Adventures out anywhere but hospitals are a rather unusual occurrence right now, as most of my energy is taken up simply by attending those appointments. However during a week, free of appointments, at the beginning of September, my parents, sister and I managed to get away to the nearby coast. And although the holiday itself wasn’t the most relaxing (Actually that’s putting it mildly!), we did manage some trips out where I could begin to get to grips with using “Frog” my wheelchair with Alber E-Fix power assist.
I learned a lot about “Frog” and the Alber E-Fix during the little trips out I managed with my family. The biggest thing of all was that even a seemingly small trip, takes more energy when I’m the one in control of where I’m going, especially when I’m still getting to grips with the controls; just how sensitive is the joystick control to turn a corner? Is there enough of a gap for me to get through? Honestly navigating tight spaces when you’re still getting to grips with how sensitive the joystick control is, is no mean feat! This is one aspect I’m sure will improve over time, as I use it more, it should become second nature; like learning any new skill.
It is incredibly freeing (and stressful!) being in control of where I’m going again, after at least 7 continuous years of being dependent on someone pushing my wheelchair so I can get about when out of the house. On these trips out I ended up doing more shopping than I have in years, because I could decide which parts of the shop I wanted to take a closer look at, which previously I wouldn’t have bothered asking to get closer to because I always felt like it made me a nuisance.
I was surprised by the number of shops I could actually get in as well; the instructions for the Alber E-Fix state it can manage obstacles up to 4cm high. Now I’m no expert at judging height, but I’d say I definitely put that to the test, with my parents encouragement! There was a charity shop I wanted to go into (because who doesn’t love a good charity shop?!) but which had a slight step, in hindsight probably close to 4cm high, into it. I wasn’t sure “Frog” would manage to get over it, however I was encouraged to give it a try with my Dad standing behind me, ready to assist if necessary.
Well….this is where we discovered that “Frog” is an apt name for my wheelchair, as I approached the step with the two front wheels, once touching the step there was, what I can only describe as a burst of power from the rear powered wheels, and up the step “Frog” hopped! Or at least that is how it felt to me. As soon as it was over the obstacle the power dropped back down to what it had been before going over the step. And getting out was just as easy (although without the need for the burst of power as there was no obstacle to get up!).
Now I learned one other thing about “Frog” on one of these trips out; how ‘easy’ it is to do a wheelie when going up over a bridge. And as such, how grateful I am for the anti-tips that are fitted to “Frog”! You see ladies and gents, I had been over this bridge in the opposite direction, not 10 minutes before without any trouble at all. However, it turns out one side of the bridge is actually steeper than the other, and so on my return journey over it, as I innocently started wheeling myself up it, “Frog” tipped backwards onto the anti-tips, giving me the scare of my life! It soon righted itself, thank goodness, (although it took my heart rate a while longer to settle!) and has become one of those funny stories for all to enjoy.
It’s nice to know the anti-tips work, but I hadn’t exactly been intending on making use of them, especially not quite so soon after getting “Frog”, I mean this was the longest adventure I’d had out in it and as I say, I was still getting to grips with the controls and navigating where I was going.
On all these trips out with family, I left them to lead me. I am yet to feel confident enough in using “Frog” to be the one leading the way. I look to them to check it’s safe to cross the road; it’s been 9 years since I had to do that for myself. (That’s not to say I haven’t paid attention when being pushed in a wheelchair, but it just hasn’t been my responsibility). I think it will be a while before I feel confident to even attempt venturing out in it on my own, I’m going to want someone there as a safety net for a little while yet. But I suppose after 9 years being dependent on someone else to get you places, that is only natural.
However that week in September, despite not being the most relaxing, provided me with opportunities to take “Frog” out on a few little outings and begin to get to grips with being a little bit more independent! Which while being completely, utterly exhausting, (honestly I can usually manage an hour out in my wheelchair now, somewhere quiet, with “only” requiring a few hours rest afterwards to prevent a significantly worsening of symptoms, with “Frog” I needed the rest of the day to rest!) It was also the most freeing and exciting thing to happen for some time! So here’s to “Frog” and having many more adventures!