And life goes on ...

The Eagle and the Lark - Decreased mobility  |   Running on my stealth  |   Flying in my Lark

Decreased mobility

I remember the first cane I ever used. It had a brass duck's head handle. Smart. It had to be because I hated having to use it. But I got used to it. Later I changed it for an orthopaedic stick. Gave me more stability. I was not walking smoothly and I tired so easily. So I walked less and my world became smaller and smaller. And still I kept falling. The neurologist suggested a wheelchair. For me? No. My walking was not so bad. But still my world became smaller. I remember once walking to a cinema. I got to the door and could not walk another step. My legs would not shift. I can't, I cried to my friends. Wait here, somebody said and back she came with an office chair on wheels. Sit on it, and I'll wheel you in, she said. Strangely, the transition was made and I started looking for a wheelchair or electric scooter.

The physical difficulty was only part of the problem. My world had become larger, but it was a new world. Spontaneity evaporated. Practical difficulties appeared - accessibility, transport, location of the toilets. And what about my new perception of self? Sometimes it was just too tiring to figure out all the parameters. Easier to stay at home. But that would never do.

The problem of maintaining mobility is not just a personal one. There is no public transport that is equipped for a person in a wheelchair. There may be legislation ensuring accessibility to new buildings, but in practise it is not always so. Older buildings may not be accessible at all. Going to the cinema, going to a restaurant becomes a mission. First phone. Hope there is adequate parking nearby and that if there is a disability parking bay it isn't used by an able person who needed just to hop out for convenience.

I had three accidents before I decided that it was unwise to drive. When my foot slipped off the accelerator and I couldn't lift it back onto the pedals, I knew something had to be done. Hand controls. That would be the answer. But I knew it wasn't. My reaction time had slowed and I had become a danger to myself and others on the road. So I stopped driving.

Long ago I hiked up mountains in the Cape, and climbed up Massada in Israel. I have ridden on an elephant at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, have sat on an ostrich near Darling and been on a speed boat on Plettenburg Bay. I can't walk now but am carried on an Eagle and fly with a Lark.

But that's a new story altogether.

The Eagle and the Lark

Never had I been so excited. I was going to Israel to stay with and my brother Raphy and Elana, my sister-in-law. That in itself was exciting, but my mission made my visit all the more so.

"Yes", I declared to the airline, "I will need assistance".
I swallowed hard and made a further declaration –
"I am disabled".

I hated, and still hate, the label of "disabled".

"I have multiple sclerosis and use a walker to hold onto when I walk. But I will still need a wheelchair," I added.

It was vital that I fully established that I was in need of a wheelchair. The success of the mission depended on it. So I sat in the chair, was wheeled through customs and onto the lift which lifted me up to the level of the door of the aeroplane. The door was open and I stepped off the wheelchair and walked to my seat, holding on to the seats for support. And when we landed in Tel Aviv another wheelchair was waiting for me. I was speedily wheeled through customs, helped with my luggage. Then I walked, slowly, with my walker, to meet Raphy.

"You look fantastic", Raphy laughed as he hugged me.

I surreptitiously looked about me and spoke in hushed tones. "Have you made contact with the agent?"
"Not yet. I thought it best to wait until you came. How have the negotiations gone with Dad?" Raphy nervously ended.
"Well, very well", I quietly answered.

We went straight to his home in Beit Shemesh. After I had greeted Raphy's marvellous family, had a cup of tea and chatted a while, I looked at Raphy and gave him a slight nod. I was ready.

I made the phone call that was to change my life.

"Amit, my name is Lauren Singer and I believe you are The Agent for the Jerusalem area. I have to see the machine, in the metal, as it were. When can you deliver it?"
"Shalom Lauren" said Amit, rolling the ‘r’. I love the way Israelis pronounce my name.
"I can have it by you this afternoon, say four o'clock? Just give me your address".

I gave him Raphy's address. This was going better than I expected.

At four o'clock, precisely, we heard a knock on Raphy's front door. It had arrived.
"It is very well balanced," Amit explained. "If you prefer we can put on two extra wheels at the front. It's not necessary, but if you feel nervous …” Amit continued.
"Let me try it", I said my voice trembling with excitement.
"Go ahead. It is fully charged", Amit grinned mischivously.

And I did. It drove so smoothly, so quietly. And it was light, comparatively speaking. This was my new scooter.

I drove it swiftly through customs when I came back to Johannesburg. No problem – no-one stopped me,

Mission accomplished.

And my scooter’s name?

The Stealth

Running on my stealth

Well, The Stealth, my trusty scooter, has served me very well. I have been able to hurry around Cavendish Square and a myriad of other accessible places. That I expected, of course. But the Stealth had another unexpected bonus.

As I grow older, it is increasingly difficult to even pretend to be cool. I love chatting to children. I love to tell them stories and see their look of astonishment or hear them laughing. But admiration? I never even aspire to that. I am always ready to answer any question they might pose. I have often been to schools and spoke to the school pupils. I tell them about multiple sclerosis and being disabled. And what are the most burning questions may ask? Can you reverse in your scooter? How fast can you go? Can we race you?

And nonchalantly I answer those questions. On very few occasions I have even allowed one or two to ride my scooter. Yeah, it is fun to ride. Yeah, I push my sunglasses up. I wish I could have a scooter too, it's so cool. Super Cool. That's the Stealth.

And me.

It has become very difficult for me to move off the scooter and into the car. My mother has the knack of helping me to stand up and then swivel around to sit on the passenger seat. Then she had to dismantle the scooter and put it in the boot. Increasingly I have needed additional help to stand up and swivel. It is wonderful how strangers are so willing to help. A good friend and I went to Cavendish Square. On this occasion I used my wheel chair instead of the scooter. I thought that it would be easier for both of us. Somehow I miscalculated the transfer into the car and not only fell onto the floor of the parkade but managed to pull my friend over as well. As quick as a flash people ran from all sides to help me. I have fallen so often that it has ceased to be an embarrassment.

Eventually it became too difficult for me to transfer. It now took two people to help me get onto my scooter and at least another two to help me get into the car. It was also a bit much to expect of my mom to dismantle and pick up my scooter. So I stayed home more. Just thinking about going out, was exhausting. Then a friend of ours showed me the car she had just purchased in England. Hey, what an incredible car. Just open up the back doors and wheel up a ramp, clamp the wheelchair in place put on the safety belt, and A for away.

It took planning, a lot of advice and a tremendous amount of good fortune and an abundance of love to help me formulate and put into action, what was a dream. We were given the website address after a company in England which sold second-hand cars which had already been adapted for people with disabilities.

So now we have a car I can be wheeled in to. And the name of the car? The Lark. You see, we just go out for a lark.