Nobody could have expected the last four months to pan out the way they did (unless you’ve read Dean Koontz’s novel, The Eyes of Darkness) and many people would have deemed it almost impossible to stay at home with very little face-to-face interaction for three months straight. But here we are, the days often merging into one and the time has somehow managed to escape us.
For many people across the UK, the news released today (June 23rd) that pubs are allowed to open again will be like announcing a four-day working week. Long overdue and welcomed by the masses. There are, however, thousands of people who have dealt with isolation and lockdown as if it were any other day, week or even year. That’s not to say that there are thousands of introverts out there silently welcoming the curfew with open arms but that there are thousands of elderly and disabled people who cope with a similar pace of life and social engagement, day in, day out, without the glimmer of hope that restrictions will soon be eased.
I have been a quadriplegic for three years now, two years spent living at home from a wheelchair. Originally, when I was first given my discharge date from hospital, I was scared to go home as I pictured myself living out of a single room and barely able to manoeuvre through the tight corridors. I was scared of missing all of the accessible facilities that the spinal unit had to offer. In truth, it was as if I entered a very surreal, yet definitely real version of lockdown as soon as I moved back home, two years ago. This was, however, simply a mindset that I had wrongly backed myself into, partly owing to the fact that I was still in a large, rickety wheelchair that didn’t support me in the right areas and partly because my mind was unable to rest because most other aspects of my life needed addressing in some form or another. However, once I had finally taken receipt of my lightweight, rigid-frame wheelchair and I had begun to look at adapted motor vehicles, I was starting to see the positives that the future held.
The same can be said of this global pandemic: I have concentrated on what I can do instead of what I wish I could do. I have occupied myself with a much stricter workout routine, I’ve started a blog and spent valuable hours in the sun, tending to the garden I am lucky enough to have, germinating tomato, pepper and wildflower seeds. I could often be found leaning forward on the verge of tipping forward, sprouted seeds all over my shoes and soil under every finger nail. I’d be using a spoon to dig too, as a trowel is too big and heavy to handle properly.
My blog, www.livingwithparalysis.co.uk, was a way of managing some of my free time during lockdown. I believe like all SCI survivors or survivors of traumatic, life-changing events that I have been through a lot, and I wanted to share some of my experiences with others.
The global lockdown has put everybody in the same boat; for the first time since my injury I’ve felt like I’m not missing out. Family and friends are contacting one another more regularly and hosting online virtual quizzes. I’ve seen more of my mum’s forehead and kitchen ceiling during this pandemic than I ever have! I feel people have once again started appreciating the smaller things in life and generally become friendlier.
Hopefully, the stricter lockdown workout routine that I have put myself through will allow me to achieve more in the future. I can’t wait to get back to my local wheelchair-accessible gym, Matt Hampson’s Get Busy Living Centre, and start attending physio and gym sessions once again. The unforeseeable onset of lockdown did have one small bonus: it allowed me to temporarily dodge a bullet because while attending a physio session at the centre, I had agreed to attend weekly, wheelchair rugby sessions in Leicester, UK. Two years ago, very early on in my rehabilitation, I was exposed to a wheelchair rugby training session, the noises of the impacts still giving me shivers today. As soon as the second wave of lockdown is lifted in Leicester, not only am I going to need to adjust to going out in public again but I’m going to be a sitting duck getting battered by lads who haven’t played their favourite game in four months!
I’m also looking forward to booking a session with an accessible flight school, taking to the controls of a Piper Warrior, a single-engined, light aircraft, for a 30-minute flight. I’m especially looking forward to this experience as even before my accident I couldn’t think of a better feeling of freedom. In my eyes it is quite possibly the most fun you could have while seated. Is there a better way of celebrating the end of lockdown? I also aim to one day ride an adapted motorbike, but there are aspects of my injury that I’d need to manage first, like my muscle tone and spasms; flying (touch wood) should be easier to achieve, as I’d be strapped into the seat and a spasm through my torso should be easier to deal with. That’s my theory anyway!
All in all, lockdown has reduced everybody’s abilities, disabled or not, but it has also made people realise the fundamentals in life and reignited their ability to dream. Long may this mindset last!