Monday, 15 February 2016

New Year, Same Me!

I'm back, fear not, normal service has been resumed! I know I said I'd return in the new year, and it's now February, but in my defence internet pornography is not going to watch itself I've been remarkably busy with wheelchair rugby, getting my shoulder acupunctured, shooting product demo videos and also writing a sporting article for the Active Hands website, to do with the Paralympics and why people should be inspired to get active in the year ahead. Click here to check it out *nod nod, wink wink, plug plug*! I'll be honest with you, I did contemplate just copying and pasting it into here for an easy life. But after much soul searching I came to the conclusion that you lot deserve original material and so I'll do my best to entertain under my current fragile circumstances. Those being that I'm possibly coming down with a UTI and this morning I managed to somehow trap my arms and head inside a hoodie as I tried to pull it on, resulting in me falling out of my chair and into a blind heap on the floor. In all honesty, it'll be a small miracle if I make it to the end of this post without collapsing against the keyboard, my final moments being used to dramatically sign off and click 'Publish'...

 So anyway, here we are: 2016. As has been the case for over a decade now, last month saw me celebrate my special birthday. That is, the day I decided I was tired of having to continuously climb up and down stairs, park miles away from the shops and stand with the unwashed masses at gigs, no thank you sir! As my wheelchair rugby teammate's tattoo proudly states:

Ancient Wheelchair Proverb say...
 And so it came to be that on that fateful January morning in 2005, I crashed my car, broke my neck and haven't walked since...At least, not without the aid of a £90k robotic exo-skeleton, similar to Wallace and Gromit's The Wrong Trousers, but without the remote control, sinister penguin or comic caper shenanigans! So yes, I am now *drumroll* "11 years down the line", and bravo to anyone who spotted the subtle change at the top of the page! And even though I'm now firmly into my second decade of disabled debauchery, I'm still learning new ways of doing things, I'm still attempting new feats and I'm still finding out new things about myself and my injury. And so I thought, nothing remotely interesting has happened this year yet but I've got to write about something what better way of opening the first blog post of 2016, my first since turning 11, than with a wee look back over the past year to see if there were any particular challenges I'd attempted and possibly even overcome, followed by a look at what possibilities this year has in store. This may all seem somewhat self-indulgent, but rest assured there will be the usual amount of self-deprication along the way. I'm basically wanting to use myself as an example to show that no matter how long ago an injury may have taken place, you should never stop attempting things, no matter how ridiculous you may look whilst doing them! Of course, if I come to the swift realisation that last year I attempted and accomplished nothing, then this will be a rather monumental backfire on my part!

The principal thing that stands out as far as last year's endeavours go, is a prime example of attempting something whilst looking utterly ridiculous. Combine that with the fact I was completely naked whilst doing it and you have all the ingredients for a You've Been Framed post-watershed special. "But what exactly is this demi-godlike, mind over matter exploit that you performed??", I hear you ask with baited breath. Well brace yourself ladies and gentlemen, because last year I slayed my mythical dragon, I exorcised my demon, I climbed my Mount Everest...I got myself out of the bath!!

Now I'll admit, on paper this doesn't sound like the most earth-shattering of breakthroughs and, in terms of stature, levitates me only marginally above your average house spider. However, I assure you, this was very much a game changer for me, especially when it comes to being on holiday or away on rugby weekends!

Due partly to my injury level and partly to my stumpy, T-Rex arms, I am unable to lift myself from the floor, into my chair. Don't get me wrong, I can lower myself onto the floor, but this is more of a controlled fall than anything. This essentially meant that, when staying in a hotel, I couldn't use a shower cubicle (or a bath either I assumed) and so would either have to wash myself as best I could at a sink (aka, the hobo bath) or ring up hotels individually and go through the painstaking process of explaining what exactly a wet room was and whether any of their rooms were equipped with them. (If I've learnt anything over the past 11 years it's that when booking hotels, the term 'accessible room' can have a wiiiiiiide variety of meanings, ie. doors an inch wider, with spyholes a foot lower and a grab rail located at any random spot in the bathroom!) However, being able to get out of a bath eliminates almost all of those issues, making it infinitely easier when planning a trip away, because whereas very few hotels offer wet rooms, all of them offer baths!

It turns out that the secret of getting out of a bath when you can't move your legs and only have very partial tricep strength, is that you don't so much lift yourself out as pull yourself out. This begins by me draping a towel over the edge of the tub and lifting my legs over and out (as seen in Fig.1), so that my body is now squashed between the width of the tub.

Fig.1: Why you should never go to B&Q drunk!
Obviously the water has been drained by this point, my ever expanding waist doesn't make me the most buoyant of land mammals! Then I find that by hooking one arm onto my chair (which is sat patiently by the tub), and pulling myself forwards with this arm, whilst pushing against the back of the tub with the other, I can get myself off the floor of the tub and onto the edge. Now comes the tricky part! When a spinally injured male lifts out of a bathtub minus his clothes, certain...'items' will dangle! And if, once perched on the edge of the tub, he was to lose his balance and fall forwards, then what I can only imagine to be a guillotine effect would occur! Now I may be 33 and single, but I've not entirely written off the possibility of settling down and having a family one day, plus over the years I've become rather attached to my various body parts. So the possibility of 'castration by bathtub' is not something I take lightly. Thus ensues a delicate dance, gradually shuffling forwards whilst ensuring certain 'bits and bobs' remain above the danger line! Then, once I'm right on the edge of the tub and as stable as possible, one quick lift and I'm back in my chair, Gareth - 1 Bathtub - 0. Of course this is all with the proviso that I don't repeatedly lose balance and slip back into the tub...

"I can has help?"
So that was the main gain of 2015. Other than that, last year was memorable for interviews in London, travelling here and there, starting track racing, damaging my shoulder and subsequently stopping track racing. Oh and my chair and I also got hoisted up in the air in a crowd-surfing manner by four guys at a music festival, but that wasn't so much overcoming adversity as it was drunkenly agreeing to something and then immediately realising that I was one intoxicated stumble away from a hard, concrete death!

As far as 2016 is concerned, the stand-out events pencilled on the calendar so far are buying a house, going through the rigmarole of getting it adapted, and of course visiting Rio and New York in September. Littered in between these will doubtless be plenty more blog-worthy occurences, comical mishaps and things for me to grumble about!

Now if you'll excuse me, I hear the postman at the door, doubtless out of breath and struggling to carry the numerous sacks full of Valentine's Day cards and gifts sent to me by secret admirers. Yep, same story every year...



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