NHS who are paying companies like Quickie a lot of money, can get such seemingly poor products from them. What is happening with the people who select these companies? Do they check on quality? Don’t tell me they are NHS products and I should just be grateful for any old tat. I told you these same chairs are available privately. They are merely bought by the NHS.


Don’t give me the argument about it being better if a private company is involved either, because I got my wheelchair through a private Company used by the NHS, Milbrook. So if private companies are really the way forward to drive up quality through competition and quality control I would be saying how wonderfully built my chair was. No, in reality all that privatisation does is add a profit layer into the mix. So that someone has to make profit out of the transaction. Ergo the end product has to be of a lesser quality because the amount of money being spent is the same, the product needed is the same, but someone in the middle is making a profit. Corners are therefore cut.


In case your wondering. I have part of the answer. The NHS and/or the private companies they use send out part reconditioned chairs. You might think that makes good economic sense. Have you heard the term ‘Life Cycle Cost?’ LLC. It is where a company assesses the total cost of a product over its life, not just its up front, capital cost. You include servicing and spares. Servicing includes the engineers and service admin. Spares are much more expensive than original parts. Even if you clean up and recycle a part that costs money. So LLC is high where a poor quality product is chosen. If you buy a good quality product, its capital cost can be higher, but its LLC lower. The NHS is short sighted. It only looks at capital spending. Why? Because LLC is spread out and seems better. In reality its not. More money is spent over a longer time.


Cars used to rust almost as soon as they left the showroom. Now cars are sold which boast of 7 and 10 year rust free warranties. Car parts used to fail within months, now they last much longer. The car manufacturers want people to keep buying new cars, but they do that by making new cars attractive and second hand cars hold value for re sale. Wheelchair manufacturer’s seem to have a very short term vision, sell their chairs to the NHS or desperate people who need them. Longevity of the chairs do not seem a factor, that is how it appears to me. Prove me wrong manufactures, show me how well you build your chairs.


That will not change until wheelchair users make a hue and cry and the NHS start to complain that they are not happy with the high failure rates. CCG’s (clinical commissioning groups) do you even track the failure rates of wheelchairs?


My fellow wheelies (wheelchair users for those who don’t know) take note of this. If you are an employee of the NHS and have any say in this process take note of this. If you are reading this in another country and have similar issues, take note. It takes a massive backlash to companies before they sit up and take notice.


If you like and agree please share it

Star Wars

I have just watched Star Wars IV again. Something hit me that should be obvious to everyone. Luke says it to his aunt and uncle. It is something so stunning, that the whole plot falls apart. It means that whenever Darth Vader doesn’t need to interrogate rebels about the location of their base. Luke’s statement shows the a societal setup, in which being a rebel is just an educational option.

What on earth am I talking about? Luke says, ‘I want to transmit my application to the academy this year.’ Now unless you are going to tell me that Luke was going to the Empires Storm Trooper academy? No, of course not. We know he wasn’t, because when he finally gets to the rebel base, he meets all his mates who went ahead of him. He was planning on going to rebel academy. That well known educational establishment. One of many choices for young people in The Star Wars Universe. Do you want to go to Moisture Farming Tech College? Perhaps get a scholarship based on your droid racing abilities to a mainstream University? Or join your mates at Rebel Training Academy? The RSA (Rebel Scum Academy) as the Empire call it.

So, how should Darth Vader find the rebel base? Obviously, the academy would have promotional material. Advertising, on the Star Wars equivalent of social media, Spacebook.

I have a copy of the advert:

‘Fight The Evil Empire. Gain an education, travel the universe, make friends, become a hero. Visit us on Yarvin 4, or send a sub space message. May the Force be with you.’

Come on Darth, why didn’t you think of that?

Please like and share my blog 

Now on Facebook

Let no one accuse me of rushing into things. I thought it was way beyond time that I had a social media presence (I’m even using the right terms). Mind you, at the moment it is just a copy of the posts on here.

I have a dream. I’m going all visionary now. I have a dream; see. I have a dream. That one day my Facebook site will have its own content. Oh, that wasn’t very exciting. Hardly worth waiting for.

I am told, that having a Facebook site, or any social media presence is advantageous. It is more immediate, more fun and best of all, it’s easier for me to use.

I am not technically challenged. In fact, I am quite clever with mechanical and electronic things. Sorry for the boast. But, I am useless at software. I have always been better at loading operating systems than using them. As for all those apps and programmes on the OS…

Websites, don’t even get me started on websites. In the past I could create a decent one. Then they made these amazing, all singing, all dancing ones. No problem you say, they have built in help systems. They almost create themselves; yeah right. They create themselves a very basic site. Not the one I want.

How did I start out telling you about my new Facebook presence and end up moaning about web site creation? It’s a funny old world.

Check out my new group at: https://www.facebook.com/Howcaring-114666084574910

Remember, the thing about Facebook is that it tracks you. If you say anything bad about my group, I will know. I will have your name, address, inside leg measurement… I am kidding of course. It only tracks likes and dislikes.

Life Is But A Dream

There are mornings that I wake up from a lovely dream. One in which I am walking, running, pain free. As I wake and turn on a light (by voice), the pain hits me first, normally through my eyes. Did you know, it’s not just love that hurts, light hurts too? My head joins the party next and I have not been at a party drinking the night before. So no excuse and nothing to blame. If my body is in an uncooperative mood (it normally is) it stays still for quite a while. When it does deign to move, it makes it’s presence felt. I guess it doesn’t want me to miss out on congratulating it for the effort of moving.

Once I have turned over. That is a big task in itself. Reached for the bed control and sat the bed up a bit. I skipped removing the CPAP. That’s the bit of equipment that keeps me breathing at night. Anyone with sleep apnoea will know about that. I then look around. No point looking at my tablet computer yet. My eyes can’t focus first thing. Just as well I have a good imagination, I just think.

It’s at times like this; every morning. That I have often contemplated the words of that song. ‘Row, row, row your boat.’ Actually, it’s not that bit I contemplate, that would be silly. I think about the words, ‘life is but a dream.’

As a Christian, I know life isn’t a dream. The Matrix is a great movie, but it’s just fiction. Life is reality, dreams are dreams. But as I transition from the sleeping/dream world into a rather painful and limited reality, I do muse. I muse about how nice it would be if this real world were the dream. If the dream world, of walking, running and being pain free were real.

I did not write this as a ‘feel sorry for me’ piece. Nor is it meant to be maudlin. But, if I never write the truth about being disabled and ill. You will think it is all laughs. I smile and laugh because I make that choice. Every morning as I lie in pain, I make that choice. Often I say to myself, ‘come on Michael, pull yourself together.’ I call myself by my full name when I want to chivvy myself along.

I don’t look down on those who can’t do that. Others suffer far more than I. We can never know what another person is going through. Don’t judge someone because they are angry with being ill, disabled or limited. I can’t know the pain of another; neither can you. I can’t understand what you are going through; it could be far worse than me.

If there is one take away message I would want to give, it’s this. I know that we all have struggles in life. Whether we are ill/disabled or not. Life can be hard for us all. Especially at the moment with all the financial burdens and stress.

Be kind to one another. Be gentle and caring. We all need the grace and strength to get through each day. Let’s help each other through it.

Please like and share my blog

False advertising

I was in a passenger in a car recently, after a long time stuck in bed. I noticed things I had missed before. Road signs that should definitely be highlighted to the advertising standards board.

One sign promises a magnificent Stag at bay. What a treat. Binoculars at the ready. Camera out and focussed. Where will this magnificent beast appear? Will it leap across the road? Should I look out for it on the grass verge, as it nibbles it’s mid morning snack. Will I catch it mid leap, as it sails over the hedgerow?

I can hear that you’ve already gone through this disappointment. You’re pretending that you always knew the truth. There was never a time when you took that sign literally. Your genius knows no bounds. I, on the other hand, am a mere mortal. My knowledge limited. I might even call myself a fool; before you do. Yes, I know now that the sign means wild animal. Now I realise that it means, watch out for anything from a field mouse to a hedgehog, crossing the road. Not exactly a look alike for a stag now are they? All very disappointing.

As if that isn’t bad enough. There is that wonderful sign for antique bellows, plate cameras.

You see them everywhere nowadays. Mary burst my bubble, she said they were telling us those dull grey or yellow boxes were coming up. Yes, speed cameras. In what way does that box with a flash built in, resemble a lovely old Victorian camera? What’s happening to the world?

Still, as we drove along, at least we had a shop selling fairy lights to look forward to.

But no, apparently that was just telling us the traffic lights was ahead.

Getting over that bitter blow, I saw a very exciting couple of advertising boards. The circus must be coming to town. Or a danger act. There are going to be flaming cars and motorcycles leaping across cars.

But apparently those are all just road signs too. Although why we need telling not to carry explosives in our car, I’m not sure. As for the flying motorcycle…

You don’t need to panic about me driving. I was told I couldn’t drive a long time ago; just as well eh?!

Please like and share my blog

Disability Top Trumps

Did you ever play that game as a child, ‘Top Trumps?’ It came in loads of forms, cars, boats etc. You would deal out cards that listed the specs of whichever list of things you were comparing and play. Let’s say you were playing with cars.

I would have a car with a 2 litre engine, 5 doors and a top speed of 95mph. So I would then decide to choose the engine size and say, 2 litre engine. My fellow players (I was a child, so it would be my brothers) then have to look at their hand of cards and see if they have a car with an engine bigger than that. It always seemed as if one of my brothers could trump me. They would have a V12 engine that had 3.6 litre engine.

You get the idea? Bigger is better. The person going first choses a particular thing, then other people can see if they can trump it.

I never knew until the other day that some people play that with disability. We were chatting to the wife of a disabled man who we had not met. She was checking an access door. We told her that it worked great for getting in to where she wanted to go.

Out of the blue. Instead of just saying thanks, or I knew that. She said, ‘my husband can’t walk or stand. He only has one leg.’ She looked rather accusingly at my two legs. I did wonder if I should hide one. Or just explain that I couldn’t walk or stand either. That was why I was in a wheelchair. But it seemed best to just carry on talking.

Somehow the topic got around to wheelchairs. She told us that her and her husband had every type of wheelchair going. A power chair, a motor scooter. I began to wish that I had brought my V12, 3.6 litre wheelchair out that day, the one with chrome exhausts. She was definitely trumping me. Not that I had realised the game even existed or that I was playing it.

Before our encounter with this lady, I always assumed that everyone had a different limitation, illness or disability. We all make the best of it. She seemed to be bringing a new ‘trump’ element into being disabled or ill. I should say here, that here husband was not with her. So he was not part of her ‘odd approach.’

A bit later we did see him with her; or rather behind her. He was trying to catch her up, pushing his self propelled wheelchair for all he was worth. She never mentioned they had one of those.

There is a moral to this blog. I think the lady in question was probably struggling with being a carer for a man in such need. When we saw him, he did look in need. He was not finding it easy to wheel himself. You might say, ‘why wasn’t she pushing him?’ Perhaps she was coming to the end of her tether. Her, rather unfortunate, way of coping. Was to leave him to struggle and create a make believe world of how great everything was. It struck me that she desperately needs help.

I do know this, a lot of carers, desperately need help. They have a massive weight on their shoulders. We are living in a time when there is a crisis in the support available. A shortage in funding and a shortage in people, linked to the first. The result will be seen in the near future as carers become those needing care. This is not a problem that can be ignored.

I wrote this blog in a deliberately satirical and humorous way to catch your attention. But the message is serious. Carers are struggling, they need help. Only political change can make that happen.

Please like and share my blog

M&M

Mary & I, M&M as it said on or wedding cake, were eating a pack of M&M sweets; snap. Yes, I know, I don’t eat sweets. I was having a momentary weak moment; I’m allowed. After all I am only human; honest.

As we were sharing this pack, sitting on a branch in a tree watching an outside movie. No… wait… that’s the movie I am about to quote. We were just sharing a pack of M&M’s, no trees were harmed in the writing of this blog. Have you seen the chic flick, ‘Wedding Planner?’ If not, you might as well stop reading this blog now.

I wasn’t serious, keep reading. I am quoting from Wedding Planner, but I will explain. Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, are sitting in a tree watching a movie outside in a park; eating a pack of M&M’s. Matt, that’s what I call him whenever he pops around, is doing something odd. You might well say, ‘that’s not unusual.’ Well, just wait and see what he was doing. He was throwing all the M & M’s away. No, hang on, he was keeping the brown ones. He told Jen, that they were a better colour to eat as they had less artificial colouring in them. After all chocolate is brown. What brilliant logic.

Obviously, we get all our nutritional advice from the movies. I am sure you do too. So we were throwing all the coloured M&M’s away. Yes, of course its environmentally friendly. Hollywood stars did it and they all drive Prius’ after all. We then looked at the two, yes just two chocolate coloured ones left. One each, seemed a little amount out of a whole pack. So we picked all the other colours back up. The mud washed right off.

I looked at them and said to Mary, ‘yellow is a natural colour, just look at the sun.’ We ate those. ‘Red is natural, it’s the colour of fire,’ we ate those, ‘green very natural, it’s the colour of grass,’ we ate those, ‘orange is the colour of a cocoa bean husk,’ prove me wrong, we ate those.

There you go, we ate the whole pack, all fully natural. No waste, which is environmentally friendly. All natural colours, which is nutritionally good. I think I have proved that.

In future just take all your food advice from me.

Please like and share my blo

All Encompassing Fact

You are probably expecting an amazing fact. Not an unreasonable assumption. After all, I have brought you blogs on why we don’t live forever. How to keep things brief. The nature of the universe, among other incredible facts. But no, that is not the purpose of this blog. What is it’s purpose? I wish I knew, I started it so long ago, I’ve forgotten.

I’ve remembered. The brain is getting slower with age, but it is still sharp… ish.  When people ask to swap with me in a wheelchair. Which they do quite often, when they see me sailing up a steep slope. Did I tell you that my power wheelchair can go on water? Well, not literally sailing of course. But powering up a hill effortlessly. For me that is. My wife Mary, who is my full time carer. Has to walk alongside up the steep slope; or behind.

She is actually operating the controls. My chair is dual control (rear and side). I had to sign a bit of paper to the NHS saying, on pain of death. Well maybe not on pain of death, but it was a serious bit of paper. That I would not operate the power chair outside. Because I lose muscle function with very little warning. Those spoil sports didn’t like the idea of me powering into the road, or a crowd of people. I suppose they have a valid point.

As an aside, if Mary is behind my high backed power chair, people don’t see her. They assume I am controlling the chair. As you know, I do not have a sense of humour. So I never take advantage of that misunderstanding. You will never see me closing my eyes or looking all over the place, while my big heavy chair, heads towards a crowd.

If Mary is operating my chair from the control on my left (the one designed for my use in the house), that causes confusion too. She can only do it on wider pavements. People approaching us often assume she is just walking beside me. They are unaware that she is operating the chair. They walk straight at her, expecting her to move out of the way. Not just at her, but looking to pass between her and my chair. She has to let go of the controls and bring us to a sudden halt. This has happened when crossing a road; not my favourite experience.

Where was I. Yes, people saying they want to swap with me in my wheelchair, especially on a hill. I am not alone in this. Most wheelchair users get asked this. You might think, ‘so what?’ or ‘what’s the issue?’ you might even be thinking, ‘I’ve done that.’

Let me put it into a form that might hit home. If you wear glasses and someone said, ‘wish I had those?’ when they couldn’t see a distant object. Or you wear a hearing aid and someone said, ‘wish I could borrow that,’ for a short time they can’t hear a distant voice. Or how about you have dentures and someone at a restaurant, struggling to chew their meat says, ‘wish I could have your dentures.’

Those are silly suggestions, because its a silly question. Wheelchairs are not to get us up a steep hill. They are an all encompassing fact. My answer to anyone who says, ‘I wish I could swap with you,’ is this: ‘sure, you can have it all. The lifetime of limitations and the care needs.’ You don’t pick and choose a wheelchair to help you up a steep slope. It is a frustrating need. Just like you don’t choose poor eyesight or poor hearing. You don’t choose to lose your teeth. If you need a wheelchair, you would rather not. Having someone suggest a swap is fine, if they really wanted to swap everything. But of course they don’t.

An all encompassing fact, means just that. Limitation, illness, disability, differently abled, however you want to describe it. They are not a choice. Someone puffing up a hill and seeing, what to them looks like an easier option, is saying, ‘I choose an easier option.’ Disability, illness, limitation is not it. Perhaps they need to exercise more. Or if that isn’t an option, and they do need mobility help, they shouldn’t look enviously at those in more need, they need to get help themselves.

Limited mobility is not a choice, it is an all encompassing fact, that we end up with by disease, illness or an accident.

Please like and share my blog

Enabled by your Environment

What a positive world we live in. Apparently I am not disabled, I am differently abled. I guess being negative is seen as… well… negative. One day, Bam! I was hit in the face. Not literally you understand. I have not been attacked by people who disagree with my blogs. Although that might well start after this. Then, Wham! Not the 80’s pop duo. You see I had an epiphany and it’s not even Christmas.

My wham, bam, epiphany came last year actually. Don’t accuse me of rushing of a blog every time I have an idea. It was when we moved to our new house last summer. I would say our beach view house, but I don’t want to make you jealous. Too late, I said it. I realised, We can be, enabled by our environment. Let me explain:

We moved in to this new build house. Now I need to pause a moment. This house is M4, no it’s not in the middle of a motorway. The M4 category of housing is an accessible housing category. It means that a house is built to be wheelchair visitable. That means exactly what it sounds like. You are meant to be able to visit it in a wheelchair. The government have a strategy to make all new houses M4… eventually.

An aside here, I cannot visit the majority of my family and friends. I can think of one house that might (I haven’t yet tried) be accessible to me; in part. You might be unmoved by that. But imagine being unable to visit your family and friends. Got that in your mind? Would you find that hard? I know I do.

Having moved into this house with its wide doorways and corridors I noticed something. I could access the whole downstairs. Wow! You’re thinking, access all of downstairs. What’s novel about that. Sometimes I think everyone should spend a year in a wheelchair. The world would change pretty quickly. I imagine blind people may wish everyone could experience blindness for a year. Or deaf people may wish people may wish people could experience profound deafness for a year. I say a year, because a few hours don’t give you any idea of a disability. Many carers have sat in a wheelchair to see what it feels like. People have put on blindfolds or blocked of their ears. But such very short term trials, give no idea as to the long term implications of a disability. I have only mentioned three obvious disabilities. I am not suggesting that other disabilities are lesser.

Back to my sudden realisation. We can be, enabled by our environment. In a wheelchair, even a 1” bump is significant. When you walk you just step over every bump and step, without even seeing it. I have lost count of the places I have phoned to ask about accessibility, to be told they are wheelchair accessible. On arrival, they have steps, steep slopes, gravel or narrow doorways.

We can be, enabled by our environment. When we moved to this house I wheeled around freely for the first time ever. Then after the Disabled Facilities Grant, added a through floor lift, I wheeled around upstairs. I can now access every part of this house. It has been years since I could say that about a house.

But access alone is not the point. Access is only a means to an end. Access is reaching a place or thing. Getting somewhere.  There are still ‘things’ I cannot reach. High cupboard, light fittings, high shelves.

The realisation that I came to was that being able to reach things, get to places, approach a location, enter a room, changes my outlook and gives me opportunities. I did not gain health or strength when we moved here. But, with the same limited strength I already had, I could do more. I gained opportunities. I was enabled by my environment. Rather than make this a very long blog, I will talk of the details of that another blog.

I have deliberately talked of being enabled by my environment. It is the positive side of the better known expression, ‘disabled by your environment.’ We can be, enabled by our environment. All it takes is the political will for housing and buildings to be made more suitable. It is life transforming.

Please like and share my blog 

If You Could Live Forever

I’m not a doctor. A fact which will very quickly become apparent. Have you ever wondered why we don’t live forever? Evolutionary biologists, will be talking about cellular competition. Geneticists, will talk of mutations. Pretty much everyone has an answer.

Forget all of that. The real reason is that as we age, five things happen:

1/ Our ears continue to grow.

2/ Our noses continue to grow.

3/ We shrink in height.

4/ Many of us put on weight, (especially around the middle.)

5/ We often lose teeth, (unless we get them capped. In which case they aren’t our teeth anyway.)

The result of all this, if we got too old? We would all look like characters from Lord of The Rings.

That’s the real reason we don’t live forever.

Please like and share my blog

Something From Nothing

I love the latest crop of adverts in my card games. Apparently, there is a new photo app that can take a blurred poor quality photo from the past. One taken of your relatives, yourself or your friends and make them colour or black and white HD. All the details become miraculously visible. No, it’s not possible. It’s the stuff of sci-fi.

I always love it in those detective movies when they have a CCTV film of the culprit and the detective says, ‘can you enhance that?’ then the tech guy, runs an algorithm and hey presto, you see the culprit as if they are in front of you. A few magic swipes on the screen and an image that was a fuzzy mess, become fully clear. That is what these ads show.

But you cannot create something from nothing. If an image contains no, or very little information, then you can only guess at what is missing. Like a puzzle, one of those images that you have to guess what it is. A computer is no more clever than you at that. It fills in the missing bits of the picture with guesses. It looks at each part, then based on what it sees, makes as guess at what comes next.

Let me explain. You have a photo from the 1960’s. It is out of focus and was taken too far away. So that the people in it, are hard to make out. You scan it into your computer or tablet or phone. Looking at it, you think, ‘I can’t make out the people.’ What do you do?

This image of me, as a child, is a good example. You cannot see my eyes. No programme in the world can add those in. You can make out some of my teeth. A programme could guess at where the others are, in the dark cavern of my mouth. But it would look odd. The point is, ‘you cannot create something from nothing.’

These adverts make it appear that there are apps, that can take these pictures, and give you a pin sharp, HD repair. That just isn’t possible. Sorry to burst your bubble.

You see you cannot create something from nothing. If the image has no information within it about, let’s say eye colour, where can that come from? Guess work? If the image lacks information on nose shape, lip shape, eye shape, where can the programme get that? Guess work? It’s called extrapolation. The programme takes what it has and ‘extrapolates’ what it lacks. This process can work really great for an image that has a lot of information. But it is really rubbish if the image lacks information. So a slightly out of focus image, close up of a person. That can be improved greatly. Because the image contains a lot of information. The programme sharpens it up and hey presto, you have a pretty good image. But an blurry distant image of a person. Where you can see little of the detail in that person. The programme has no information to start with.

But the advert shows images that lack ‘all detail’. They lack eye colour, face shape, basically everything. There is no way that the before and after images are possible. That is, unless it can work with another HD image of that person. It needs to get the information from somewhere. Otherwise, your green-eyed, red haired grandma, could become a blue eyed blond.

The internet, and apps available on smart phones, seem to be an unregulated area of advertising. Buyer beware. The app will improve an image. There are many, many apps, a lot of them free, that can do that.

Please like and share my blog

Let Me Summarize

I have found a lot of factual books contain about an A5 flash card worth of content. It is a wonder that they manage to spin it out into a 300 page book. Really, they should get an award for that. You could just read the blurb on the back and know the content. Or, maybe read chapter one. All the other chapters, just break that first one down, or tell you what the first chapter said in a different way. Are we really so dumb that we need to hear it in multiple ways?

I am being incredibly harsh, not like me at all. But I have had enough of reading training books with no real content. I know why they do it of course. A publisher can hardly publish an A5 flash card, instead of a book; there’s no money in it.

Mike Nevin has just produced his latest self-help book, ‘How to sit up straight in a wheelchair?’ Available in hardback for £29.99, paperback for £19.99, as a free download in A5 flashcard or A4 sheet format. Now I ask you, which one are you going for? Great, I’ll put you down for 10 hardbacks.

It’s not just factual books that fall into this trap. A speaker at a conference can be just as bad. There are a lot of conferences that are glorified book publicity tours. If it’s one of those books, that should have been on an A5 flash card, then a two day conference is going to real drag.

Let me summarize. Here’s were you get your hopes up, in all those situations above. At last! They are going to finish. But they go on for another half an hour. I won’t, I have made my point.

Please like and share my blog

Too Much Smart Tech

The other day I ended up in an argument with my digital assistants. I was telling Alexa to turn on the lights. She replied, rather brusquely I thought, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that.’

So I said, ‘you did yesterday.’ Except, just as I finished, I coughed and Bixby thought I was talking to him. So he beeped at me and sat there like a puppy, ears all ready to respond.

Well that would not have been so bad. Except my Samsung tablet with Bixby on it, was playing some music for me. Whenever Bixby starts to listen, he shuts everything else off. He is like a child with a low concentration threshold.

So I said, ‘seriously!’ Then Siri on Mary’s iPad, thought I was talking to her. She joined in the conversation and asked how she could help. I was getting a little stressed and I said, ‘be quiet, you bad device.’ Bixby had only just finished listening and started playing music again. But he thought ‘bad’ was Bixby and stopped again.

I decided to have another go turning on the lights. After all it was getting quite dark and I wanted to be able to see. The whole point of smart tech for me is that I can turn things on from my bed.

Alexa turned on the lights… in the bathroom.

I suppose to give her the benefit of the doubt, bedroom and bathroom are similar. I’m sure that she noticed the similarity, as she sailed through the air, on route to the bathroom.

As the Echo device hit the floor, Bixby stopped to listen again and Siri said, ‘can I help?’ I said, ‘go and fetch your friend off the bathroom floor.’ For some reason she was unable to oblige.

 

Please like and share my blog

The Greatest Goal

I was playing a game today. It has Zen in the title, so I guess this is a Zen quote.

It says, ‘There is no greater goal than being content with yourself.’

That’s an interesting quote. The thing about pithy and interesting quotes is that we hear them, absorb them and assume they are true.

But think about it for a moment. Why should you accept that statement as true?

1st it is giving us ‘The greatest goal in life.’ So ask yourself, what is the greatest goal in life? Is it really contentment with yourself?

Content = A state of peaceful happiness. In this case, with yourself.

That sounds pretty good doesn’t it and you might well be saying, ‘yes, I agree with that.’ Why not, after all. We are the most important thing in the world aren’t we? So our own state of peace and happiness, should be the first consideration, shouldn’t it?

Fly in the ointment time.

What if we are parents and have a child. Where do they fit? Is their, ‘state of peaceful happiness’ as important as mine? Less important? Equal?

What if we really love another person (partner, lover, friend). Where do they fit? Is their, ‘state of peaceful happiness’ as important as mine? Less important? Equal?

Rubber hitting the road. Choice time, you are in a situation where you are both in danger and you can save yourself or your child/loved one. Who do you save? It’s obvious isn’t it? If that statement I started with was correct. Then we come first. Our happiness and peace is first priority. But that is not what happens, is it? We don’t put our self first.

When we love someone, they come first.

Here is something even more crazy. There are those who love people selflessly. People who are not family. People who do not love them back. Not their partners, but those in need. They love the unlovable. Are they crazy? They are most definitely not living according to that opening statement.

Here is something even more crazy. God is like that. He loves the unlovable, us; you and me. Yeah, I know, you are probably thinking, that you are really adorable. But, you are not perfect; sorry to break that to you. God loves you anyway. Imperfections and all.

God became human. Became a man actually, Jesus, he lived on earth and he did not live by that opening statement either.

Jesus made this statement and I commend it:

There is no greater goal in life, than to: ‘love God and love your neighbour as yourself.’ If you are wondering if your neighbour is just the person who lives next door. Jesus answered that. It is anyone in need.

Want to know more? Find a local Alpha course www.alpha.org

Please like and share this blog

Titles

You’re probably expecting me to announce that I have received a title in the New Years honours and it was just delayed in the post. That I am now Mike Nevin MBE, or Sir Mike Nevin or perhaps Mike Nevin OBE. So long as you hadn’t expected them to make me a Dame.

Let’s be honest, it does seem a big oversight on the part of the Palace. Maybe it is lost in the post. After all, I’ve had my stationary produced and everything. But I guess it will last if I pack it away till next year.

But no, this blog is not about that rather unfortunate oversight. I am writing about Film titles. You are a clever bunch, so no doubt you have noticed something. Some recent film and series titles have become very long:

“Three billboards outside Ebbing Missouri.” I know that’s your favourite film.

“Star Wars, The book of Boba Fett.”

“The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.”

“(500) Days of Summer.”

“The woman in the house across the street from the girl in the window.” That’s my personal favourite title.

“Avengers.” Wait that doesn’t prove my point.

It got me thinking that perhaps film makers are trying to tell you the storyline in the title. Maybe they just think people today are too dumb to have ironic or misleading titles. It has to just say what it is. In ‘The old days,’ film title were mysterious. You had to guess what a film was about. Or they misled you:

“Rain man.” Obviously about the weather. No way was it about an autistic man.

“Dead poets society.” Who guessed it was about a teacher in a school?

“Gone with the wind.” Another weather movie? A film on digestive problems?

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Obviously a cooking show.

I miss those days, when film makers gave you some credit as having a brain. It’s not just titles that are obvious these days. The whole film industry has become a machine. They churn out movies that are homogenised. They contain exact proportions of racial, social, gender and age mixes. They are constructed to a formula. Oh well, perhaps if I sent them my film script titled:

“Yet another film script following all your rules and preconceptions.” It could be the next blockbuster.

Please like and share my blog

A New Goodnight

Update: Following on from the mini-stroke, I did not improve in health. Therefore we had to take the difficult decision to sell Gracie. It was best for her and us. She is with a great family nearby. I have been able to rest more fully.

We have a puppy that’s 12 weeks old. Perhaps not the best timing as I had a mini stroke or TIA as the consultant called it, 9 days ago. I am now spending most of my time in my bed. Every now and then I get to see Gracie, our Cocker Spaniel (show). When she is tired enough to just rest on my bed, that’s not very often.

One such time of Gracie resting, is in the evening after a day of running around, the puppy, not me. This means that Mary and I can watch a bit of TV while Gracie rests. Well I say rest, lies back waiting for a slight sound to react to. Puppy owners will understand.

Once she has pretended long enough and is ready to go downstairs again, Mary picks her up and says goodnight. Obviously I also say goodnight to Gracie. Here is where the fun starts. Even though Gracie is only 12 weeks, she is not tiny. So once Mary has picked her up she fills Mary’s arms. She is also a wriggler. The puppy, not Mary.

I go to give Mary a kiss goodnight and either Gracie joins in and also gives me a kiss goodnight. She doesn’t want to miss out after all. Or, if Mary puts her on the other shoulder. Then there is the ever present danger of kissing a dogs bottom instead of my wife. The fun of having a puppy.

Oh well, good night all.

Smiling Under Pressure

A Tribute to The Women & Men of the NHS

In January I was taken by ambulance to A&E at North Tees. This is my tribute to every woman and man I dealt with that day; it was a long day.

I had to call 999. But this isn’t about the reason for my 999 call, (I am back home and much better).

This blog is about the response and the people my wife and I met.

From the moment we pressed my emergency call button and the operator dialled 999, the whole amazing UK system kicked into action. We are far too quick to criticise and too slow to compliment. Mary and I have reason to highlight problems, but I would rather focus on what was great yesterday and with the NHS generally.

The lady who called us from the 999 operator was quick to assess the situation and send a paramedic, who arrived fast. He was a lovely man, unruffled, calm, and professional. His easy calming nature took the stress Mary and I felt down a notch.

The ambulance crew who were to take me to North Tees were just as lovely. Two ladies with a sunny disposition and helpful attitude. I have a repeated loss of muscle function, which is a rare condition. This means that I have often been left in difficult and painful positions. I must have Mary or a carer who knows about me, with me. In these Covid times, hospitals do not allow you to be accompanied unless essential. The ambulance crew assessed the need and agreed to help Mary demonstrate that need at the hospital, which they did, and Mary was allowed to stay.

On route in the ambulance, I lost muscle function, and the ambulance crew member in the back prevented my head rolling around the whole way. Even though it meant she had to travel sitting in an awkward position, she put me first. I find such things really move me, as being totally helpless in one of these ‘attacks’ I feel vulnerable and easily hurt. Mary was able to guide her from the seat next to me as to how to support my head.

At the hospital we had the most wonderful doctor, whose name meant peace, and who was a source of peace and help to us. The nurses managed to smile, laugh and be helpful, even though they were rushed off their feet. The A&E was so full they had to double up some areas. But we never felt a burden.

I do not know how they kept their sunny, bright smiling outlook during difficulties, stress, and problems. Being there for nine hours we got to hear and see a lot of changes and two different lots of staff. My admiration just grew. Our NHS is one of the most incredible, and I think often unappreciated things we have. The staff are battling on day after day, for massively long shifts. One we chatted to works 7-7. That is not a simple job, but a full on difficult, mentally, and physically taxing job.

The NHS staff are often the ones who suffer abuse from people who must wait. But it is not their fault that the NHS is underfunded. They do not choose how many staff to put on, nor the positions hospitals are built in. Nor which ones to close. It is not up to them how many ambulances there are, nor the way things are run. Yet day after day they smile and laugh and carry on. Surrounded by the dangers of Covid, the sadness of death, the anger of people let down by things outside their control. They carry on and do the most amazing thing. They are there for us. Not just at times of emergency, but in long term illness, for those illnesses that people don’t even want to talk about. They are there.

I want to say a thank you to North Tees Hospital A&E. To the local Ambulance Service and to the NHS. Thank You. You are awesome. You are appreciated. I don’t say it often enough, but I do say it often. The NHS is a brilliant organisation, staffed by wonderful people.

Please Like and Share This Blog, make sure that NHS staff see it.

%d bloggers like this: