Anyone who follows me on Twitter will likely know that on Saturday April 19th I attended the final tutorial for B203. For most people this would be seen as a normal thing, just another appointment to make space for, nothing to be majorly proud of. But not for me. For me the fact I managed to get to the room, lasted for the duration (almost 6 hours) AND enjoyed myself was nothing short of a miracle. I hadn’t been to any tutorials since the first one in October and they were 3 hours long. So to say I am proud of myself is an understatement.

I learned a number of things that day and they weren’t all related to my course, however there was some really useful tips for revising for the exam! One major thing I learned is that not all ramps are wheelchair friendly; again we had a room at a hotel in Chelmsford (not the ballroom this time round tho!) Getting into the hotel wasn’t a problem, it was entering the allocated room which proved challenging. The ramp was at a 30-40 degree angle. Far too steep to get a wheelchair up or down without the occupant being flung from the chair!! This we learned the hard way with my Dad attempting to push me up or down the ramp, me ending up halfway out of the wheelchair before we realised that the ramp was too steep and the foot pedals of the wheelchair were getting caught. In the end Dad rolled the wheelchair up on it’s two back wheels (with me in it, of course!). But that shouldn’t be the case and that ramp should be less steep so the room is easily wheelchair accessible.

Anyway I thought I’d put together a list of things I did to help ensure I was able to last the day, as well as things I’ve thought of since that would have made coping that little bit easier:

Make sure your tutor is aware of your illness and how it affects you.

I’ve always made sure to be open about my M.E. to my tutor and fellow students on my Tutor Group Forum. This way there is less explaining to do if you have to leave early or have a break; in fact throughout my tutorial my tutor regularly checked if I was okay and asked if I needed a break!

If necessary go in your wheelchair.

Not only does it conserve energy on walking to the room but it also ensures you have a chair you know you can sit in for a long period – I don’t know about anyone else but I find certain chairs much more tiring to sit in than others. Taking my wheelchair means I know I can sit for a certain amount of time without too much problems.

Take cushions for the chair/wheelchair.

If these make your wheelchair more comfortable, or are likely to make the chair there more comfortable take a cushion (or two!). I only took one for my wheelchair and in hindsight I’d have been better with two or perhaps a different cushion to support my back for that length of time. 

Take some spare painkillers with you. 

You may end up looking a bit strange, popping pills mid-tutorial. But if it means you’ll be able to stay longer who cares?! Two and a half hours into my tutorial I found I needed some painkillers as my back was starting to ache from sitting up so I took some paracetamol which I generally always have stashed in my handbag. It meant I didn’t have to go home early. 

Take a packed lunch, drink and snacks.

While most people will probably pop out to get something to eat during the break, or take their lunch out to the cafe area (if available) I found it best staying put in the room with my own packed lunch. Not only did it mean I didn’t have to use energy moving to another part of the hotel, it was also quiet with no hustle and bustle so I was able to have a short rest as well. Some of my fellow students stayed at the beginning of break to keep me company and some came back once they’d got some lunch from local shops. But I was still able to get a short rest in between; this I think was quite vital to my ability to stay the whole time.

Bring some headphones for your smartphone or an MP3 player with you.

This is something I didn’t do on the day but wished I did. During the break I was alone in the room for 15-20 minutes while everyone else went out to get lunch etc. This time wasn’t unwelcome as it gave me time to rest with no noise but a relaxing track on my MP3 player would have been just as good (and may have made that time seem less long).

Only take the minimum amount of books needed.

Obviously the best thing to do is to check with your tutor what you are required to take, but then only take that – the more books to carry and organise, the more energy you’ll consume. So anything your tutor doesn’t think you’ll need, and you’re only taking ‘just in case’ leave at home! It’s taken me a couple of modules to realise it is not necessary to take the majority of my course books with me! I only take what my tutor says they plan to cover at that tutorial.

Doing all this doesn’t mean you won’t suffer for attending the tutorial. It will hopefully minimise the effects. I’ve suffered more than I expected to but I always knew 6 hours was pushing my luck! However it was totally worth it as I got so many tips for my next assignment and for revising for the exam. 

That’s all I can think of for now, if there’s anything else I’ll be sure to revise this list! I hope they’re of help to anyone facing a tutorial with a chronic illness even if it isn’t M.E.

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