Wheely Interesting Thoughts

So I don’t write much these days, I don’t have the time or energy and I kind of feel like I don’t have much to write about that wouldn’t be either self indulgent or read like a medical textbook! However its been over a year now since I became a part-time wheelchair user and got my electric Wheelchair Buzz and I’ve been thinking for a few weeks it would be good to put some thoughts down on paper, being a visually impaired electric wheelchair user and a guide dog owner in the UK is still a very rare thing so I kind of want to share in an attempt to help others.

The first run down of this will be some general thoughts and observations and then I intend to do some bullet point lists because everybody loves a good list.

The boring bit

Buzz is an Invcare Fox and I chose to have him in blue, he is on a lease from the Motorbility Scheme meaning I pay for him. A substantial amount of my weekly benefit pays for Buzz each week I also had to pay an upfront deposit and pay for necessary adaptations. I chose the Fox because of its ability to break down and fold to fit in a car, it was the most rugged and easily transportable chair I could find.

But wait your blind?

Yer I was terrified! I knew this was something I had to do to keep my independence and mobility but in reality I was very anxious about the whole thing. The thought of injuring another person or my Guide Dog Ollie terrified me and I mean terrified me! my first tentative sessions of driving Buzz I was on full alert using all my senses even though I had sighted people with me who were supportive encouraging and telling me I was a natural. From this test drive I went on to learn to use a long cane from Buzz

Learning to use a cane from a wheelchair

For me the first step was learning to use a cane with my left hand, I’m right-handed and had always struggled to hold and use my cane properly with my left hand. it felt alien at first but after looking at the way I grip the cane and some practice it became more natural. during this time I aimed to do extra cane practice whilst walking to get used to using the cane I learned though doing this that oh boy did I have a weak left wrist! The sweeping motion is exactly the same only the angle is obviously a bit different and you need a longer long cane. Initially going in a straight line is really difficult because you have to get used to one wrist making the arc for your cane and the other driving your chair. Sometimes the chair driving hand tries to copy your cane hand and you move from side to side unintentionally – I was reassured everyone does it. In my initial lessons I felt like I would never get the hang of it and then add in holding Ollie on the lead controlling her and I thought this is impossible!

by far the hardest part is that your brain has to focus on two or three things at once it takes a huge amount of concentration to get the cane skills down correctly to keep you safe and drive the powerchair. It is hard work, so next time you see me making it look effortless remember that it isn’t!

Having a good scanning technique is incredibly important if you are using a wheelchair a slip of a curb or down a step could result in flipping the chair with you in it and that would not end well.

Once I had mastered the local area the next step was to try to get on the bus again I was terrified but probably not for the reasons you might think.

As a new part-time wheelchair user I was really worried about the reaction of other people on the bus and the bus drivers – yes i was worried about what people where thinking about me. I was also concerned about the dreaded reverse round the corner and all the poles on the bus to get into the wheelchair space… there is a lot to bump into! My first attempt at getting on and off the bus it was raining and the bus was leaning on a camber towards the pavement it was an out of service bus and there was no pressure but it did not fill me with confidence. the combination of wet and sloping meant that every time I tried to get off the bus my wheelchair slid and I had very little control I thought if its going to be like this everytime I wont be getting the bus very often. Thankfully its really not like that all the time and after more practice and then introducing Ollie to the idea we now travel by bus regularly in Buzz.

The results of all that training

This is the best bit even when I am really poorly I can now get Ollie out for a walk or get to the hospital or my GP. I can now take ollie for a free run independently without the help of another person which has been so good for both of us. I can enjoy walking along the shore and stopping to watch the world go by and take pictures. I can take ollie for really long walks and go to events and carnivals without constantly looking for somewhere to sit down. At times when im fatigued I can still go out and enjoy life without pushing my body beyond its limits.

My wheelchair means I can still be me!

And with that I will sign off for now but there is more to come on this topic

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Medpac – Very Orange But in a Good Way

I received an Amazon order in the post this afternoon and it was my bright orange Medpac and I’m very impressed.

This Will not be a full review I’ve only had it a few hours but I wanted to share as they have sizes and shapes to suit all needs and I’m genuinely impressed by what I have seen so far.

They are no joke bright orange this is good because in my case in contains epipens and they need to be found quickly if they are needed.

I ordered the one to fit two epipens and it fits 2 epipens snugly it has a  clip on the side of it and helpful little cards to put important information on.

I’ve only had it an afternoon and already someone has asked me where I got it so here is a link Medpack Link

#DWP & #ATOS at it again please read! – #disability #ESA & #ATOS

I just read an article that has hugely saddened me, please keep reading and follow the link to get the full story.

A blind woman has been made seriously physically ill by ATOS and the DWP working in a way that totally disregards the Equality Act.

Having just read the facts of what happened I am so stunned that I really don’t know what to say.

The matter boils down to one of what’s sometimes called a print disability. The term print disability can be used to describe anyone who is unable or would struggle to read standard print. It’s an umbrella term and can be used to describe conditions such as total blindness, dyslexia and intellectual disabilities.

In this case the lady in question uses Braille or audio instead of standard print and ATOS & DWP are unable to produce this.

They then told her that she would have to find someone to fill out the form for her.

The stress of this landed her in hospital.

As I said at the beginning this saddens me you might think that’s a strange reaction, maybe it is but for me it’s personal.

As I’ve mentioned before my mum is almost totally blind her way of dealing with written correspondence is Braille.

My mum requested the same form as the woman in this story in Braille and got the response at the other end of the phone that said ‘I’m not sure if we do Braille but we should I will try and get it for you’.

The form the arrived in standard print with a deadline to have it completed and the threat that missing that deadline will result in loss of benefits.

My mum is lucky she got help from my dad and a local charity but for thousands of other people this is not the case.

I have also had help to fill out the form in question. I’ve also had the stress of trying to get it done in time for the deadline bearing in mind I get one hour of support a week!

What Is Hypermobility Syndrome?

This article really sums up my experince of joint Hypermobility, its written by the fantastic people at the Hypermobility Syndrome Association (HMSA).

Below is a brief quote from the article that neatly sums up what hypermobility is.

However some hypermobile people can injure their joints, and their ligaments, tendons and other ‘soft tissues’ within and around a joint. This is because the joints twist or over extend easily, may partially dislocate (or ‘sublux’), or in a few cases may actually dislocate. These injuries may cause immediate pain and sometimes also lead to longer-term pain.

The majority of people recover from an injury though this may be slower than normal. Some hypermobile people, however, either recover only partly or continue to repeatedly injure various parts of their body. This is one presentation of JHS.

These problems can interfere with daily activities, schooling, work etc. The pain associated with this can become widespread and persistent and might initially be diagnosed as or confused with another condition called Fibromyalgia.

As you may have seen if you follow me on twitter I dislocated my thumb on Friday evening. I did this doing something simple that would cause no problem for most people – tearing off a piece of duct tape!

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Former Archdeacon of Wells, Dick Ackworth, denounces unfair ‘benefits test’ – read why and sign his petition. #ukmh #MentalHealth

My own ‘medical’ was an absolute farce!

My assessor was provided with evidence from all my consultants but still when it came to my visual acuity test I said what I could see and my assessor said ” now try really hard”. As if if I put enough effort in I wouldn’t be blind!

My mum is also going through an ESA appeal as they found her fit for work when she quite clearly isn’t!

These tests cause nothing but stress and are carried out in a way that is often demeaning and causes distress.

They are not fit for purpose.

New non-emergency health phone number to launch

Please see: BBC News – New non-emergency health phone number to launch.

Now my first question here is do we really need one?

NHS direct has come under a lot of flak for taking doctors and nurses out of hospitals and putting them in call centres – They also have to take action for the worst case senario when someone calls them which often leads to people being Ambulanced to hospital when they don’t neccessicarly need it.

I recently had the experience of being involved in an accident one evening, I should have gone to Hospital, a walk in centre (well at the time more hop in) would have been ideal but NO!

My local hospital with a walk in centre closes its doors at 9pm minor accidents and injuries do not happen in Gosport after this time.

This makes the nearest hospital with any form of A&E style care more then 10 miles away according to Google maps the journey would take around 45minutes in a car – I shudder to think about the cost of that in a taxi.

As it happened I was totally unable to get any treatment after my accident, the next morning I decided the pain of walking was not worth the 5 minutes down the road to the local hop in centre  so didn’t bother, had it been open at the time of my accident I would have defiantly sought medical attention.

So what would we all rather  – A new phone number managed in a call centre with lots of nice forms and paperwork and computer systems that break OR Hospitals actually being open, with enough nurses and Doctors and HCA’s and cleaners and receptionists and the right equipment when you need it?

A Poem For You

I have fallen in LOVE ❤ with an album of late, the band Refuge released there Album Allowd A Voice (link is to iTunes) back in October and I have been playing it ever since! Possibly what I like most about it is that the songs are jammed in-between poetry and today I am going to share one of the poems with you because I think its fab!

The Universal Disease By Jeannine Nield

Someone starving, bleeding, crying
Screaming, tortured, slowly dying
How do you feel when you see
These scenes of pain and misery?
A crippled man with sightless eyes
With him you surely sympathise

A women battered black and blue
No doubt receives your pity too
How good we are at sympathy
When pain and torture we can see

But What if tears are left uncried
And screams and anger locked inside
With memories of abuse and fear
And hopelessness year after year?
As a child I was neglected
Ridiculed, ignored, rejected
Sexually abused by Dad
Yet grew up thinking ‘I’ was bad

Despite this I did well at school
But still I suffered ridicule
With others I could not relate
And so turned inward all my hate
No confidence, no self esteem
To be accepted was my dream
Tried sex and drugs to fill the void
But there was nothing I enjoyed
Poured out my heart to my GP

Where upon he labelled me
And down my spine there went a chill
As he pronounced me ‘MENTALLY ILL’

The fact that I’ve a high IQ
And that I’m kind and loving too
And with great talent have been blessed
Means nothing – because I’m depressed!
Twice I’ve attempted suicide
It would be better if I’d died
Because I’m still ignored, rejected
Ridiculed, neglected

Many so called ‘normal folk’
Treat my illness as a joke
Full of anger, scorn and greed
They seem oblivious to my need
And yet it’s ‘normal’ types like these
That fuel the fire of my disease
But I would rather be like me
And try to live in harmony
Than have a heart that’s full of hate
And skin as thick as armour-plate

You could help me to get well
To climb out of this living hell
Offer me a helping hand
Show me that you understand
Put away your needless fears
And all your preconceived ideas

‘MENTALLY ILL’ is just a label
Yes – I’m insecure, unstable
But if you’d lived my life instead
You, too, would be depressed – or dead!

Corneal Calamity

Well its been almost 2 weeks now since I saw a corneal specialist at the eye unit, meaning I now have 2 eye constants! For those not in the know the cornea is the clear window at the front of the eye, it plays a role  in shaping the eye and keeping it at the right pressure.

For a while now i have known I have a problem with mine, it all started way back when I started trying to wear contact lenses again, I was getting on fine with them, and gradually increasing the time I spent wearing them, not wearing glasses was great! As far as I was aware there where no problems until I went for a check up and it was found that my corneas on the other hand HATED the change and where dye was placed in my eye they shone back brightly in such a shade of fluorescent orange that the optometrist doing my contact lens stuff was utterly shocked and ran off in search of a camera. She didn’t find a camera but immediately stopped all talk of contacts and reffered me to see my eye consultant, this is probably approaching 2 years ago.

I was diagnosed with corneal oedema, basically flid filled sacks where forming on my cornea as a reaction to having higher than normal intraocular pressure (caused by Glaucoma) a change in medication and no more contacts for me and the general consensus of the consultants I saw was that all would be well.

unfortunately that was not the case, my corneas have continued to be cloudy, and got cloudier. To be perfectly honest I have not really noticed this except maybe when I am very tired I fund I struggled to read even large print as everything is just rather blurry. I was refered to  a corneal specialist.

Now we are back up to me sitting in the doctor’s office a few weeks ago, I was fully expecting on seeing Mr Corneal Specialist that I would simply have another change of medication and that would be that problem solved, what I was essentially told was totally unexpected and a total shock to the system.

It turns out I need a corneal transplant in both eyes, this involves taking the cornea from a donor (yes a DEAD PERSON) and implanting it into my eye, once my own damaged bit of cornea has been removed.

This is because the cells right at the back of my cornea are dying as a result of all the surgery I had as a baby that saved my sight in the first place, apparently it’s happening to everyone who had the kinds of surgery I had back in 1988. My cousin born a few years before me with the same eye conditions has exactly the same problem. So the death of the cells in the back of my cornea is causing them to break away from the rest of my corneal float around and get in the way turning all cloudy and full of fluid.

Cornea transplants are quite common and are more often than not successful and rejection is relatively rare, and if the worst does happen they simply repeat the surgery. However for me there are more risks, my eyes are smaller than average and I don’t have a lens which is normally critical in helping the eye keep its shape during the surgery.

On the plus side the surgery might improve my vision, I say this but too much of an increase of my vision would defiantly be a negative for me. I have always been at very best partially sighted, if I was offered a drug that could get me full sight tomorrow with no risks and a 100% guaranteed success rate – I would not take it! I am happy the way I am being blind is part of my entire identity I have never really known any different to suddenly be fully sighted I would struggle to cope with such massive life change.

On the other hand the surgery might not work, it could all go terribly wrong and might damage my vision further.

However by far the worst case scenario is that I do nothing, slowly the condition of my corneas will deteriorate and I will lose all the vision I have, the amount of pain I experience in my eyes would also increase. This scares me, as much as I don’t want to be fully sighted I don’t want my vision to deteriorate dramatically either, I value the eyesight I have enormously and the thought of going totally blind is heartbreaking for me, it would without a doubt turn my life upside down, as it would with anyone.

It’s been a difficult few weeks trying to work out what I want to do about all this ready for when I speak to Mr Corneal Consultant again in a  few months time, the decision actually seems clear, I have to go for surgery and just hope an pray everything goes to plan. To further complicate matters I am not ashamed to say I am rather phobic of hospitals, them make me incredibly uneasy. I am lead to believe that the surgery requires a 2-3 day stay in Hospital. I can just about cope with a visit to the eye unit the thought of spending time actually IN hospital scares the pants off me – As it would lots of other people I’m sure.

I see Mr Macular Consultant at the end of this month and there was talk when I saw Mr Corneal Consultant that I need to see a Glaucoma specialist as well as things are not to stable in that department at the moment either, apparently I may have come to the end of the road when it comes to glaucoma medication too, meaning I might need more eye surgery to do something for my glaucoma too.

Overall in it’s a particularly unhealthy time for my eyes, but there is still hope!

For those who like to watch disgusting things here’s a link to a Youtube Video of the type of surgery I need, I warn you it’s not nice to watch!

Spurred into action

Well bloggers its been a while quite frankly hasn’t it? In truth I have been rather apathetic when it comes to keeping the blogosphere updated in the world of Jemma Brown, this is in part has been due to sheer busyness but also a slight lack of motivation.

However this morning all that has gone I am ready to blog I am unsure as to whether it is the sleep deprivation, the mixture of caffeine and sugar rushing through my system or just my puzzlement and need to share it with someone who will understand – not that I totally expect this blog post to be understood by the masses. This last view point is not because it is complicated but because i myself am confused.

I’ve just read that NICE is withdrawing funding for the cancer drug Avastin.

The article is sketchy but this is a worry for me, Avastin is the drug that I periodically have injected into my right eye to help prevent the impending explosion of blood vessels that will without being kept in check result in my loosing all the vision in my right eye.

The treatment I have received three times now (I think – it might be two, I honestly can’t remember) without it I would have lost all the vision in my right eye by now. Don’t get me wrong my right eye is rubbish, it has always been the less useful of the two but as i am sure my readers will appreciate any vision no matter how little is precious.

So anyway back to the point in hand I am still researching as to whether the drug is also being withdrawn for its use in the treatment of Wet Macular Degeneration… Its a complicated issue so I am going to just ask my consultant when I see him next week.