Saturday, January 2nd 2010

Slight change of format for the New Year. From now on I’ll be posting the calendar entries as near to the time they occurred as possible rather than waiting up to a month. Scattered in amongst these entries will be the special topics. Let’s see how this flies.

An afternoon at the cinema

Avatar, the film that I have been eagerly awaiting for all last year finally hit the cinemas shortly before Christmas. My brother Jason very kindly took me to see it this afternoon at my local Odeon complex. Before disability appeared on my radar I had a preference for the Vue Cinema in town as it offered larger screens and a superior viewing experience. Unfortunately though it’s not the best place to go if you’re wheelchair bound as the disabled seating is right at the front of the screen which forces you to crane your head back as if staring up at the side of a skyscraper from street level. In contrast to this wheelchair spaces are allocated at the rear of the Odeon near the doors so you benefit from both a good viewing position and easy access.

Avatar had been in the making for a number of years and was generating a lot of hype because of its revolutionary film production methods. With James Cameron (the director of Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator, Titanic et al), as the creative force behind the movie, expectations were high. I was certainly curious to see how realistic and believable a whole computer-generated world would look. I was not disappointed! Avatar is simply stunning to look at. There is no doubt at all that it represents a major leap forward in how a movie can be portrayed. I sat there enthralled admiring the level of detail that had gone into the making of the movie. It’s hard to believe that the only real elements are the human actors.

I’m not going to spoil the whole story for anybody who has yet to see it but it is basically about a paraplegic marine who travels to the world of Pandora to negotiate (via a remote-controlled Avatar body of a native) a peaceful resettlement of its indigenous population who are located directly above a vast deposit of a precious mineral which is highly valued back on Earth. At its heart the story is about the strong preying on the weak and the greed of large corporations. But it is also a love story about an outsider finding a new way of life. I suppose on that level comparisons could be made with films such as Dances with Wolves. In fact some of the critics have cruelly dubbed it ‘Dances with Smurfs’ (because of the skin colour of the natives). Anyway, highly recommended whichever version you might see. Yes versions because this is one of those films you can either watch in traditional 2-D, digital 3-D or 3-D IMAX. I saw it in 2-D as wearing one pair of glasses was enough to deal with without worrying about 3-D glasses which I thought might cause me a problem on such a long film. Mind you having just said that I would imagine the film to be absolutely stunning on a 3-D IMAX screen.

On my knees

After the film finished we left the cinema and headed back to the car which was parked just outside in the disabled parking area. Unfortunately I was brought quite literally back to Earth with a bump. After sitting in my wheelchair for a few hours my legs had grown quite weak (in a similar fashion to when I had spent a day in London back in August). So when I tried to stand up (with the help of my brother) to walk the few steps to the passenger seat my legs simply buckled and gave way and I found myself on my knees on the roadside. My poor brother had to somehow struggle to keep me upright and from falling over face down whilst at the same time half carrying me towards the car. There’s not much of me these days but even so I’m still heavy enough if my entire weight has to be supported by somebody else. Being carried in this fashion I felt completely helpless, like nothing more than a dead weight. Both my arms and my legs had no energy in them and my head was drooping forward. Frustratingly there was no one around to help us but eventually my brother managed to get me bundled into the car.

Once we arrived back home I had to wait patiently in the car whilst my brother went searching for a neighbour who could help him get me indoors. With two pair of hands I was lifted out of the car, loaded into the wheelchair, wheeled into the house, lifted onto the stairlift, taken upstairs, and placed in my study. By this time the call of nature beckoned so I had to endure a similar embarrassing situation to the one I did back in September when I took a fall, i.e. being held up from behind by my neighbour whilst I stood in front of the loo with my brother assisting with my clothes. This disease destroys all your dignity!

I stayed in my study all evening too frightened to move and knowing full well that at least for the time being my legs had given up the ability to bear my weight. Francesca arrived to do my evening meal but all I could do was pick at it. My appetite had deserted me. All I could think about where the implications if my leg strength didn’t return. I felt frightened to drink too much in case I needed to visit the loo and couldn’t. What a situation to get into!

My brother returned late that evening to assist Francesca get me into bed. With my legs so unresponsive it was very difficult for the pair of them to lift me out of my study chair and onto a glide about commode which was used to transport me from my study into my bedroom. From there it was a transfer to the edge of the bed where I was undressed and put to bed. The commode was left in a ready state adjacent to the side of the bed in case I needed it in the night.

On my own again with the lights out and lying paralysed and helpless in bed I pondered what tomorrow would bring. The question is have I turned a corner or is this just a blip? Will I regain my strength or is life about to get a whole lot more difficult? The last time my leg strength had deserted me was back in September in the A&E department of our local hospital. But that was months ago and in that time my legs have continued to waste so it may not be so easy to recover the lost strength. But even if I do I know full well that it is only a matter of time before I lose the ability to see the world when standing up. So depressing.

Before I sign off today I would just like to say a big thank you Jason for taking me to the cinema. Really enjoyed the movie, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time – and the first I’ve ever seen in a wheelchair. Thanks for everything you did to make sure I got home safely. After today’s episode I’m sure you might disagree with that old Hollies song ‘He ain’t heavy he’s my brother’ smile_regular. And thank you Francesca for everything you did today to try and lift my spirits when I was feeling a bit down and fearful of the future.

Thinking about today’s movie, I could do with an Avatar body myself right about now smile_regular.

Mark

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