Monday, April 26th 2010

An evening out with the girls

It was only a matter of time before I found a weakness in the security systems that were holding me prisoner in my own house. For weeks now I’ve been carefully monitoring the patrol patterns of my carers guards, looking for a loophole that would gain me my freedom. I’d made friends with a few of the guards who had taken sympathy on me and together we had meticulously planned my jailbreak! Tonight would be the night. Jan had cut the power to the perimeter fence, spiked the patrol dog’s Boneo, and had the wheelchair on standby, whilst Debbie and Ann quietly smuggled me down the stairs past the guard towers just as the searchlights were pointing the other way…

On a more serious note I am very pleased to say that after more than a quarter of a year I have finally managed to get out of the house! Debbie had kindly arranged for me to have a meal out at the Portsmouth Arms in the company of some of my carers. The idea was that it would not only serve to get me some fresh air and out of the house, but also to see how difficult it would be for a couple of competent carers to physically handle me on and off the stairlift and into the wheelchair.

I’d been both excited and a little apprehensive. Excited for obvious reasons but apprehensive because of how bad my legs were becoming and whether they would be of any use by the end of the evening. Even stepping back onto the stairlift at the top of the stairs for the first time in months was a little worrying for me because of the unpredictability of my balance and strength left in my legs. It was not something I would attempt to try anymore on my own; in fact even walking past the stairwell each day causes me concern. But with the reassurance of my carers standing close by and making sure I came to no harm I felt confident enough to attempt it on my own. Who would have thought there would come a day in my life when I would be frightened to go up and down the stairs!

Things are a bit more difficult at the bottom of the stairs because the stairlift seat doesn’t rotate like it does at the top of the landing and it’s a bit more cramped. But with the help of Jan and Debbie they were able to help me stand up, shuffle sideways, and lower me into the waiting wheelchair which had been brought as close as possible. Phew, down and safe! Once downstairs I took a quick glimpse round at the surroundings that had become strangely unfamiliar and then we were on our way down the ramp and into the fresh air.

It’s amazing you know what we take for granted. For any able-bodied person leaving the house and walking down the street is no big deal, but just imagine for a moment what it must feel like if you’ve been staring at plasterboard walls and computer screens since the start of the year. I felt like a sponge; I soaked in the sights and sounds around me. It was a beautiful sunny evening, the sun was bathing the garden in a beautiful golden light backlighting all the spring bulbs and shrubs. Birdsong was in the air and the sky was a beautiful shade of blue. It felt good to be out smelling fresh air and feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. It felt good to be alive.

The Portsmouth Arms is about a 30 minute walk from my house, or at least it was at the pace we were travelling, which was fine by me as I had more time to soak up the atmosphere around me. Jan became my trusty chauffeur whilst Ann and Debbie were the tail-end Charlies! The Portsmouth Arms, although not an old pub, has been built in a traditional style with a lovely thatched roof (and the next time we go I must remember to get someone to take some photos of it!). Inside it’s all stone floors and wooden beams. We found ourselves a nice little alcove and enjoyed a meal and drink around a candlelit table. Very nice.

Back home and all the transfer and handling went much smoother than I had anticipated. The girls worked well as a team and had the glide about chair parked up close to the top of the landing so as to minimise the amount of time I would need to stand up. In fact that was the one thing that really surprised me this evening. Despite sitting in the wheelchair for over three hours I was still able to bear my own weight and walk to the bathroom, something I had not been able to do back at the start of the year when I had been in the wheelchair for a similar amount of time.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Debbie for organising the evening, to Jan for being my wheelchair attendant, and to all the girls for taking such good care of me and for giving me the opportunity to enjoy a night out in good company. I really enjoyed all the laughs! Hopefully we’ll be able to organise another one before too long.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures that were taken shortly after our successful jailbreak smile_regular.

With Debbie and Ann

With Debbie and Ann

With Jan

With Jan


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One Response to Monday, April 26th 2010

  1. jane c says:

    Oh, Mark! This is so lovely to see – I can completely empathise with how much you must have enjoyed it, after so long of being stuck indoors. I know how stir crazy Richard used to get, if he couldn’t get out and about, and he was never confined to barracks so early on in his illness as you have been, because I was always able to manage him (single-handed I might add, though I know carers aren’t allowed to – silly rules and regulations etc) on his stairlift, which sounds much the same design as yours. The fact that so many of your carers were able to get together at the same time to give you some social time is pretty amazing just in itself, when their time is usually like gold dust! Here’s hoping that you’ll be able to do it again soon!

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