Emily is enormously brave everyday. As her carer I feel a tiny winy bit brave facilitating and advocating for her, addressing situations that are completely new and unimagined only two years ago. No one can be prepared for wheelchair use or everyday caring but resilience can be found.
I felt brave when I booked Emily on our first international flight to Singapore. Imagine how brave Emily had to be as the crew took her wheelchair to the hold – would we see it at our destination all in one piece?
I felt brave when I confronted the QVB parking manager as I didn’t understand the disability concessions used on the site. My naivety was obvious, it under-lied a bravery as I felt compelled to argue for clearer signage.
I feel brave every time I assist Emily to venues, arriving to unknown access, geographical slopes, ramps and steep curb cuts. Imagine her bravery when she’s alone.
I feel brave blogging my experiences, trying to communicate honestly to carers and wheelchair users around the world. I expose my vulnerable underbelly of frustrations and fears because I want to suggest to others that we are all challenged and struggling but that it is surmountable, frustrations and fears can be overcome. I’d rather try than not. I support the ‘can do’ attitude on my Facebook page @Everydaycaring. I feel brave trying to engage in the social media Twitter #Everydaycaring . I expose my vulnerability to help others, to show that we are all compromised and all have to exude bravery everyday.
A tale of everyday bravery occurred when we set off on the ferry for Circular Quay to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Our outing was wonderfully successful as we enjoyed a scrummy lunch overlooking the Opera House and chatted amicably about art and original thought.
Our journey homeward should have been straightforward; our ferry was leaving wharf 2 at 3.30. It was precisely 3.30 so to avoid waiting for the next boat I broke into a trot behind Emily’s wheelchair. I maneuvered Emily through the ticket barrier at speed and as the crew secured the gang plank we descended from the quay to the floating pontoon. I hadn’t registered the gradient so we quickly built up momentum. I wasn’t scared of the speedy descent but I was frightened that the small front wheels could hit a raised ridge which would pivot the chair and catapult Emily into the ground.
It all happened so fast, we were on the down-slope before I could assess the situation, no chance of stopping or readjusting our speed. At the bottom I slowly composed myself although flustered. I had undoubtedly risked a spill, not just a spill from the chair – a spill at speed. As I sedately pushed Emily onto the ferry, one member of the crew rolled his eyes at me, shaking his head. I fully grinned at him, quite puce from the effort of averting disaster while trying to retain an aloof gait of a drama survived.
The boat reversed off the wharf and as we passed the Opera House I looked at Emily. We started that nervous giggling that follows near calamity, whatever did we look like as we accelerated, out of control, down that ramp towards all the waiting human skittles in their orderly queue. No one actually ran away shouting “Save yourselves” but the whites of their eyes told the truth of their alarm.
The ferry man waved us off at our stop and as the boat went to pick up others passengers around the bay we started the steep ascent up the pontoon ramp to land. These pontoons have held their positions from 1899, were wheelchairs widely used or considered at that time? I’m aware of the tidal influence which adjusts the gradient so maybe at other times the slopes are gentler?
Whatever my feelings as a carer I reckon Emily deserves a medal for holding her composure during an ear popping, hair-raisingly rapid ramp decent without a murmur of abuse towards me. True trust in her carer? Or a display of new found bravery in her new found wheelchair world. No-one can imagine addressing life in a wheelchair – it’s brave with a capital B!