Thursday, August 26th 2010

Two nice surprises!

I’ve been feeling really tired and weak lately. It’s been getting harder to wake up in the mornings and even when I am awake I still don’t feel I have that much energy to tackle the day ahead. This morning I felt so tired that I went straight back to bed after all my personal care was done, and in an effort to conserve some energy didn’t get up until midday. It’s the first time since having MND that this has happened. It was probably just as well that I did because my carers and family had arranged a surprise birthday outing to Audleys Wood Hotel for afternoon tea and I was going to need some energy for that. But first they had to get me down the stairs…

Debbie had made arrangements with a private ambulance company to get me down the stairs and up again later in the day. So shortly after midday two very friendly ambulance men from Southern Country Ambulance Service, Darren and Andy, turned up and after having hoisted me onto a stretcher chair, carried me down the stairs. Being the nice guys that they were they even brought my wheelchair down the stairs to save my carers struggling. The last part of their involvement (until I returned home later in the day) was to transfer me from the stretcher chair to my wheelchair where I would sit patiently until the taxi arrived.

In the meantime Debbie had arranged another little surprise for me, and it wasn’t long before there was a knock at the front door and in walks Francesca, who I had not seen for a while, wearing a big smile and bearing a card and present for me! She had taken some time out of her work day to wish me a happy birthday and to see how I was. And so for a short while we were able to enjoy each other’s company and to catch up on what had been happening. I had missed Francesca’s involvement in my care (as well as her friendship, IT support and blog photographer rolls) and it had been a sad day when her other work commitments took over. But here she was with Ann and Debbie and for a brief moment it felt like old times. Well I just couldn’t let the moment go without getting some pictures so here they are…

An unexpected but very pleasant surprise visit from Francesca

With Francesca and happy 🙂

With Debbie and Ann, two of the three architects responsible for my birthday treats (the other being my aunt)

Ann and the birthday boy!

Sometime later a taxi pulled up outside the house to take me to the hotel. Unfortunately despite explaining to the taxi company exactly what sort of wheelchair I had at the time of making the booking (and them saying that they could do it), we soon hit problems. As I was wheeled up the side entry ramp into the taxi I almost had the top of my head chopped off as the taxi driver suddenly realised that I was sitting too tall. So back down the ramp we went and in the process grinding the chair on the pavement. A few adjustments later and I was more reclined in the chair so able to enter the taxi. Unfortunately in this reclined position the wheelchair could not be turned to face the rear seats, and as the taxi driver was quick to point out, without being able to do this he would not be able to take us anywhere. So in the confined interior of the taxi the chair had to be readjusted into an upright position so that it could be spun around and held in position by a safety belt. However, I was now in a very uncomfortable position. My head felt unsupported and liable to topple forwards unless I held it firmly in an upright position, however this meant that the top of my head was then being pressed firmly against the roof of the taxi. Just as well then that we didn’t have to travel that far out of town to reach the hotel because I certainly didn’t feel that safe and it was very uncomfortable. When we arrived at the hotel the taxi driver surprised us with the news that his particular vehicle was being taken off the road at 4 PM and that we would have to contact the booking office after 5 PM to arrange for return transport (never mind the fact that this had already been booked and made clear). Not a good way to start the afternoon.

Audleys Wood Hotel is a 72 bedroom four-star luxury hotel built in the 1880s and recently refurbished. We had to enter via a side entrance as I believe the front entrance isn’t wheelchair friendly. Even so, the corridors leading to the room we had reserved were rather narrow so some expert wheelchair driving was called for! The grand drawing-room where our afternoon tea was served was very ornate with its high ceiling, dark wood panelled walls, a large fireplace, hanging tapestries, a very long wooden table that you would need binoculars to see the end of, and high back padded chairs.

Our traditional afternoon tea arrived with pots of fresh leaf tea and silver trays filled with daintily cut finger sandwiches with various fillings including (of course) cucumber, ham and wholegrain mustard, and egg and cress. This was followed with freshly made (and still hot) scones with strawberry preserve and delicious clotted cream. And to finish off a large assortment of cakes were provided, but by this time I was struggling to find room! My appetite just isn’t the same anymore but hopefully everybody else in our little party had plenty to eat. They certainly seemed to be quite generous with the amount of food being offered but perhaps that was partly down to the fact that we had anticipated more people coming!

Not a great picture technically but one of the few I was able to do anything with from our afternoon spent at Audleys Wood Hotel. Shown here are my brother and his wife, my nephew, my cousin and my aunt and uncle

With my aunt Joan, cousin Suzanne and uncle Alan at Audleys Wood Hotel

When it came time to leave we were in for a shock. The taxi company informed us that they had no suitable vehicles available and were not even prepared to organise alternative transport for us via another company. Eventually Debbie managed to locate another company but it would mean being stuck at the hotel long after we were due to leave and jeopardising our meeting with the ambulance crew who would be getting me back upstairs. In the end it was Alli who saved the day by asking her father (who drives a minibus for disabled children) to come and pick us up. What a lifesaver! Unlike the taxi, this vehicle had a proper tailgate lift that made getting in and out so much easier, as well as a nice high roof and a means of locking the wheelchair to the floor. So I was able to travel home with the back of the wheelchair reclined slightly and feeling a lot more safe and secure. By the time we got back home the ambulance crew were already waiting for us and within a short space of time I was back in the safety of my study.

In the stretcher chair and ready for carrying back upstairs! With Darren and Andy, the friendly ambulance men whose job it was to get me safely up and down the stairs.

So that was it, my afternoon out was over in a flash. I’m sorry that there aren’t more pictures to share. The abysmal weather prevented us from going outside and making use of the grounds, and the inside of the hotel was rather dark (although some might say atmospheric), so my camera struggled to produce good pictures when set to ‘auto everything’ which is the only way that other people will use it.

My thanks to everyone who came along this afternoon. I hope you all enjoyed yourselves. For those who couldn’t make it, please see me after class! Special thanks go to Debbie, Ann and my aunt Joan, who organised the afternoon. Also a special thanks goes to Alli and her father for saving the day! And lastly, thank you Francesca for dropping in this afternoon, I was really happy to see you again.

Mark

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