Saturday, 12 July 2014

Hospice Stay

This week I have been on a respite break at the hospice. But unlike previous breaks, I have my live-in carer, Kadvi staying too. I first visited the hospice in 2008 shortly after my diagnosis of a terminal illness. Despite all the positive press about hospices being wonderful places, this counts for very little when it's YOU that has qualified to use one. Ultimately hospices deal with end of life.

If you read my previous blogs during hospice stays, you'll know that I feel out of place here, it's not for me. And this time I feel positively fraudulent!!  This is because the longer I keep beating the survival odds, the more convinced that I will be around for a good few more years yet. I guess I feel I have now disqualified for hospice eligibility.

If this is true, I guess it's good although it will make any subsequent re-qualification difficult to accept. I just find the whole environment rather patronising. The way everyone talks to you, medication confiscated so you have to request it, having to have hospice staff oversee every hoisting routine. I find it difficult because despite MND I have refused to relinquish control of anything. I know kadvi finds it difficult too. Don't get me wrong, the staff are all lovely and the hospice and gardens are wonderful. It's just not for me..... Yet.
However we have actually spent little time at the hospice. On Wednesday we went to Hampton Court Flower Show, yesterday we went to Painshill Park and the local pub in the evening,  and as I write,  I am sitting at Newlands Corner viewing the Surrey countryside.

It's been 3 years since I visited the flower show but having the live-in carer, events like these are possible again. It's a bit of a struggle getting the wheelchair through the crowds and much of show requires going off the path onto bumpy grass, but it was a nice day.





Painshill park's paths have improved since my last visit, 2 years ago, so getting around was easier than expected. I might even buy membership next time



The decision to meet Adam in the pub was a spur of the moment thing. I don't think I have been to a pub for over 3 years, probably mainly because of previous bed time limitations as much as the unappealing prospect of watching everybody else eating and drinking. But actually it was very enjoyable. My sister and Kadvi joined us until 9.30 then Kadvi returned with my car at 10.30. I think I will do it more often.

So ironically, despite my earlier comments and with Kadvi's considerable help, this has been the easiest hospice stay. But I think I will look seriously at coastal, disabled accessible and equipped holiday accommodation. Obviously it won't be free like the hospice but it would give me a base to go out from to new places. If I find a good place, I might even do it more regularly . Next weekend we are going to see 10CC (showing my age), going to Farnborough Air Show, and seeing Monty Python at the o2 arena. Phew.

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Friday, 13 June 2014

The Shard

Today I went to the Shard. It was meant to be a straight forward journey; drive to Hampton Court station, train to Waterloo, Jubilee line to London bridge. An hour tops. Unfortunately it didn't go exactly to plan. At Waterloo we were told the lifts to the Jubilee line were unavailable because of planned maintenance...... until the end of July. I made the guy wait while I typed out and read at full volume "that is fucking ridiculous". Because it is. Wheelchair access on the tube network is absolutely disgraceful anyway. Having one of the few accessible tube lines inaccessible from one of the world's busiest stations, for 2 months is inexcusable.

We were told we could access the jubilee line from Southwark station, which was a 10 minute walk away. Luckily it was a nice day so we headed off. We reached the station and got the lift to the platform. The train arrived, doors opened and we saw a 5cm height difference between train and platform which is impossible in this wheelchair, especially when there's also another 5cm horizontal gap between train and platform. I am sure the last time I travelled from Waterloo, the access was better but then I had my offroad wheelchair which easily coped with these types of challenge.

I think when wheelchair access is considered during construction projects, it's based on manual wheelchairs which have big wheels and can be tipped back easily. Power chairs actually need LEVEL access. Wheelchair users aren't all Ade Adepitan!

So we walked for another 20 minutes to the Shard.

Twenty quid and four lifts later we were 800 feet above London. Needless to say, the view is amazing. Seeing helicopters flying beneath you and Big Ben almost indistinguishable from it's surrounding buildings puts your height into perspective.

We stayed for around 30 minutes before getting the bus back to the OXO tower, spending some time on the Southbank and returning home. Kadvi wasn't phased by any of the challenges and maintained good humoured throughout so overall it was a good day out and have learned that buses are now the only way of travelling within London.








Thursday, 3 April 2014

Just like old times.... Almost

The last time I went to the Southbank in London was when I could still take myself up there in my offroad wheelchair about 3 years ago. Since having a live-in carer, trips out have been possible but I haven't ventured to London.... until yesterday. I guess it's a number of factors that dissuaded me. Since October it's been either too wet or cold, and before that I had worries about wheelchair battery life. However with recently fitted replacement batteries and the new eyegaze system no longer needing to use wheelchair power for 6 hours, wheelchair range is much better.
So yesterday I decided to return. We drove to Hampton Court station where there are very conveniently placed disabled parking spaces, hopped on a train with the help of the train's guard and was at Waterloo 35 minutes later.

The wheelchair was reasonably comfortable getting to the southbank because the pavements are pretty good and Kadvi is a great wheelchair driver, knowing when to support my head. I still miss the comfort and speed of the offroad wheelchair but I don't miss the constant terror of the dreaded puncture. So with one eye permanently on the wheelchair battery level lights we headed for Tate Modern.

charge indicators on wheelchairs are pretty hopeless. When the first of six lights goes off you haven't used 1/6 of the charge but around 60% which means you better be already on your way home when it goes off. We made it to the Tate fine.

We only spent about an hour looking around, not wanting to push our luck. It was nice having made it there again albeit not under my own steam anymore. As always I can't help feeling many of the exhibits fall into "The Emporer's New Clothes" category;  people marvelling at a blank red canvas, 3 rocks placed on the floor, or a video of a blue screen with someone reciting some jibberish.

Anyway, with all battery level lights still on, we headed back to Waterloo. The whole process was pretty easy, the wheelchair range wasn't a problem and the weather was perfect. All that pollution kept the sun off the eyegaze ;)

So I am planning The Shard next

Eyegaze Mk2

After 7 months of battling I have finally received my new eyegaze system. The NHS have now allocated specific funds for providing specialist communication devices but the processes for accessing the funding haven't been in place until this week. So the MNDA agreed to rent the system until the NHS purchase the system outright for me.

The system arrived 2 weeks ago and it's working great. It's not hugely different from my previous system but it's not got the faults ;the batteries last 6 hours instead of 2 minutes, the sound is much higher quality, screen is much brighter and touch screen works. It has a solid state hard drive which apart from being much more robust than a traditional hard drive is also lightning fast, resulting in reboots taking 30 seconds instead of 3 minutes. This might seem unimportant but two and a half minutes is a long time when you want to say something. It also has a webcam so I can video skype.

The only issue is with the eyegaze camera. It didn't work outside which is obviously a big problem. I have been talking to the camera manufacturers in Germany who have been incredibly helpful as this is a new problem. So with my assistance they released a new software version within 24 hours which has improved things considerably and further improvements will be developed soon.

Many thanks to Liam and Caroline for their help getting this sorted
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Sunday, 26 January 2014

A message from my brother-in-law

Hi everyone, on April 13th I will be running the London marathon.Hopefully with your support I aim to raise as much money as possible for the MND association. If you would like to sponsor me you can go to my Just Giving website or click on the link  https://www.justgiving.com/DaveBarrett1966/ .Or you can text me if you wish. Your support, even if it is just to wish me luck would be very much appreciated.  Thank you. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

It Didn't Take Long ....

Didn't take long to find something to whinge about in 2014 although it's bugged me for ages; disabled parking

The blue badge scheme is a great idea but it is subject to so much abuse and misuse, its value is undermined. There are 2 obvious problems and 1 more controversial one. First there are the people without badges who are simply too f***ing lazy and selfish, so simply ignore the restrictions. When I could still speak I used to enjoy challenging these people just to hear there excuses and watch them squirm! The most frequent response was "oh sorry, I didn't realise it was disabled" or "I was only going to be 5 minutes". Even if in the unlikely event of this being true, it's of little consolation when I arrive during those 5 minutes and can't park. The next offending group are those with legitimate blue badges but seem to have forgotten the disabled person! These people are harder to challenge because the number of excuses is greater and occasionally more plausible, such as they're picking up the disabled person, to which you can't really argue, although 95% of the time it's total b******s

I HAVE actually challenged someone using eyegaze computer voice, but eyegaze typing doesn't lend itself to arguments and they are long gone before I have finished typing "you are a selfish c***"!

The final problem is more controversial. I have lost count of the times I have been sitting in Bushy Park car park and seen cars with blue badges park next to me, and someone emerges with the tiniest of limps and proceeds to walk a mile around the lake. I don't want to get involved in a cripple competition but it does annoy me. It's not such a problem in car parks with multiple disabled parking spaces but when the single space outside a London theater has been taken by a "limper", it is infuriating

I don't know what the answer is, I have thought maybe they should introduce a two tier system which helps ensure the most premium spaces can only be used by the most needy. I guess it's too costly and complicated to achieve and like many of those limpers do already, people will simply exaggerate their disability to get the higher level. While on the subject of questionable applications for a blue badge, there is a more serious implication of exaggerated claims. Because one of the criteria for a blue badge is qualifying for the higher level of disability living allowance, it means many people will be receiving several thousand pounds each year with questionable legitimacy.
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