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Why I Used a Wheelchair for the First Time

Recently, I made the choice to use a wheelchair for the first time, which was a pretty big decision and something I want to talk about. I want to start off this post by saying that choosing how and when to use a wheelchair is an incredibly personal decision, and this is only my own experience.

Why a wheelchair?

Ever since I realized there was a genuine health reason for me being in so much pain, and that I wasn’t being lazy, I’ve been trying to work around it. While I can manage my day-to-day life relatively well, trips away are a massive struggle. Last month, I had what should have been an amazing trip to London planned for my best friend’s 21st birthday — two whole days of sightseeing, shopping and shows. Obviously, with it being such an important birthday, I wanted to make sure she had an amazing time, and that me being tired and in pain didn’t get in the way.

Worries

It’s safe to say I had a lot of worries about starting to use a wheelchair. The practicalities: how do you borrow one? How do you steer it? Where are the brakes? The stigma: what will people think when I ask for one? And when I’m able to stand up out of the chair? And personally, admitting to myself that it was something that I needed on occasion, that it wasn’t a big deal, and that using a wheelchair for a special occasion like this wasn’t making a commitment for the rest of my life.

How did it go?

After chatting with a few friends and browsing museums to find one that rented wheelchairs, I decided to go for it. On arrival at the Natural History Museum I went to the cloakroom, signed a disclaimer, and 30 seconds later was equipped with a wheelchair. After a bit of figuring out how to fit me, my coat and way too many shopping bags in it, we were ready to go.

I started off being pushed, but the lack of control really bothered me, so I decided I was going to push myself which worked much better (after a few incidents getting around corners!) While my arms were so sore the next day, I think that’s something I’d get used to. Practically, it was better than I expected. People were on the whole really polite, happy to move out of the way, and I didn’t notice anyone giving me weird looks or anything. In terms of the museum, it was hard going; I couldn’t see quite a lot of the displays, and trying to find lifts (elevators) was mission impossible.

Overall though, it’s a big thumbs up for the wheelchair. Although it is not something I would want (or need) to use every day at this point, for occasions like this, where I’m trying to pack a lot of activities into a few days, it makes things so much easier. It means I can do so much more without the repercussions, and more importantly (for me at least) I can better keep up with others.

This story was originally published at Irish Dysautonomia.

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