Tuesday, 2 July 2019

wheelchair envy

To sort out my little blueberry toes, I recently had to get a blood test. I always find there's a real sense of camaraderie in waiting rooms. People just chat and pass the time waiting for their number to be called.

Any frequent reader of this blog will know that my attitude to my wheelchair can be described as ambivalent at best (if not downright hostile).

When I was getting it I learnt that if your chair can fold up and/or come apart it tends to add to the weight. So there's a payoff for the convenience.

But in the waiting room on that day I noticed that the woman sitting in front of me had a super snazzy set of wheels.

After passing the time of day, I had to say, "Excuse me for asking, but is your wheelchair as light as it looks?"

She told me it was and was made of titanium. The frame is also totally rigid, although the wheels can come off.

It's a Quickie like this one (stop sniggering at the back).

I said that my own chair was super heavy. And even though I genuinely wasn't angling for it, she asked me if I'd like to have a go.

As a glasses wearer I've always hated when people ask if they can try mine on so I said no thanks. But she insisted.

Please note that I find propelling myself in my chair totally exhausting. It's so heavy!

But this was like going from an old car to one with power steering. I only had to brush my hands past the wheels and I was off.

With her encouragement I went off for a scoot around the hospital. In a couple of minutes I covered a lot of ground, zipping down corridors. The difference between it and my own chair was astonishing.

When I reluctantly returned her chair she said that it had been custom made to her specifications. And it had cost around £4,000 to get one in the UK.


Don't be surprised if I reinvent myself as an Instagram or YouTube influencer in the forthcoming months.
yes my pretty, one day you shall be mine...

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

live music and accessibility

Last weekend I had pretty much the perfect disabled-person's gig experience.

A friend spotted that the buzziest of current UK buzz-bands, Black Midi, were playing at a nearby art venue. Along with another friend, we've been listening to them for the past few months and we were lucky enough to get tickets - they don’t publicise their gigs and have a minimal online presence.

I offered to drive because I wanted to take my wheelchair - pretty handy having somewhere to sit and I wanted to make sure that I wasn't too fatigued for the drive home.

The venue's website states that they "have an accessible building with lift access on all floors". But I've been burned before so on the afternoon of the gig I called them up to make sure that it was going to be ok. (Yes, it was last minute but we only found out about the show a few days beforehand - like I said, minimal online presence).

The person I spoke to could not have been more accommodating, telling me which entrance to use and that there would be somebody waiting in the (closed) shop to take me and my friends down in the lift.

Through past experience I wasn't entirely convinced that it would all pass off so painlessly. But I'm pleased to report that everything worked beautifully. There was even another person waiting for us when we got to the bottom, and once we were down there it was all beautifully flat.

I stood for both sets - using my sticks or leaning on the back of my chair - and both bands were brilliant.

The support act were Nottingham's own Rattle and during their set Black Midi's Tour Manager came up to ask if I wanted to go to the side of the stage for the headline set. I was really pleased to be asked but I'm a bit Old Skool (as well as just generally old) and I like being in the middle a bit further back. It turned out that the position he was offering me was directly behind the drum kit and, as Morgan Simpson beats the crap out of his drums, my ears would still be ringing now, a number of days later.

I caught up with the Tour Manager at the end of the night and thanked him for his consideration and for the fact that they had come to a venue which was so insanely accessible. In recent years, I've had to miss a few of my favourite up-and-coming bands because they've played at a venue which is only accessible by stairs (with toilets only accessible by more stairs). Yes, I can get to Arena venues and bigger spaces but sometimes you want to go somewhere up bit more up-close-and-personal, don't you?

He expressed dismay that this was still going on - "Isn't that sort of thing illegal now?"

Well, yes, technically. It should be the norm that live experiences should be accessible to all shapes, sizes and capabilities. But we all know that this don't necessarily make it so.

I love going to gigs and I don't get to do it as often as I like. It's still mildly frustrating that we have to call up in advance to ask questions and lay out the details of our needs to complete strangers. But this goes to show that it can be totally worth it. And an increasing number of places accept the Access card as proof.

By the way, the gent who let us in at the start of the evening was even there to let us out at the end of the gig. Bravo, Nottingham Contemporary. And many thanks to my lovely mates who pushed my wheelchair for me when I needed it.

If you want, you can even hear a lengthy email I sent into the lovely Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music the following day - it's a long email but he read the whole damn thing (with a few interjections of his own) from 09:20 here.

Friday, 31 May 2019

i am one thousand years old

It's true!

I'm having a lot of trouble sleeping at the moment. My sleep hygiene is good. Ok I probably read a little too much but in my head it helps. Although the evidence doesn't really back it up.

CASE IN POINT: last night after a lovely day out with the family in the fresh air with lots of walking, sleep was still impossible to find. It doesn't make sense.

I've started having a milky drink an hour before I go to sleep (Q.V. one thousand years old) - but sometimes I forget (see earlier point).

I worry that I'm now beyond help!

Another thing that happened yesterday was I went to the doctor to talk to him about the fact that my circulation is terrible (did I mention that I'm at least one thousand years old?).

- this has been a problem since at least my 2017 relapse when the Occupational Therapist came round to talk to us about adaptations in the house. She took one look at my toes and said, "You know they're not meant to be that colour, right?"

Yeah, I know, I know - that was almost exactly two years ago…

They can sometimes look like 10 little blueberries (no pictures because FEET ARE GROSS). And they can get so cold that they keep me awake. So I've been wearing socks in bed - and they're not even Business Socks, FoC fans.

Anyway, the doctor had a good look at my (gross) feet and told me to get some blood tests - after he gets the results he might send me for a consultation with a vascular surgeon.

I tell you, with the lack of sleep, bed socks and bad circulation, I don't mind admitting that I've felt sexier.

Obviously this track by the awesome They Might Be Giants has been in heavy rotation on my internal iPod.

Friday, 17 May 2019

positivity warning

As prompted by Mrs D, who said that, as I'd been spending a lot of time working in health-related circles, I should focus more on some of the good stuff. So for what it's worth, here is a kind-of gratitude diary.


Obviously having a period of down-time coupled with working from home means that I've been listening to a lot of music, both old and new. According to my Last.FM account, these are my most played albums from the last 90 days:
With some friends I've gotten back into making iTunes-compatible mixtapes. And just like I used to do with actual tapes in my wasted youth my mixes are interspersed with bits of random film and TV dialogue.

If you're interested in hearing them, get in touch and I'll explain why the act of sharing music for which I do not own the copyright is all kinds of illegal (hem hem).


Despite my extended belly-aching on here and in real life, I'm doing ok. Working on the podcast, attending infusion clinics, spending time in hospitals, as always will remind you that there's always someone worse off.

Similarly, there are people who are a lot better off, but still. Things could be worse. 


My top recent picks include:
  • It Makes a Sound - this is ancient but my brother recommended it recently. A deeply weird mystery about music and memories. NO SPOILERS as I haven't finished it yet! 
  • The Adam Buxton Podcast - so obvious but he's just too good at what he does 
  • Beyond Today from BBC Radio 4 - their slogan is they ask one big question about one big story every weekday and it's always fascinating. One of my favourite recent episodes focused on the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest finals in Israel which included respected Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen explaining the conflict in 90 seconds 
  • Help I Sexted My Boss - not big, not clever, but charming nonetheless
  • The Archers - yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. But I don't pay attention to any other soap operas and this is mine. I even created a tribute to the actor who played Joe Grundy after he died…

Thursday, 9 May 2019

where does YOUR anxiety go?

Mine goes directly to my legs.

I just did a search for "anxiety legs". This is the top search result:
It is common for anxiety to cause feelings of numbness and tingling. This can occur almost anywhere on the body but is most commonly felt on the face, hands, arms, feet and legs. This is caused by the blood rushing to the most important parts of the body that can aide fight or flight.
Sounds a bit like something we all know and love, right?

And that's my anxiety obviously. But where is it coming from?

Well, I've officially finished my job for the photography festival. But the lack of work isn't even the thing that's making me anxious. As I said before, I was hoping to have a bit of a break between jobs anyway, plus I still have my FUMS podcast work.

The Fampyra tablets are having their usual plateau at present. The MS Nurses have said in the past that this is just how it goes - it works great, then it just seems to stop. So I'm currently having a fallow week (all those GCSE History lessons on crop rotation obviously went into my brain somewhere).

Plus I'm taking an extra week between Tysabri infusions this month, in order to avoid paying an extra £300 for a short summer break (school holiday price rises). So medication issues might be a thing.

More than anything else, I'm just not sleeping at the moment. I'm averaging about 4-5 hours a night, and at least once a week I'll have a night when I just don't sleep at all.

Because of all this I had to cancel my appointment at the Gait lab to check in how I'm getting on with my FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation).

Similarly, I've had to roll back a little on my plan to go swimming more regularly once I was "between jobs" again. I describe my swimming technique as being loosely-coordinated drowning-avoidance at the best of times.

Lord knows what it would be like at the moment.

Image lifted from this great old series of UK Public Information Films - stick around for the brutal ending!

Thursday, 18 April 2019

if at first you don’t succeed...

... give up.

Not really, obviously, but it's bloody tempting.

I'm (genuinely) limping towards the end of my contract. But because you can't be too busy, I've recently applied for a couple of other jobs.

One I didn't get further than the application but the other I got to the second interview stage. It was between me and one other applicant. And - ta-daah! - they went with the other guy. To add insult to injury, it's basically the same job that I'm doing currently for a different artform. So that's a thing.

However if I'd been successful it would've meant me doing both jobs at the same time which would be pretty hardcore. Plus Mrs D is very keen that I have a little break when I finish. Especially because I had my most recent relapses within a week of finishing a previous freelance contract.

And truth be told I'm feeling pretty wrung out at present. A combination of long hours and - annoyingly - sleep being hard to come by.

Case in point: I finished writing this post during my most recent Tysabri infusion having had no more than thirty minutes sleep.

So a short break won't do me any harm.

Here's a moment of Emo Zen! 

listening to this song...
... looking out of this window in the hospital


Friday, 5 April 2019

i’m on the FUMS podcast!

In a continuing showcase for my shameless oversharing and self-promotion, I thought I’d let you know that I’m the guest on the newest FUMS podcast episode.

This chat was recorded a couple of weeks ago and, as is obvious if you listen to it, it was a lot of fun.

FULL DISCLOSURE: as editor I took out a few of my more irritating space-holder noises and phrases, plus I removed a whole section of chat where I got something totally round my neck and misremembered a few facts. It seemed easier than stealing Adam Buxton’s Fact-Checking Santa character wholesale.

I’m the first guest in a series where Kathy talks to MSers from around the world to find out about their experiences of diagnosis and treatment. Obviously she’s based in the US so there are some fairly obvious differences between her experience and mine in the UK.

But I’ve heard the next episode which features Robert Joyce from A 30 Minute Life and, even though he's only from Ireland, the variation between the care we receive is pretty staggering.