Eleven weeks after being referred for a wheelchair assessment I finally had an appointment booked at the local ‘Re-Enablement Services Centre’. I had no idea what to expect. Was this an ‘Assessment’ assessment? Would I be required to run for 6 miles on a treadmill? Did they want me to walk round the block 5 times to prove my lack of mobility? Or were they going to go down the physio route and do a thorough physical on me? All I had to go by was my appointment letter, which stated that I must bring my ‘hoist’ with sling in place when I arrive (???…!) … my ‘risk assessment’ ( ? ) … a carer who knows me well… and suitable refreshments as there was no canteen on site. Flip a chip – just how long was I going to be in this place? And how flippin’ disabled were they expecting me to be?! What were they going to think when I rocked up with my modestly measly walking stick?
Most of these concerns, however, were soon replaced in the battle to get to the centre. Although I’ve lived in the city for a solid 10 years (17 if you count my student days) I don’t particularly know my way around very well. And, like most of my referrals, this assessment was to take place in one of those hidden away community hospitals. Putting far too much faith in SatNav I set off in search of The Centre. Twenty minutes later, having ‘reached my destination,’ I found myself in the midst of a narrow maze of residential buildings, none of which donned the familiarly welcoming blue sign of the NHS. This wasn’t right. I sat uneasily in my car for a minute or two, under the intense stare of a nearby lady who was standing outside some flats smoking and wearing slippers. I wondered how many other people had found their way to her patch in search of mobility aids. Fearing for my life if I hung around much longer I did a gracious 20-point manoeuvre and screeched out of there.
Ditching SatNav in favour of my smartphone I found hope in an alternative route that led me back the way I had come and into another housing estate. Spotting a blue sign I made a sharp left turn into a … building site. It would appear that massive diggers and hard-hatted men had taken over this space that had once housed something medical. Car covered in mud and sand I reversed the heck out of there and tried again at the next turn on the left. Whew! This was EXHAUSTING! This way proved more fruitful, however, and I parked the car in the first space I came across – man, this place was rammed. I got out the car and looked around at all the separate buildings, each offering different services – in the far distance I could just about make out a sign that read ‘Re-enablement Services Centre’. Getting back in the car I swung around and re-parked directly outside The Centre.
Now, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, the wheelchair assessment. Well, after the whole debacle of trying to find the place I wasn’t early (for once) and so didn’t have to wait at all to be ushered down a corridor and into a private room. I was greeted by the nicest lady who, after introducing herself, leapt straight up and said, “I’ll just fetch the wheelchair that I think will be right for you.” On re-entering she beckoned me to take a seat in the wheelchair and whipped out a tape measure, “You’ll need a much smaller one than this of course, and perhaps we’ll add some sprocket guards on the wheels to protect your children’s little fingers. You’ve got very long legs by the way. So, what do you think?” I sat there flabbergasted. Was that it? Were they just going to give me a wheelchair, just like that? On voicing my surprise and my worry that I wasn’t going to be given a wheelchair the lady said, “Why wouldn’t we give you a wheelchair? You’ve got a long-term illness affecting your mobility. You’re young. You have children. You need this to get your life back!” Well, all I can say is Bravo, NHS. I would be LOST without you. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to receive such consistent high level of care from the National Health Service. Sure, there’s usually a lengthy wait, but they always get there in the end! And they are giving me a wheelchair, made-to-measure and arriving sometime in the new year!
I feel wheely* blessed.
*Soz, couldn’t resist.