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Having a wheelchair made a huge difference. Even for basic needs like needing the toilet, it meant I didn’t have to buzz a nurse to cart me to the toilet and then back again. In the middle of the night I could hop out of bed and silently wheel across the room like a physically challenged ninja.
Now I had a small taste of freedom I wanted more. I wasn’t attached to any bags or tubes anymore, so I was good to go. I had some visitors so we were going to go down to Costa which was in the entrance to the hospital.
Other than being taken to and from surgeries, I hadn’t left the major trauma unit for nearly two weeks and it had become a kind of safety net in a way. Somewhere I only had to think about my initial recovery. Somewhere I was shielded from the unexpected challenges that I was going to face in everyday life.
After an amputation you must keep your leg elevated to help with swelling, so your leg is sticking out in front of you on a stump rest. This made me very self-conscious. There was a strange feeling just being buzzed out of the ward doors into the corridor which was instantly busier.
LGI is a very busy hospital, right in the city centre and everybody had a look at my leg. Even if they hadn’t it felt like they had to me. Every now and again you would see someone looking at it and catch their eye and you might get a sympathetic smile. Or sometimes they just stare, look you in the eye and continue staring.
Once down on the ground floor at Costa it was really busy. People rushing around you while you’re slowly wheeling along at everyone’s crotch level. I didn’t know how to deal with it, it was a very strange sensation, like my brain was running slower than everything that was speeding around me.
My attention was grabbed by a young lad, who cant have been more than 16. He clearly was going through cancer treatment and had very recently had his lower right leg amputated. We clocked on to each other for a second and he kind of lifted his stump up and gave me a little forced grin as if to say “snap!”
Thinking back, I should have spoken to him but I don’t think I would have known what to say. Let alone the fact that I was struggling to take the whole situation in. He instantly made me think, “shit, this could be way worse.” Which kind of snapped me out of it a little.
I didn’t want to stay down there any more than I had to. Even in an accessible hospital, a busy café is still not very wheelchair friendly. I ended up just putting my wheelchair to the side out the way and waiting until my drink was brought to me and then making my escape as quickly as I could.
This was a huge shock to my system. Being taken from the safe space of the trauma ward, to being thrown into the deep end of a world I knew as easy to navigate and function in, which is now a world of disability and uncertainty.
This outing made my mood drop immediately, as I hadn’t thought that much about what normal life was going to be like around “normal” able bodied people.
A bit of a pick me up though was LGI’s fantastic roof garden. I hadn’t been outside since my accident, just peeked at it out of the windows of the wards. It was stupidly hot at that time as well, which I had heard everyone going on about but not really felt it yet.
The fresh air was something else. I love hot sunny weather, sitting roasting with a cold beer, nothing better. But this also made me think about how much different life now was. How would I cope day to day, what can I not do any more, how are people going to see me now.
My first outing from the ward had seen some very mixed emotions and gave me some big things to think about once I had retreated to the safety of the ward…
If you find you need some support, don’t be afraid to speak to friends and family. If this isn’t possible please consider giving the Amputation foundation a shout at amputationfoundation.org or even get in touch with me via my contact page
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