Thursday, 3 April 2008

Liberated by an Expanding Archipelago

I was reflecting yesterday on how my world had again contracted and drew a diagram of small connected circles. The diameter of each circle represented the degree to which I could move or more accurately stretch from a seated position. I drew a small circle to represent my office chair from which I could reach a couple of PCs, DAB radio telephone and "at a stretch" a printer.

From this central circle I drew a very short line to an even smaller circle which represented the toilet I would visit a few times during the day, slowly pushing my way around behind a zimmer frame. Another short line led to another small circle in the kitchen where my wife had arranged a flask of cold milk next to our kettle , jug of cold water and tea, coffee and sugar before leaving for work in the morning. A slightly longer line to another very small circle represented my journey to bed each night. This was the smallest circle of all - once in there was no moving out until the next morning, courtesy of improvised urine bottle and bucket by the bedside should it need emptying during the night.

During the months leading up to being overwhelmed by the post operative sepsis I was aware of the contracting nature of my world. At first travel by bus was sacrificed and I relied entirely on using the car. Then I relied on other people driving and finally became housebound then confined to bed. At the same time I came to rely first of all on a walking stick, then 2 elbow crutches and finally invested in a powerchair to get around the house. This chair took some finding as it is a rather neat design with small wheels, a thin base which houses a lithium ion battery similar to those in laptops, and a central adjustable column on which is mounted something resembling an office chair. It doe snot look at all institutional which was important to my self image. The difficulty in acquiring it was due to the fact that this "shopper chair" designed to disassemble quickly for use around local shops was replaced by an all in one folding design which required tubular steel struts and braces. As a result it looked very much like an institutionalised wheelchair.

After a few abortive orders I eventually found a dealer who still had one of the old design in stock. When it arrived the delivery van driver announced "its the only one left in the country still on sale".

For about 4 months before becoming bed ridden this extended my world inside the house and I had planned on using it once I returned home after the filleting of my right leg. In my pre op chair riding days I had removed the footplate from the front of the chair and was able to pull my knees up to place my feet on the flat platform beneath the seat to which the wheels and battery were attached.

I had removed the footplate and its support bar to the garage which I could not get to when I came out of hospital. So on Monday, Tuesday and most of today (Wednesday) the chair remained unused and as a result my life remained proscribed by the small archipelago of very small islands in which I could "live, move and have my being" that I have just described.

This evening my wife - bless her - found the discarded footplate and support bar and we managed to reassemble it. Once back in place I was able again to make use of the powerchair. Of course I did need the help of a strange long handled and stiffened loop that I was given by the occupational therapist to help lift my right leg ( imagine a dog lead around the head of an invisible dog and you'll get the picture) onto the footplate - but I was temporarily overcome by the sudden explosion of my personal space.

I have since travelled to most rooms in the house and looked out of windows onto men cutting trees in neighbouring gardens, birds using the squirrel proof feeders we have around our garden and squirrels hanging upside down in the feeders we have given up on as offering any sort of deterrent.

My personal space diagram now has longer lines leading to more and larger circles. I am still housebound of course but suddenly "the world has opened up" for me once again! In time I guess it will extend outside the house to our garden where I can use a mobility scooter to help with chores. Later still I hope to manage to travel in my own car again - albeit driven by others.

I hope you now understand why I really do feel liberated by an expanding archipelago and what is more one with potential for further expansion in the weeks ahead - hope springs eternal!


Rob Clack said...

Wow, what a fascinating tale! I followed the link from But Why's blog and am really glad I did. Please do keep on posting about your progress.

Prisoner of Hope said...


thanks for the encouragement :-)

I expect future postings will be a mix of both progress and retrospection during which the "back story" will gradually emerge in more detail. I hope it will maintain your interest.