Wednesday 24 March 2021

up, up and away?

First off, I know there was a big one-year anniversary yesterday. This post is about something else. And I know that my privilege is that the past year has left my family and I mostly unscathed. 

Three years ago today, myself and Mrs D nervously made our way to Philadelphia for a one-and-a-half day conference. Our first time travelling with my wheelchair, and our first time in years travelling just the two of us, even now it seems mad. But it was so needed. 

December 2016: I lost my job and gain a whole mess of financial insecurity. Also at this point I was finishing the first of two failed PIP applications. Good times. 

January to June 2017: I begin engaging with the U.K.'s Kafka-esque benefits system. Dispiriting, especially when combined with applying for many jobs. I eventually got a short term marketing consultancy position. When this ended in June I ran headfirst into two back-to-back relapses, with two separate courses of steroids. As I'm recovering I have my first face-to-face PIP assessment. I think it went well. It did not, and in July my application was turned down. 

August 2017 to January 2018: I reapplied for PIP alongside applying for a number of different jobs. None of these applications were successful, and I was turned down for PIP in January 2018. We then began the appeal process. 

Around this time I got a message from Health Union about their conference in March in Philadelphia. They were offering free accommodation as well as meeting a chunk of our travel costs. For a one-and-a-half day conference. What a mad idea. Who ever thought of going to Philadelphia?

By February we'd received a number of knock backs so it seemed like we had nothing to use. Which is where we came in. 

We flew from Manchester early on Saturday morning, arriving in Philadelphia by lunchtime. A bit of sightseeing on Sunday, a full day at the conference on Monday, finishing at lunchtime on Tuesday, one last wander around, flying overnight and getting back home mid-morning on Wednesday. 

It still seems mad that we did it. But everything seemed to pick up following that short trip. 

In May I got my PIP award (and a couple of years later I reapplied and it was changed into a 10-year settlement). In Philly I met Kathy from FUMS and this obviously led to me following an entirely new career path

But the main thing was, it really gave us a huge boost. It was a crazily short trip, and fairly decadent. But at that point we really had nothing left to lose. 

In this case, it was a reminder that travel really can broaden our minds, and showed what we, personally, could achieve. I'd happily go back there - just as soon as I can think of an aeroplane as anything other than a high speed tube of death, crammed full of germs.