Paralysed man and half deaf woman live here

My lack of writing is as a direct result of how busy I’ve been. Which is a good complaint! I haven’t even had the chance to sit down! I think originally some people thought I would be sitting around all day doing nothing, watching TV just to get through the day. Somewhat written off as a person without a purpose. Well I’m glad to say it certainly hasn’t been that way. I had a great life before my accident and I am slowly trying to build another great life. It is very different but it will still be great. The things I enjoy doing have changed, hobbies have changed. I didn’t really go to the gym, now I find myself there, more than anywhere else.

Being wheelchair dependent has many problems. Here is one. I left my house one night over Christmas. I dropped my brother out and on my return I was meant to collect my sister. She decided to stay out so I continued home on my own with my wheelchair in the boot. When I arrived home I could see that the television was on which indicated that my mother was in the front room. I beeped to let her know I was home and needed help getting out of the car which is the usual. She didn’t appear, so I beeped again. Still no sign so I called my mother’s phone. No answer. I waited patiently before beeping again. Then I rang her again. I flashed the lights, texted her, emailed her, left her a voice mail, beeped again, flashed, called her phone. This went on for nearly 40 minutes!! I even opened the front door ajar. I have had a new front door put in with an electronic opening mechanism on it that I can open remotely from my car.

Eventually on my final beep, my mother appears at the front door. I put my hands up as if to say, “Finally”. When she came out to help me she said, “What? You only beeped once!!” “Once? I’ve been here for 40 minutes!!” I exclaimed.

When I finally got inside the house I realised why she couldn’t hear me. The TV was up really loud AND the subtitles were on.

I went down to bed and my mother said, “Ring me if you need anything. I have the phone right next to me.” So I got into bed, and inevitably I needed help with something so I rang her just like she said. I could hear the phone ringing. Still no answer! So this time I shouted out to her. She came in wondering, “Why did you not ring me? I have the phone right next to me!”!!!

There’s a paralysed man and a half deaf woman living in my home.

I returned to college in September to do a masters in Medical Device Design in the National College of Art and Design. I was hoping to complete the one-year-long course over two years. I used to travel up on Thursday evenings, either by train or sometimes I drove. Friday lectures started off in the NCAD campus with two classes. After lunch with the help of my PA, I had to get myself over to Trinity College for a 3-hour lecture. Finding myself attending lectures in Trinity was a little surreal. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would ever be sitting in a lecture theatre in Trinity College. But then again, an awful lot has changed. At 5 o’clock it was time to make the dash back home through the Friday evening traffic. It was a pretty hectic agenda and extremely exhausting.

The course was very interesting and the real life projects the class were involved in were fascinating. The college and staff were extremely accommodating for my needs to make life easier providing me with a PA to help take notes. Unfortunately, after a long think over Christmas I decided it was all a bit too much, so I deffered the course until September when I might be in a better position to move to Dublin if possible.

I wrote in my last blog about the importance of using the technology that is available to keep the body in good condition. After all my thrills in exoskeletons over the summer and understanding the benefits they have to offer I decided to embark on a very ambitious project. That is to get an exoskeleton in Eilte gym where I train. The exoskeleton aids people to stand and move in a walking motion.

After seeking guidance from Jane Evans from Rolling Ball we went through the different devices on the market. We decided to go for Ekso Bionics exoskeleton. We secured funds and made a deposit for exoskeleton. We now have a year to raise the funds necessary to complete the payment and keep it in Cork forever.

We had our training week in December where Ekso Bionics sent over their physiotherapist to train our physios on how to safely assess and measure users to fit in Lazarus, our Ekso skeleton.

We are now open and taking bookings for anyone who finds themselves in a wheelchair every single day. People who have suffered from a stroke, MS, paralysis can all benefit from using this device. For me it’s not about walking, it’s about getting out of my wheelchair, moving, shifting my weight, exercising while getting the benefits of walking. Feeling whole again. It can enhance blood flow, retain bone density, maintain muscles, promote better bowel and bladder function. Walking regularly will help keep your body in good condition, that goes for able-bodied people and it is even more important for the disabled.

My aided walking in Lazarus has improved greatly, getting faster, taking more steps and covering more ground. I love it. There is something about being upright, being your own height, moving, looking at people at eye level that makes you feel empowered.

I position my chair next to my bed. It’s the last transfer of the day, this could be number 10 or 12 transfers throughout the day. My body is tired from the day’s activities, all of which are done by very limited upper muscles. I shift myself off the chair and onto the side of the bed. Reaching my arm under my legs I flick them onto the bed one at a time before laying back.

To take my clothes off, I drag myself up from lying to a sitting position with the aid off a rope ladder tied to the end of the bed. I look down at my clothes. One final chore before I can put the head down. I used not be able to do this. After a number of months I was able to get the shoes off. Getting the socks off was probably the easiest, the trousers always proved to be the most laboursome. It could take 30 or even 40 minutes. That was 6 months ago. Now I can do it in less than 10 minutes sometimes 5.

Staring down at my naked legs, thighs, knees, shins, ankles, feet and toes. I try to move them but they don’t budge. I reach down and touch my calf. Rubbing up and down with the palm of my hand I close my eyes but I can’t feel the action. I sit back on to my arms holding my torso up. My legs look the same, just paler, slightly thinner as muscles are being lost, no scar that might give a reason for the lack of movement. I let out a sigh of disbelief before releasing the strain on my arms and fall back onto the pillow. Closing my eyes I drift off to sleep knowing that tomorrow I will be back in the wheelchair.