by Jeanne Hambleton©

I consider myself pretty lucky because although I have FMS/CFS I have managed to stay on my feet and remain relatively active for at least half of the day. However all that has changed in the last three weeks. On the second day of my two week holiday abroad with my daughter – a bit of bonding – I had a nasty fall walking up a dimly lit steep slope with no hand rails at the complex (no Health & Safety assessments obviously). Needless to say there was blood, torn jacket and trousers and my pelvic bone was a mess – not broken but badly bruise. But it took a 211 call, ambulance and a trip to hospital to establish I would live. As a result I spent the next 12 days in a self-propelling wheelchair.

But the big surprise was the Spanish Doctor who appeared to know all about fibromyalgia, said I would take 10 times long to heal as I had fibromyalgia. Can you believe that?

While the accident was literally a pain in the butt, eight painkillers a day and no alcohol, I was able to lounge in the warm sun. However the Spanish doctor with some English warned I would be in pain for 3 or 4 days (in hindsight I think he meant weeks) and it would last longer as I had fibromyalgia. Great – just the kind of news I needed. Now back home after a nightmare flight to Gatwick which was so disorganised with its wheelchair assistance (an independent company that is overstretched) I am now waiting for another x-ray. It is now 3 weeks and I am still not walking.

This was to be the beginning of a huge learning. My dear daughter, whose holiday I completely ruined as she became my carer (including taking to the loo in the middle of the night) also pushed me around, helped me in and out of taxis with the help of the wonderful Lanzarote taxi drivers. If I extended my arm to lean on them, as I could not stand on the left foot, they were there. They unfolded the wheelchair and helped me up steep kerbs. They became my ‘knights in shining armour’.

Really it could not have happened in a better place – the locals were fantastic and I was even invited to queue jump? Canarians and holidaymakers were caring, attentive and helpful. But the drop down kerbs were steep and pavements narrow. Their slopes for wheelchair users in the Playa Blanca where were difficult to manoeuvre and so many restaurants had toilets upstairs or downstairs, which were inaccessible to me.

Perhaps it is time someone produced a guide for wheelchair users locating disabled toilets, easy access paths and so on and made this available at the holiday venues?

Before the accident we had discovered the new Lani steak house at the new Rubicon Marina and we knew they had a ground floor disabled toilet. That became our nightly destination as we ate our way through the menu of prawn cocktails, homemade tomato soup to kill for, and various steaks including T-bone, fish, pizzas, Mexican dishes, and more. Miguel, Johnny and their staff, took good care of us including organising a taxi in the car park to get us home. Without the help from the Lani staff I think we would have lived on sandwiches and crisps in the apartment for the next two weeks and I might have faded away… well lost some weight any.

As folks struggled to help me up steep kerbs, my daughter nicknamed me, “Mama Too Many Dinners” which always lightened the mood, eased the strain and gave rise to a laugh.

We had a frying pan with no egg slice; a microwave with no microwave dishes, and had asked for an apartment overlooking the pool but I forgot to mention ‘with water’. The apartment was well appointed as we requested and great for the first two days. After that they emptied the pool for repairs, which was still empty when we left. In fairness there were other pool. Next time I will ask for an apartment next to a pool with water in it. We had a light bulb than did not work, a telephone with a loose wire, and a wooden curtain pole that sent its 20 rings clattering all over the floor and noisy neighbours upstairs. I think if I had been fit and well I might not have taken much notice of all of that but spending so much time in the apartment somehow it all seemed to grate. Finally having fibromyalgia also cost me more on my holiday travel insurance.

Perhaps the only saving grace on of this holiday from hell was that I have discovered what life is like in a wheelchair, where doors open towards you, shops have two steps and no slopes into the building, counters are too high and you cannot see the goods displayed. Also oddly enough the air does not seem as fresh as it is if you are upright, as all the rubbish bins are “in your face” so to speak.

Perhaps the most annoying aspect of being in a wheelchair is watching people stride towards you, looking in the opposite direction and suddenly you are afraid they will fall all over you and be in your lap if your driver does not take action to avoid a disaster. Many people are without doubt jaywalkers. They walk round a dustbin, or display stand, but seem to refuse to budge and make the path easier for someone in a wheelchair. Come to think of it you also meet these people when you are standing upright and you have to avoid a clash with people who do not look where they are walking. What do you think?

So my message this time is take care and if you are upright, please make way for wheelchair users. Talk soon. Jeanne


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