Wheels for Feet

The day finally dawned when Hubby accepted my disability and the fact that despite nearly one hundred sessions of physio over the past two years to help with reoccurring bouts of tendonitis, numerous sessions of acupuncture to help control the pain, and a meniscus op, he agreed to let me buy a wheelchair so I could enjoy shopping trips to large shopping malls, supermarkets, DIY stores and sprawling garden centres etc.

A well-meaning physiotherapist had advised him about a year ago, that if I resorted to using a wheelchair I would not bother to try and walk. Rubbish – let her walk thirty meters in my shoes: The pain is so intense at times, I can barely walk from the car to the supermarket entrance let alone up and down all the aisles and then stand in the check-out queue for twenty minutes. This means I often wait in the car while hubby goes shopping. Thanks to her, I became a prisoner of my disability until I rebelled and had a meltdown. Now I can walk until the pain becomes unbearable and then continue in the wheelchair as a last resort.

I placed the order for my wheelchair from a catalogue at a health shop in the local shopping centre. After about ten days, we received notification that my order had arrived and was ready for collection.

I stared at the chair as it looked tiny in comparison to the one I’d recently tried in Lee Roy Merlin’s DIY store. I sat down and my bottom became wedged in the seat as fat surplus to space available oozed out from every available aperture of the chair. I looked up at the sales assistant.

‘This chair is a child’s chair, it’s way too small for me’, I said as I tried to extract myself from the chair which almost groaned with relief when we parted company.

‘Mrs. Carole, maybe if you lost weight the chair would fit’, she replied.

I looked at her and then at my husband as he shuffled from foot-to-foot and then found something worthy of his attention on the ceiling. Whether husband heard my sharp intake of dragon’s breath and feared I was about to eat her alive I don’t know, but at this point he took charge and another wheelchair was duly ordered with an extra-large seat.

Its first real outing was on a trip back to the UK and it would be on the day when there was torrential rain. We both got soaked as we quickly discovered, you can’t hold an umbrella while pushing a wheelchair and neither can the passenger as it obstructs the view.

One of the disadvantages of sitting in a chair is that people talk down to you and often, in more ways than one. I am already vertically challenged but this further reduction in my social standing – pun intended – was a little disconcerting. You also become more aware of not only people’s bulging bellies but the way dogs eye up your wheels as a potential place to cock their leg and leave their scent.

Our trip into town culminated in me mastering the art of a three-point turn and putting my chariot into reverse and an about-turn when hubby parked me in a row of buggies with screaming toddlers. You’ve got to be joking!

Back in Portugal, I plucked up the courage to take my new wheelchair for a night out on the town. I felt excited, yet apprehensive. We were meeting friends, going for a meal then a meander down through the rustic town of Lagos before staying overnight in a hotel so we could all enjoy a drink or two.

This was not only the first time I’d taken my wheelchair on a night out with friends but the first time we’d used it around the cobbled streets of Lagos. Fortunately, we found some street parking opposite the restaurant which meant I could walk rather than wheel. I will add, that despite barely being able to walk more than a few meters. I have been told by a doctor obtaining a disabled parking badge in Portugal is nigh on impossible… and probably explains why most of the disabled parking spaces are empty except for foreign tourists.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the quirks of pushing a wheelchair, or being the passenger, Lagos is not wheelchair friendly due to the steep, uneven, calcada, cobble-style streets with limited wheelchair-friendly slopes on kerbs.

As Hubby pushed me around the cobbled streets I began to giggle. My teeth rattled so much in reply to the uneven ground, I seriously wondered if my fillings would become dislodged which in turn led me to wonder how much fixant people wearing dentures would need to keep them in place!

Then, there are the landmines such as the missing calcada blocks which create holes just large enough for the front wheels of the wheelchair to get wedged in. The first one we found, due to lack of concentration whilst looking upwards at the Christmas lights, nearly catapulted me from my seat as the wheelchair came to an abrupt halt then lurched perilously sideways. We also had to contend with the raised drain covers and other assorted obstacles to the point the journey resembled drunken skiers trying to navigate a slalom course.

Other challenges aside, I was also on red alert looking for dogs’ poo which we jokingly refer to as landmines. It’s bad enough removing it from shoes, yet alone wheels and hands. Yuck.

Another quirk I notice when using a wheelchair is that some people talk down to you as if you are stupid or they trip over you while texting on their mobile phones.

Wheelchair challenges aside, we had an entertaining evening and a renewed determination to consult yet another ‘specialist’ for yet another opinion on my cantankerous knees and apply for a badge. We will see.

Lagos is not wheelchair friendly
Lagos is not wheelchair friendly

21 thoughts on “Wheels for Feet

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  1. Very sorry to read about your troubles. I had no idea that your knee had deteriorated so much. Perhaps you should think again about knee replacement surgery which has worked well for me.

    I know this is a serious subject, but your tale of trying the child’s wheelchair had us in stitches.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Having had to put up with peripheral;l neuropathy in my legs for a number of years I can well understand your feelings. I suffer very little pain but the gams simply refuse to work past short distances . . . I still manage with two walking sticks but the physio on a recent bushfure induced hospital stay suggested modern shaped crutches with the stabilizing point at elbow level and not up to the armpits. Being medically trained I am absolutely set to staying on the vertical to keep my balance and my weight down ! Disabled parking tickets are no problem whatsoever here – your own OP’s certificate and 10 minutes at the nearest motor registry office . . . Hope for the best for you, but, please try to walk more and more every day for the sake of your whole body health !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, EH. I have been caught between a rock and a hard place re exercise.as tendonitis was so severe I needed rest and ice. I am pleased to say that has subsided considerably so I now walk as much as possible even it is only short distances. I aim for over 3000 steps during the course of a day (recorded by fitbit) plus exercises to build strength

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Appreciate your situation more than you may believe. Just think there come times it is simply easier to say ‘I cannot’ when one should shout into the surrounds ‘Damn it, yes, I can’ ! Just a few minutes more of ‘homework; every day, well – most days of the week 🙂 ! Don’t think the lady in the shop was being rude . . . she sees people like you and me every day and knows what makes things work and progress . . . bestest . . . keep on . . .

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  3. Carole, I’m sorry your knee has deteriorated so much. Even though it would have been quite annoying to you and what a rude saleslady, I had to laugh at the small wheelchair episode.
    I think Portugal as a whole is not wheelchair or baby pram friendly at all!
    Best of luck to you as you learn to navigate your way around on a wheelchair 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, Portugal is not wheel or pushchair friendly … at least where I live. The calcada is a nightmare 😦 IT really annoys me the way people park their cars on the pavements so you are forced to push a wheelchair/pushchair on the road.

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  4. There is an obsession out there with the phrase ‘use or lose it’ amongst therapists and others. I am totally with this for anyone with no mobility or health issues, but if you have issues then surely it should be ‘be aware of your limitations and use it when you can as it will help’.

    So glad you rebelled, and really hope things improve.

    Liked by 1 person

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