Do you remember Boro Pat? It was a mildly offensive video on YouTube that was popular a few years ago. It featured footage of Postman Pat dubbed with very colourful language. We thought it was hilarious.
We’ve started making a few references to that silly video recently – mainly the bit when Postman Pat goes charging around a corner in his bright red van. Because now Mum has an electric wheelchair, we know she is a menace on the road. And it still makes her laugh.
My partner’s parents kindly bought the chair as a wedding present for my mum. I know they will read this post, and I know how often we have said thank you, but I have to say it again, because we are so immensely grateful for the gesture. It changes everything.
Mum’s NHS wheelchair wasn’t fantastic, but we made do. What’s the Latin for ‘we make do’? That should be my family’s motto. No matter what, we make do, we get through. That’s what we were doing with her chair.
But it was getting difficult. Mum’s husband has been in pain after an operation. My sister has problems with her hands, which requires her to have steroid injections every six months, and often wear splints. Even I sprained my wrist pushing the chair; without back breaks you have to pull the chair towards you as you push her forward. It really hurt.
With these problems, her trips out couldn’t be quite so spontaneous. The dog was walked less often at the park and more often on the quiet fields behind her house. In a way, it made her slightly more reclusive, which isn’t a good thing for anyone.
Then there’s poor Mum out front, while we all stood behind. She struggles to talk to us as it is, so when we’re stood behind her, it’s very difficult. Her iPad is too quiet to be heard on a busy street. Tim came up with a genius idea – he taped headphones to the frame of the wheelchair so she could plug them into the iPad and he’d be able to hear her better. Not ideal when there’s more than one person out with her, but a decent solution.
So, although we made do, and we’re grateful to the NHS for providing a means for her to get out of the house, it was far from ideal.
We purchased an ex-demo power wheelchair and had it fitted with dual controls. The ability for Mum to control the chair was the main reason we were buying it – to give her the independence she has been unable to enjoy over the past few months. However, forward planning led us down the path of dual controls, which was more difficult than we anticipated. The day may well come than Mum cannot steer herself anymore, and we are aware that we wouldn’t be able to afford to replace the chair. This had to be the one.
Yet dual controls only seemed to come in the normal wheelchairs that have a motor stuck on them – fine for now, but not for the future. We wanted a chair with a headrest, which will provide Mum with more support should the day come that she needs it.
We stumbled across the chair largely by accident. Tim’s mother had been in a wheelchair towards the end of her life, so he approached the local business that had helped them then. It was a coincidence that they had this ex-demo chair, with it’s lowered price putting it within our price range. We were perhaps a little hasty in purchasing it, but we didn’t want it to slip through our fingers.
She has now had the chair for two weeks, and she’s slowly getting used to it. She’s learning about speed limits she wasn’t aware existed and has probably broken. She loves being able to speed off, leaving us behind – like a puppy let off its leash. Teenagers on street corners – beware! To this little menace you look like skittles, and she’s rolling your way.
The NHS won’t cover any lessons or the driving test she was told she would have to pass to qualify for an NHS power chair. So she’s learning as she goes, practicing on the (mostly) quiet street I grew up on. I still might invest in some ‘L’ plates though.
We probably would have persisted on the NHS route without my partner’s parents’ kind gesture, but it would have taken months at least. She couldn’t start the process until she’s moved into an adapted house (despite the fact she still walks around the house), so it just wasn’t an option yet. It just wasn’t on our radar until the possibility was offered to us.
It really has changed everything though. We can walk beside her, rather than behind. Her smile lights up her face, just because she has been given back a small amount of independence, when she was certain it would continue to just slip away.
We walked the pug last Sunday – my sister, mother and I. We were out almost two hours. Oscar is almost ten – the poor bugger was knackered! He even had a lie down twice. Well, he had the opportunity. We bumped into people Mum hasn’t seen for a long time, all of whom were happy to see her out and about, doing what she loved to do before the diagnosis was known. Dog walking friends, friends from Weightwatchers, even my best friend’s mum, all stopped for a chat. And although she struggled to talk back, she was evidently so happy.
Mum cries a lot. Sometimes it is too much for her to deal with. Sometimes she feels tired and demoralised. She often feels scared. For us who love her, seeing her smile makes everything better, and her chair has given her something to not just smile about – but beam about.