I wake at 5am with a jump but it isn’t the dreaded buzzer that rouses me. My chest is tight and my mind is racing. I have a fear of wheelchairs and water. Wheelchairs are very heavy and sink fast. I can imagine it happening. I am having palpitations.
I am thinking too of the new rubber ring that Nadia recently bought for the holiday, and remembering that once we took a new one with us before trying it on and it didn’t fit and we took a day or so of searching in every ghastly sea side shop before we found the one that went over her hips. I am going to text Nikki later I decide “be careful by the pool and don’t have the electric wheelchair too near the edge. Try on the rubber ring before you go to the poolside”. I also remember when she literally slipped through the rubber ring and, unbelievably, a lifeguard saw it happening and dived in to pull a sinking Nadia to the surface. With bigger boobs now, I’m hoping this is a reduced risk.
I am now remembering all the things that have gone wrong on holidays before. It is not helping the tight chest.
I lie in bed trying to relax and get the thoughts out of my mind. Deep breathe I say to myself ,“she’ll be alright.” Ryan Air certainly don’t have the best reputation when it comes to catering for disability. Oh dear, I now remember one of the comments to my concerns on Facebook suggesting that electric wheelchairs often end up in bits after being in the hold. Tight chest again!
We had trained the Personal Assistants – Nicole and her sister Chloe – through our new ‘personal course’ on Wheelchair Maintenance and How to Use the Allen Key! Nikki (Nadia’s sister) and Nadia will remember the time when we had flown to Cyprus in 2008. For some reason we had taken extra children and there were 10 of us. Looking like refugees, we got off the plane to find the electric wheelchair in pieces by the airport building door. It was 11.30 p.m., dark and everyone seemed to have scarpered.
I kept thinking “oh my god the bloody holiday has cost us a fortune” and I began to panic at the sight of the wheelchair. Nikki, Nadia (in the airport manual chair) and the rest of the family plus two extra children watched me as I started to approach the one official looking person who seemed to be left in the airport. “Get me an engineer from the plane to rebuild our wheelchair” I said dramatically. But he spoke no English. I tried a different tact. “We are not going to go through customs until that wheelchair is fixed”.
We were the last flight to come in that night and the place by now was deserted. Then to the rest of the family’s horror, I shouted at the kids “Don’t move, don’t go through customs until I get back”. I charged outside livid with rage. I went to the plane and sat on the tarmac. Protesting until someone with an Allen Key would come and repair the electric chair. It was one way to get attention and within 20 mins the wheelchair was back in one piece and Nadia and the traumatised kids plus Andy were able to get into the accessible transfer bus to our hotel.
I spend hours researching hotels to make sure they are accessible which then costs us at least twice as much as we would spend if Nadia didn’t have an electric chair. I would definitely be going more rustic and not to a 4 star hotel
That has been just one of many stories of things going wrong on holidays with Nadia. The worst has got to be when she got swine flu whilst we were on a short break in Northumberland and she became the first victim of swine flu to be ventilated. Our trip was extended to a 3 week stay whilst she was in intensive care in North Tyneside Hospital and the Travel Lodge became our family home.
Or the time she was travelling with PAs in her car round Europe and they rang me at 10 p.m. They had arrived at the Youth Hostel in Madrid hot and sweaty after a long drive. We had of course double, treble checked the access of all the hostels on their trip. But here the lift had broken and they couldn’t get to their bedroom. I spent an hour on the internet frantically searching “accessible hostels Italy” and eventually phoned one 4 hours away near Lake Garda. They had space for that night but of course it meant repacking the car with all the bags, getting their money back and a long drive through the night. They texted me at 3 a.m. when they had finally arrived saying it was a stunning hostel and all was ok. That was the week before the car got a puncture and there are no spares in Fiat Doblos! It was a Sunday in a small village in Italy and the only garage was closed. But that is another story for another time!
Last year in Hungary Nikki, Nadia and I had three weeks together in Budapest. Everything that could go wrong with the electric wheelchair and the communication aid had gone wrong. We found the locals to be incredibly resourceful and very helpful, however it did make things pretty stressful.
All of these memories create good stories – often ones that we can smile about now. But right at this moment they are not helping. All I can do is cross fingers and toes and try to persuade myself that “Nadia will survive!”