The final level. The short trip down the stairs, well lift in my case, was the easiest transition I had made. But before I moved downstairs, I had one final decision to make. I had to choose between going onto one of the adult rehab wards or the paediatric ward, children’s ward. I was very lucky that I was only seventeen at the time and had the choice. It was a tough yet very obvious decision.
The children’s ward was decorated in a very childish way that turned me off the ward quite a lot, especially when I was on the brink of becoming an adult. I didn’t want to be viewed as a young child all the time. But it only had six beds, so very calm and quiet. I could finally get some unmediated sleep. A step closer to normality. The ward had its own private physiotherapy equipment, which meant I could exercise more regularly, almost whenever I wanted. A huge bonus for me. However in contrast to the choice of the adult wards I had, the children’s ward seemed like a luxury hotel. The two adult wards were noisy and leaning towards depressing. They were no different from the ward I was about to leave.
I chose the paediatric ward.
I was finally in a place where thoughts of getting out and going home were becoming a reality. Just through the doors of my bedroom was the exit out of the hospital. It was within touching distance. Would have been even closer if I could reach for it!
Once downstairs I had a meeting with my new consultant, nurse, physio, mum and two others, who I have chosen to forget. The meeting was about my discharge date. My physio and consultant were very positive and of course my mum and I pushed to bring the date as close as possible. Everyone seemed to be on the same wave length. The date was decided, February 10th 2010.
With the discharge date taken care of I could focus on my one main goal at that point, being able to push my chair. In Part Three I wrote “I saw someone in a similar situation pushing his chair and I knew it was for me. Personally, going into the electric chair for me was giving up when I knew I could do more. It did not go down well with the hospital, but deep down I knew I could do it and I knew what I wanted. It would be an ongoing fight.” Believe me, it wasn’t until a few days before I left that everyone in hospital got on board, it was crazy how much convincing it took. When I saw this person push himself I asked my mum to go speak to him to see how got to pushing himself, we kept in touch and have also become friends. I think it’s the way we think about getting on with life that made us friends. He gave us the number to his incredible physio, someone to who I owe a huge amount.
Normal protocol says someone with zero arm and leg movement should be in a head controlled electric chair, but I had to prove them wrong.
The whole point of the rehab ward was to get the wheels in motion towards leaving. This meant patients could go home during this time. They would allow you home for a day one weekend then build up to a whole week or more until you eventually left. After slow progress with convincing the physios, the moment I organised a day home we got the private physio over. The first thing she asked me was what I wanted to do, push myself in my chair. She immediately said we will work towards that. This was a total shock to us as the mention of those words in the hospital where always met with, ‘why don’t you try a head controlled chair?’, it was rarely positive. From that moment on I knew how hard I had to work to achieve what I wanted.
Every time I came home I would get the physio round. Each session was two hours long of brutal repetitions sometimes going into the hundreds, but finishing with assisted pushing in my wheelchair. It was physically shattering but mentally great. I knew that its what I needed. I always enjoyed pushing myself physically, and this was exactly the same thing.
My short stints at home were wonderful. The moment I got home my brothers would lift me out of the chair and lie me down on the sofa. Thank goodness I have three brothers! My whole family learnt how to do the basics of the care I need so that I could come home and we could enjoy time together. This was most noticeable during the ten days I got home for Christmas. One of the best things was I could chill and sit in bed as my bed was downstairs at the time and we could wheel it from room to room.
After Christmas I was home every weekend and loving it. It was only a matter of time before I would be home for good.
My last day was full of contrasting emotions. Of course the overriding emotion was joy. The joy of getting out of hospital. The joy of finally going home for good. Fear also played a part. I would be away from the safety of the hospital environment where there is everything you could possibly need, medically. At home you all have to learn a new way of life out in the real world. You find out you are constantly having to learn and adapt to life. At least it keeps things interesting.
As I said before my main goal was being to push myself. I needed to show everyone there, prove to them, that it could be done. I achieved that goal. The best way to show them it could be done was to push myself out of the hospital. So the day I left that’s exactly what I did, it was the best message I could send. That was until I reached a small slope and my lack of arm control meant I rolled straight in the middle of the car park. It took a bit of shine off the situation, but I think I got my message across.
It wasn’t until the car ride home that the wave of emotions I had been feeling all day hit me hard. I was sitting in the car when I just started to cry. I still cannot put my finger on exactly what it was that set me off. It was relief more than anything, maybe a much needed release. I was finally going home.
There was always one constant throughout my time in hospital. The support never died down. I would not have been able to do what I did without everyone around me. It has been a huge team effort. Everyone in my family, my friends and everyone that has supported me and my family, I will always be grateful.
A team is people you can always depend on.
People you can fall out with, yet will always forgive.
You can hate them, but will always love them.
They are your friends.
They are your family.
And…no matter how tough things get, no matter the
circumstances, they will always, always stand by your side.