This might seem like an odd post for a 28 year old to be writing. But it only really highlights the vast difference having a chronic illness from a young age makes to life experiences. If you follow me on social media you’ll know I tend to celebrate the little achievements, alongside the bigger ones; appreciating all sorts of things which most people take for granted, from leaving the house for an hour to being able to sit upright without fainting.

Well today I’m writing about what I class as a big achievement: For the first time in my life, on August 4th 2021, I went to a hospital appointment on my own. And to be totally honest, it wasn’t through choice that it happened then; it was through necessity.

You see hospitals here in the UK seem to be remaining understandably cautious when it comes to lifting the restrictions they have in place; or at least that is the case at the hospital I had to attend for physiotherapy. I’d already had one virtual appointment but we agreed it would be better for the physical examination and guidance to be done in person, the only downside of this would be that I would have to travel there and attend the appointment on my own, something I had never done before; having become chronically ill at the age of 12 and needing someone to push my wheelchair for me, at least one of my parents had always attended appointments with me.

I have to admit to being incredibly anxious about it, both in the days leading up to the appointment and on the day itself. I hadn’t had an in person hospital appointment since January 2020, so well over a year. And my anxiety wasn’t exactly helped by the long wait for hospital transport to pick me up from home! I was told they’d pick me up at 8am or just after depending on traffic, but transport didn’t arrive until 9:30am; there’s nothing worse than waiting like that, unable to do anything in case they arrive and constantly wondering if you should go to the loo so you’ll be totally ready when they arrive. I don’t know about you but when I’m waiting for something like that my bladder seems convinced I need to go every 10 minutes so I know I won’t need to go when they arrive!

The journey itself went well, as did the appointment. I’ve learned a bit more about my body, and how certain muscles aren’t engaging when they should; I’ve got a couple of new exercises to add to my existing physiotherapy routine to try and get those muscles to start engaging when they should. And I go back next month to see how I’m getting on and to learn some more – we’re focusing on one area at a time so as to allow me to gently introduce the exercises while continuing to pace myself. My physiotherapist would rather I do a few good consistent repetitions of the exercises than lots of poor, less consistent repetitions which would be less effective.

I was incredibly lucky after my appointment in that I barely had to wait two minutes before hospital transport arrived to take me home (It can often take an hour or so!) and despite getting stuck in a bit of traffic on the M25 the journey home wasn’t too bad either, even if I was yawning away in the back as the exhaustion began to hit.

But overall things went well. Was it as difficult as I anticipated? No. The staff and volunteers at the hospital were all really friendly and helpful. The backpack I had on the back of my wheelchair worked quite well, although wasn’t as easy to zip/unzip while sitting in my wheelchair as I thought it was, so that’s something I need to think about changing but it wasn’t impossible so might just have to suffice for next time. Will I be anxious when I have to go again next month? Hell Yes. But I’m hoping the more often I do it, the more the anxiety will ease each time; it did before when attending hospital appointments with one of my parents – at first I used to get really anxious, but the more appointments I had, the more that anxiety eased and I’m hoping this will be the same.

I am so proud of myself for pushing past my anxiety and going to this appointment on my own, not only that but for booking the next one to be in person as well meaning I have to do the same thing again next month. As I said at the beginning of this post; it might seem strange to be posting about being proud of doing this at my age but for me it is a first; there are so many experiences I have yet to encounter having been chronically ill since I was 12 that I celebrate every single one as I encounter them, this one is something quite ordinary but there’s others which aren’t quite as mundane and I hope that one day I might even be celebrating an experience which I thought would never happen. Whatever it is, if it feels like a big achievement for me I will celebrate it in some way.

For now though it’s a case of recovering, keeping my physiotherapy up and preparing for my next appointment – I currently have roughly one a week with varying professionals now involved in my health and managing my condition, so pacing myself in order to manage them, while still keeping my physiotherapy up is going to prove challenging in the coming weeks.

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