When the girls decided to plan a trip to Legoland I was disappointed that I’d miss out. However much I might push myself to try, there was no way I would be able to walk around a theme park all day. The girls were kind enough to say that they’d take the boys with them and I settled for that.
When it came to picking a date I didn’t want to let go of the idea of joining them, of being left behind on yet another excursion. So I asked: “If I hired a wheelchair would you mind if I joined you?” The girls thought it was a fab idea. I had to run things by TB because he’s at that age where every breath I take has the potential to embarrass him but he was just glad that I’d get out and spend the day with them so all good there.
Hiring a chair seemed like a mission in itself. There’s a local store that offers hire and one assistant knew exactly what it was I needed. We agreed dates and a price and I filled out the required forms. I thought I was all sorted.
I went to collect the chair on the allotted date and the second assistant had no record of my booking. After much sorting through piles of junk he found my paperwork but couldn’t tell which chair I’d been put down to take. I explained what it was we would be doing and he brought out numerous chairs with missing parts before finally finding one that was intact. TB bundled it into the car and off we went.
Fifteen minutes later I received a phone call. The assistant felt that he’d given me the wrong type of chair; would I like to change it? So back to the store we went to collect a more sturdy (and marginally more comfortable) looking chair.
On the day, TB designated himself as my motor, despite frequent offers from stronger adults. It was interesting to say the least. The chair was much like a shopping trolley in that it had the tendency to veer in the opposite direction to which you wanted it to go. It also required a really solid shove to get it moving. TB had little concept of steering around the masses of people nor concept of how close he was getting to people’s ankles. I felt like a passenger in the front seat of a car with a very fast driver – I kept trying to steer and jam on the imaginary breaks. To his credit though, 12 year old TB spent pretty much the whole day pushing my 15 stone ass around the park. He’s stronger than I realised!
On previous trips we’ve rushed around the park like headless chickens trying to fit in as much as possible. This time around we took things slowly. Between the heat, the chair and two buggies we probably couldn’t have done it any other way.
Using a wheelchair was eyeopening in more ways than one. I certainly learned a lot over the course of the day. For example,
- The bog standard self-propelled wheelchair is not made for comfort. I ended up taking cushions for back support and felt like my knees were up at my chest – much higher than when I sit in a four legged chair at home.
- Some people will bend over backwards to jump out of your way (and pull their kids out of your path as well). I fully understand that a wheelchair user has no priority over the path but I appreciated their movement as our steering was not quick by any means.
- Other people seem to have no concept that you are there and will walk straight at you as if they fully expect you to move. I could half way understand this if I were on my own but when there’s someone the size of an almost-adult standing right behind you, it nearly seems rude. It should be noted that TB was better at playing chicken than any of these people!
- I am not good at relinquishing control. No matter how hard TB tried I was never quite where I wanted to be. This was no fault of his and more about me being me. I always wanted to be a little bit faster, a little slower, a little more over there. I guess it goes back to being a passenger in a car. I’m not very good at that either.
- Moving your own chair is absolutely knackering. Towards the end of the day I started trying to use those big back wheels a little to manoeuvre myself around. While I got pretty good at turning myself around to face where I wanted to be, any more than that really drained my arms. Even now, four days on, they still don’t feel quite right.
We had funny moments too. While the others queued for a ride, I, my friend and her toddler in a buggy went to get drinks. She pushed me, I pushed the buggy and everyone else had to jump out of the way. There was no way we could’ve stopped that train in a hurry. Then there was the moment when TB relinquished control to one of the six year olds, who sent me down the start of a dropped kerb and flying out of the chair. If only we had that one on film for You’ve Been Framed.
The result of the trip was three days feeling a great deal more fatigued and in pain than usual. It’s probably not been helped by a combo of manflu, laryngitis (today’s day four with no voice) and the runs but I have to take these things as they come. Still, we all had a great day and I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
I’d do it again, but next time I’m getting a power chair and some go faster stripes.