Cute toddler’s first steps on artificial leg

Bravery seems to be a recurring subject in my blog in the last few weeks. Now, a little girl is being hailed as being brave, alongside the heroes I have talked about in mountain rescue teams and lifeboat crews.

The little girl in question, no more than a toddler, is the subject of a You Tube video posted by the Amputee Coalition of America. It shows her taking her very first steps with her new prosthetic leg.

She is clearly delighted, stopping to blow raspberries, before walking onwards. She falls over but picks herself up and walks on to her dad who is waiting with his hands outstretched. When she reaches him, he picks her up for a cuddle.

The video shows an inspiring moment in the little girl’s life. It is a moment that shows the child’s determination to not let her amputation control her life. And it is a determination that is shared by many people with disabilities but it is also a great example to those who think that their problem means that they cannot do anything; to those that seem to believe that the world owes them a living.

For reasons of privacy, the name and information about the little girl have not been shared online, nor has the reason why her leg has ben amputated, but the heartwarming video has captured the attention of many on both You Tube and Facebook. One Facebook user wrote: “Puts into perspective all the stupid things we complain about when we see the bravery of this little one.” Another added: “This cute angel will do amazing things one day! She is a fighter!”

Those comments both hit the nail right on the head. The video certainly does put other issues into perspective and she may well go on to bigger and better things. This is one girl who is not going to let her amputation get in the way of her life. She is already accepting her prosthetic leg as completely normal for her.

But, is she being brave? Well, her spirit is obviously enviable. In the video, she falls down but gets up easily and carries on. That is what life is all about – other children do that too.

Owing to living with multiple sclerosis, I have serious mobility and balance problems. In fact, when I am not using a wheelchair, falling is an all-too-frequent event. The floor is one of my closest friends!

The trick, however, is to get up and get on with life.

This little one is coping with her disability in the only way she knows. It is not a position of her choosing and as such, while I admire her fortitude, she should not be burdened with being described as ‘brave’ or labelled a ’hero’.  They are such high aspirations to have to attain and then maintain. Similarly, I am not being brave in coping with my disability; she and I are both just doing what we can to overcome our difficulties.

Long may she be happy and able to grow up without being negatively affected by artificial leg.

Live for the future, let the past go

TheSmiler2015(2)

Vicky Balch has every right to be furious with the awful hand dealt to her this year but she really must get a firm grip on her life and look to the future with a new, positive outlook. Otherwise she is going to have a truly miserable time of it.

On 2nd June this year, Vicky was one of several people injured and trapped in an accident on the Smiler roller coaster at Alton Towers, one of the leading theme parks in the UK.

Her injuries were so bad that, despite a series of operations, surgeons eventually had to amputate one of her legs. Another young woman also lost a leg as the result of the accident.

Vicky hit the headlines again today when she lashed out at the decision of Alton Towers bosses to re-open the ride. She is reported as saying that two senior bosses told her of their intentions, during a visit to her home. She said that they told her that they might be able to reopen the ride by the end of this year.

She is disgusted by the possibility of the ride being reopened at all, let alone within seven months of the incident. Is she right? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Before considering that, though, maybe we should take a look at her attitude to life in general since she suffered that terrible injury.

There is no doubt that the accident caused a considerable upheaval in Vicky’s life we can see that she has not yet been able to come to terms with it. In all likelihood, it is too soon. She is still suffering, still grieving for things she can no longer do.

“I’m very up and down at the moment,” she is reported having said. “Talking about things I can’t do any more makes me really emotional.

“I can’t walk my dogs and I can’t ring up my friends at uni and say, do you fancy having a drink tonight?”

Yes, she is in a bad place right now but, and I don’t mean to be unkind here, she has to realise that she is no worse off than some other people. She is using a wheelchair for travelling more than a very short distance, just like me. But she has now taken her first steps using a prosthetic leg, while I will still need a wheelchair.

Again, Vicky looked back instead of forward when considering her future when she said: “I feel less feminine now. The way people look at you, that’s a big thing for me. I liked the attention before but now they look at me in a different way. It’s horrible.

“After my first op I asked my mum, ‘Who’s going to want me like this?’ And I still think like that.” Well, while it is true that the guy she had been dating has now left the scene, I have no idea of what went on between them at that point and so will not comment on that.

However, looking ahead, Vicky is likely to meet men who are shallow and so avoid any possibility of a relationship with her but she will also meet some who see beyond her injury, beyond her prosthetic leg, and fall in love with who she is.

But first, she needs to let go of the past, accept the present and make the very best of the future. That’s the way to find happiness.

So, what about reopening the ride? Alton Towers’ management has discovered the accident was the result of human error. There was nothing wrong with the ride itself, they say. If that is true, as long as steps have been taken to eliminate an error such as this happening again and the authorities are happy, then put the accident in the past and let the ride be reopened.

And in the unlikely event that she is reading this: Vicky, we cannot change the past but what you do now will affect your life to come. You can make yours a great life, embrace it and live it to the full. Shape your life around what you can do now and what you can strive to achieve in the future.

North Wales MS charity set for year ahead

Future plans and activities for MS Synergy were decided by members at the annual general meeting held alongside its September monthly gathering earlier this week.

MS Synergy is North Wales’s own independent support group charity for people with multiple sclerosis and those affected by it, such as relatives, carers, friends or anyone with any kind of interest in the illness.

At the AGM, held at Prestatyn’s Paanshee Bangladeshi Restaurant on Tuesday 15th, members approved the annual report, adopted the accounts and took important decisions about future administration and organisation. These were finalised by making some minor amendments to the constitution.

After two years as chairman, Nigel Partington had already forewarned us that he had decided it was best for him to stand down. Naturally, everyone was sorry his health had prompted that decision and sent him their best wishes along with their hopes that he would attend future gatherings whenever he felt able.Kathy Ruane

In his place, the group was fortunate to be able to elect two Co-Chairmen. These are Christine Cooper  (below) and Kathleen Ruane (right). Kathy has MS and if her surname sounds familiar, that is probably because her brother is Chris Ruane, former Labour MP for Vale of Clwyd. He served as MP for 18 years before losing his seat at this year’s general election.christine cooper_edited

The role of secretary proved to be a little more difficult to fill but was resolved with the help of some lateral thinking and ingenuity. I have been secretary for the last two years but moving to Spain in November meant that MS Synergy needed a new secretary – or did it?

With no-one putting themselves forward, the meeting decided to re-elect me (below left) as secretary to do from Spain everything that I had always done on computer in Colwyn Bay. Let’s face it, that can be done anywhere in the world with access to the internet. The one important part of the work that needs a hands-on presence in North Wales, the organisationian gravatar_edited of the monthly meetings or ‘gatherings’, was given to another committee member.

Former long-term group organiser and, for the past two years, gwawr_editedtreasurer, Gwawr Jones (below centre), was re-elected to look after the finances while Eryl Thomas (below right) Eryl Thomas_editedjoined the committee as Gatherings Coordinator.

Three remaining committee member roles were left unfilled, allowing the committee to co-opt people in the future.

With me going to be many miles away, members agreed that future general meetings and committee meetings should include a free computer-to-computer video link to make it possible and feasible for me to take an active part and to take minutes. Isn’t modern computer technology wonderful?

One last piece of re-organisation agreed by the AGM was in regard to bank payments and withdrawals. The previous constitutional requirement was for each cheque to bear two signatures from any of the three officers. An amendment passed on the night now requires two signatures from any of the officers and committee members resident in the UK. That will make the treasurer’s work a lot easier.

  • MS Synergy is a ‘local small charity’ as defined by the Charities Act. As such, it is only allowed to raise up to £5,000 a year.

 

 

 

Steps towards Spain

Work 1 

Bathroom fitments removed and stored in bedroom while wet-room is fitted.

Preparations for our great move to Spain continue apace with Tuesday witnessing another step, actually two steps, along the journey. Then, one more step was taken this morning.

First step: Pictures have arrived showing the work in progress to turn the dream home we found into one that is absolutely perfect and one in which I can live comfortably with my disability. Although I don’t need it now, Lisa and I made the important decision to buy a home in which, if needed in the future, I could use a wheelchair indoors.

In truth, if it ever happens, that should be several years away but as we are making a big move, really a lifestyle change, we decided to be ready for whatever Multiple Sclerosis may hold for me in the future. We don’t want to be forced to move again.

One of the key improvements being made as part of the package of conversion works is the provision of a wet-room. The bathroom fitments have been stripped out already and a full wet-room is about to be installed complete with a fully accessible level entry walk-in shower that will also be suitable for a special roll-in shower chair,

Step two we made without actually needing to do anything more ourselves as we had already done our part. It came in the form of an email from Paul, the driver/courier from Anyvan. He let us know that our possessions have arrived safely in Spain and have been delivered into our new home. Nothing more can be done with those until we get there in November.

I have to say that Lisa and I are both so impressed with Anyvan’s method of operation in which any of its couriers who want a particular job bid against each other to win the business. That way the client can get the best possible price. What’s more, the professionalism, courtesy and willingness to be as accommodating as possible – as clearly demonstrated by Paul – show all of the company’s associated drivers in the best possible light. They really do seem to know everything about giving top-rate service and superb customer relations. We would have no hesitation in using their services again and would highly recommend them to others.

Step three took the form of a visit to the vets this morning. Having given both Pooka and Prissy a health check-up, the vet scanned the microchips they had implanted before their trip here from Florida in March 2012 and gave them both their rabies vaccinations.

Tomorrow, we have to go back to the vets – just us, not the cats – to pick up their ‘pet passports’ that will allow both of them to enter Spain without going into quarantine.

Just one more thing to do today, this time because of our holiday before we leave for Spain, and that is to telephone the cattery to book the cats in for their stay while we are in the USA.

If you wonder why we have a holiday just before moving abroad, the holiday was booked before we decided to move; then the money came through from my former matrimonial home. It is all a bit of an almost runaway train but one of our own choosing and in which we are enjoying the ride.

MS is the driving force behind our move to Spain

There were a number of factors which lead Lisa and I to want to move, then to decide roughly where to go and finally to choose what we consider to be our perfect home but, without a doubt, multiple sclerosis was – and is – the main incentive.

Let me explain. Taking things in order, we realised that our present rented flat is not suitable to convert to being totally wheelchair friendly if my MS deteriorates enough for me to reach that stage. Currently, I do not use a wheelchair at home, only when I am out and about. But we had to think of what the future could hold, so we needed a place that either was already suitable or could be easily converted if the need does arise.

Secondly, we knew that my former marital home was for sale and a deal would be likely to be finalised by the summer and then I would have just six months to spend it on a new home without my benefits being affected.

So, having decided to move, we then started to look. We scoured websites like Rightmove that are popular ways for estate agents to advertise properties they have for sale but nothing seemed to match our needs.

We were getting fed up with the weather and we both wished for more sunshine. Also, we had noticed that my MS symptoms seemed to get worse as temperatures changed; more consistent weather was called for. Then, one day we were talking about our holiday two years ago when, on my November birthday, we had been sitting outside a Barcelona bar sipping Sangria in the sunshine. And that was when I suggested to Lisa that we should move to the south of Spain.

She was unsure at first as she didn’t want me to later regret leaving the nation of my birth. No such trouble for her though, as Lisa left the USA more than three years ago. Also, for the 18 years before she moved to Wales she lived in Florida so had become used to hotter temperatures. Anyway, once she was reassured about my feelings, she was as enthusiastic as I had become.

Picking an area of Spain was a little more difficult as we did not want to be far from the sea but wanted to live close to Spanish people and did not want to be surrounded by tourists. We settled on Almeria province but not the city itself, the home we found is within easy reach of a little village but only a 15 minute drive from the Mediterranean.

After looking at details of many Spanish properties online, we knew we had to take a trip out there, which we did at the end of April. It was so worth it. We knew as soon as we entered the second property that it was for us. It felt like our home and while I was sitting talking to the owner, Lisa was already working out in her mind what could go where.

Our living room in Spain looking from the back door through the wide arch into the kitchen diner. Beyond the display cabinets on the left is another wide entrance way into the hall that gives access to the wetroom and two bedrooms

Some work needed to be done before we move in but this is already in hand. We agreed the details and accepted a quote and the seller, who lives nearby, agreed to oversee the work for us. When I received my share of the money from my previous matrimonial home, we completed the purchase of our dream home that will be wheelchair accessible right from the start. Actually, we received the money into our bank account on a Friday and we completed the purchase on the Monday.

The work includes stripping out the old bathroom and installation of a wet room complete with a large shower area with a fold-down seat, fitting a new wider back door and fly screen leading from the living room out onto the decking, a ramp from the back garden up to the decking and a levelled and resurfaced walkway from the drive to the back garden. There is other work being done as well but these are the main items to make life easier for me.

It really is ideal and living in the warmth with plenty of natural vitamin D will be perfect.

As an added bonus, we even have a second bedroom so friends and relatives can stay.