Getting used to my new surroundings were going to take some time…and toll..
It was not easy, living in a tiny one bedroom flat, in a reasonably confined space.
It was a matter of trial and error, more error than trial.. not only did I have to get used to doing everything from a wheelchair, but I had to contend with neighbours wanting to “pop in” for a “cuppa” and a chat.. luckily this was mostly during the day whilst my wife was at the hospital. I was still feeling pretty washed out so didn’t care for too much conversation, but eventually we got into a routine and things were flowing along nicely.
Then along came Christmas, up went the tree and the gifts under it. I recall it being in the corner by the kitchen bench and a couple of times, went close to knocking it over, but.. thankfully that never happened. The wheelchair I had, was ancient by today’s standard and cumbersome and barely fitted through the doors, again..somehow we managed.
Getting in and out of the unit was tight, but the ramp installed at the front entrance worked and served the purpose just fine. This gave me the freedom to explore the surroundings and I did more and more as the days went by. I knew that the time was coming to start my rehabilitation process, something I was not looking forward to, as the stories that I had heard, were less than welcoming.
The day duly arrived and I was picked up by the ambulance. No hoists in those days, lifted in on the gurney and chair folded alongside. There were other people in this vehicle, none who spoke, they just glared!!
Yep! I just knew this was going to be an interesting and challenging time.
That it was, right from that first glance at the building, an old prefab army barrack with rotting timber, netting on the rafters to hold the pigeons at bay, and keep the rats and mice out..or in in this case.. Grey drab and downright degrading, is probably the politest way to describe this facility, the forgotten building, the one no one wanted to work in. Thankfully rehabilitation centres today are a far cry from this.. The depressed looks on the faces of staff, patients and anyone that had to visit this place, did nothing to make me feel great.
So, I decided I was going to change this! for starters, I could not abide by the fact that everyone was shouted at, talked over, and generally denigrated.
Not for me!! I rebelled.. the first orderly that shouted at me, I let fall on deaf ears. I totally ignored him.. He was starting to lose his patience and was becoming louder and more and more aggressive ! Then he lost it and I swear, if one of the social Workers had not been observing this interaction between us, he would have wacked me!
In a calm and collected voice, I quietly suggested he not should and raise his voice..he might just get a better response from people.
How dare I question his authority? well, I did.. I was taken into the office and read the riot act.. too bad, I will not be treated like a second class citizen.. Digging my toes in was not hard for me, again it comes down to that thing called “ATTITUDE”.
I started talking about the challenges that one would have to face, and how shouting was not going to get anyone anywhere, I suggested that patients be spoken to as the staff would want to be spoken to, not shouted at or talked across while they sat in the room. They too were real people and had the god given right to be treated with respect.
I really did not like the times that I had to endure their insults and at every opportunity, I questioned the methods being used. To be told that I had no idea what it was like to have no legs by someone who had two!! just made me more determined to dig in and rebut their every word.
My independence was not going to be taken from me by anyone and I guess it was about this time that I made a promise to myself, that I would never lose sight of two things, I had been given a second chance at life, and I would never lose my Attitude. Remaining positive and gaining more and more confidence as each day passed, I would not let anyone talk down to or over me and above all.. I would be their equal in every way.. I would just look different!
I guess over the years, this philosophy has paid dividends.
Sitting in meeting rooms, out and about with friends and family, in my daily life, people have never treated me any different.. I am just another person in their circle for what ever that reason.. so much so, that people who I met very quickly overcame their fear of looking at someone in a wheelchair with no legs. They were more embarrassed when inviting me to a function or after dinner speaking engagement for forgetting that I was this guy in the chair with no legs that might have needed a ramp to get into the building.
It never once bothered me….