Monday, September 25, 2006

Is that a shotgun in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

Please note; this happened a few weeks ago now and I have berated myself enough for the outcome! Thank you.

Recently my neighbours were alarmed to see I had an unexpected visitor. Upon knocking on their doors, he explained he was looking for me and had taken the trouble to go round the village to find out if anyone knew where I lived. Their alarm was mainly because he had a Landrover covered in stickers depicting shotguns, plastered with slogans like "We're the good ol' boys!" and "Come and shoot something with us!" etc. After he'd gone away, one of them (the only curmugeon on the block) admitted he'd thought I'd hired the guy to come and shoot them all so I could move some younger neighbours in. Not true.

This gentleman, far from coming to assist their exit from the world, had in fact called round to check I was still in it. This was because he was witnessed me doing something incredibly stupid on my trike, that ended with me, the wheelchair and the trike parting company in a rather spectacular way.

It's all the battery's fault. I got a new battery and needed to drive 1.5 miles on a smooth flat surface 4 or 5 times to get it up to full capacity. Instead of a quick burn round the block, the battery seems to prefer a more gentle pace of around 4mph during this procedure. There is a nice little road near our house that goes past sheep and cow fields which I decided it was the perfect route to kill 1.5 miles of distance - and nearly myself, as it turned out.

This road is single track only. Not much traffic, not least on a Sunday evening when the sun is setting and the livestock are settling down for the night. But where traffic does meet, there are few passing places so it nearly always involves a complicated manoevere between vehicles.

On the evening in question, I was trundling along, enjoying the sunset and reflecting on how much life had changed in the past year (where we used to live in a small town with neighbours-from-hell and housebound). In a cheery mood, I waved hellos to the sheep and cows and didn't notice the noise of an engine until it got quite close behind me. Damn. I was quite a way away from a passing place. Suddenly, although the driver hadn't done anything impatient like revved the engine or hooted the horn, I felt very 'in the way'. A wave of guilt swept over me - what did this person think of being held up by someone in wheelchair pottering along at 4 miles an hour? "Bloody hell, you're holding everybody up" said a voice in my head. I looked around for somewhere I could pull over so they could pass. A little further up the road off to the right was a track leading down to some pens for the livestock. I would turn off onto that track and let the vehicle pass, then turn back onto the road and continue my meandering pace.

Approaching it, I could see a downward slope that was coated with concrete with that knobbly non-slip surface texture for grip. If I turned right on to it from the road I would be at quite a sideways-down angle, which could be tricky. So I was careful. I slowed down and pulled gently to the right, stopping upright and shipshape on the track. There. No harm done. The vehicle pulled past. I gave it a confident wave. The sky was a beautiful deep red colour and it crossed my mind that this was a lovely time to come out riding and it would be a good idea to get some bike lights so people could see the trike in twilight.

The next bit happened in a matter of seconds. Releasing the brakes, the trike moved forward slowly - and one wheel left the ground. Owing to the steepness of the angle I decided to veer right and straight down, then make a left turn and get back up to the road head on to the slope to avoid coming unstuck. I accelerated to get myself out of trouble, but this was the worst thing I could have done. The left back wheel hit a big lump of concrete and for a moment I was on two wheels thinking I could recover, but then there was a bang and a crash, as I sought to control the front end by applying opposite lock to the left and the chair tipped right, then my bodyweight lost the battle and tipped forward and sideways, nudging the locking clip between chair and front end open - leaving me, the trike and the chair parting company, bouncing on the concrete before coming to a halt at the bottom! I remember the first impact on my right kneecap before a impromptu forward roll. I haven't done a forward roll since primary school.


I was lying in a little heap thinking "I'll know in a moment whether I've fractured my kneecap or not..." I'm nervous about falls on my knees owning to low bone density around that area. I was sure I'd landed squarely on it. Damn stupid idiot. I wiggled my toes. Ouch... but not too ouch. Not ready to move yet. I watched retreating red lights as the Landrover drove off down the road. Then they seemed to come to a halt. Was he stopping for me?

I didn't know if that was a good thing. After a fall I'd far rather be left to sort things out in my own time. I was pissed off with myself as well for taking a stupid risk. "Should have made him wait til you got to a proper passing place...." said the same spiteful voice in my head that had berated me for holding the guy up beforehand. I put my head back down on the concrete, remembering I had a mobile phone in my pocket. Thank God for Mr Fang nagging me to be responsible - I hadn't been too keen at first to be so diligent. The Landrover had definitely stopped. Time to look silly. Oh dear. You know how it goes, wobbly crip friends. A person got out and started to run towards the little pile of me and machinery.

If you're a crip that falls over regularly, don't you hate this bit? Once you've got used to those 'whoa - and down!' sort of events, the aftermath of stillness and floor can almost be... comforting. You're down, but still present. Once the floor has caught you there's nowhere else to fall. You hurt, but again, if part of your condition is getting hurt suddenly, there's a little piece of you that remains calm and separate from the 'Ows' and thinks, remarkably quickly, about practical things. 'Where's the phone?' 'Is an ambulance required?' Where's the nearest chair?' and 'How am I going to calm everybody down', often followed by 'How embarrasing!'

Wiggling my toes again and deciding I was ok to move, I looked up at the man now standing over me. Damage control mode.
"Thankyou, thankyou, I'm ok, don't worry, it was my fault, how stupid, I knew I shouldn't have turned off there..." I babbled, trying to put him at ease at the alarming sight of a wheelchair on its side, wheels idly spinning. Because it's such a cliche, isn't it? The deposed cripple, the wrecked chair.

It's the sort of thing you see in a crap film that stereotypes us and the few things people can imagine happening to us - after we've tried to destroy the world someone takes a swipe and we're on the ground, wheels spinning. For the audience it spells the end. So I feared what this guy was 'seeing' was not just some silly girl who'd taken a tumble, but the utter destruction of someone weird. And maybe that somehow it was his fault, because another thing people sometimes feel is unexplicable guilt if they see a crip get hurt when they're nearby (with the exception of some NHS nurses, y'know, the ones with brass balls who, from time to time during hospital stays have scolded me for having the sheer bloody cheek to fall over in front of them...).

So the guy helps me up. He's so stunned he just does what I ask of him - take the chair, turn it the right way up, grap that bit there, stick the brakes on, dock the trike, thank you very much, as you can see I'm on my feet now, so no harm done, and god, I'm just so, so embarrassed - and thank you. I might have a bruise tomorrow, but whatever. Please just get back in your car now and I'll follow you out of this lane, and for pete's sake don't tell anyone about this, because if my husband thinks I've done something reckless he'll worry about me, and I've learned my lesson now, so no harm done, eh? Ok? And thanks again. Goodbye. Yes, I'm ok. Honestly.

So he drives off, and I go home. After getting in and sitting down to prove there has been no big damage, I say meekly to Mr F "I had a little spill out there." He says "What?!" I say "Oh, I sort of slid out the chair when it went down a bank, but I'm ok, might have a bruise or two, but I coped, I'm fine, a man helped me up - and I had the phone thanks to you, so I'd have been alright..."

Mr F is no fool, so once he can see I fell but I'm ok, I tell him what happened. And I'm fine. "This time," he says. Yes. This time. Next time I'll be more careful. I sat down so casually when I got in but it was bloody hard going to get up and go to bed a couple of hours later.

The nest day, rescue man comes to check up I am ok and it turns out that somewhere beyond the one track road there is a shooting range that is his business, hence the rather, uh, 'dynamic' stickers on his Landrover. Curmudgeonly neighbour says to me he probably only came round to make sure I wasn't going to put in a claim for falling over near his Landrover on the track. I don't do that, I say. But shooting things sounds like a lot of fun.

I had 24 bruises in total. Impressive eh? Not for long. (Or for any EDS-er that wiggles more than a finger on a daily basis...). Mr F went paintballing the next weekend and beat me easily.


Timmargh said...

Not sure why I didn't read this sooner ...

Glad to hear there wasn't too much damage and yes: it can be very embarrassing when something like that happens.

Sally's Life said...

I do hope the bruises have faded by now.

It is a little known fact, which you may know, that wheelchairs are classed as vehicles under the Road Traffic Act. Class 1, 2, 3 vehicles are, respectively, manual wheelchairs, powered wheelchairs and electrically powered personal mobiity vehicles. Therefore you have the right to progress along the Queen's Highway and other vehicle users have to respect the needs of our vehicle - as the concerned gun tottin' driver behind you did.

And ... wheelchair users have the same rights of access as walkers on countryside rights of way (footpaths, bridle paths and by-ways) and new open access land, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. As I have said before: lift me over the stile somebody.

Boldly go !

Agent Fang said...

Hi guys.

Timargh. Nice ears. The embarassment factor was the worst thing... and whaddya mean not sure why you didn't read this sooner - were you expecting me to crash?! :0P

Sally: Boldy go. I like that. I shall keep going. Without stabilisers. Good to see you up and about, well, you know what I mean!

Damon said...

Great post! Hope all the bruises have faded now. I've still got a bruise from August ya know.

Damon said...

Great post! Hope you're still not bruised a month on.

Agent Fang said...

August?! Must've been a good 'un.