Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Dear Krofti, thank you for a lifetime together

Dear Krofti,

I am sorry that it has taken so long to write.  Every time I thought of you, the words in my mind were drowned by the tears from my eyes.  Managing life without you has been strange.  For so long you were there beside me.  For one decade and a half we lived together and breathed together.  So much in life that we experienced together, I grew up with you in my life, while you grew up and grew old.  I wish you could have stayed forever in my life, but I am grateful that you can still visit me in my dreams.
I remember the day we met.  I was not allowed to touch you.  I had to wait until your mother was ready for me to hold you and take care of you.  I promised to give you the life that you deserved and as I recall the memories of our life together, I believe that I fulfilled that promise.
So many memories, if I was to share them all I would be writing until age overcame my body and my fingers could write no more.
Do you remember when you were a very small pup and I took you to my place of work and introduced you to my new friends?  It was not long after I started working for that company and although I moved on, those friends have become old friends and one particular friend became your special friend too.  She helped you when you needed help and as a result you developed a very special bond with her.
And all the people that you have run with over the years, so many that fell in love with you and enjoyed your company, especially the children that you ran with over the years.  Your love of children was apparent from a very young age, you trusted them and did not fear them and in return they gave you what you loved.
Many did not realise how shy you were, especially as a pup.  One of my most precious memories of you was how you behaved during our first Christmas together when you ran into the house to see me, not realising at first that there was a large family gathering in the living room……  

You ran smiling to me and then panicked, slipping on the floor as you dashed towards me.  You reached the safety of my legs, cowered down and then dared to peak round my legs at all the strange faces.  You were scared and looked to me for guidance.  I helped you then and on many other days when you became uncertain of a situation.  You followed my lead, but I did not understand how closely you followed me until many years later….

In 2007 we found ourselves “homeless”, living in temporary accommodation.  Yes we had a house to live in and food on the table, but we no longer had a home.  The future was uncertain for you, me, Kai, Kade and Brego.  Should we return to my place of birth or could we remain and create our own life and find a new home.

I promised to find us all a home.  That was my priority.  I had to make a huge sacrifice along the way and Brego moved away to a life without us, but I found us that home.  The Pink Castle as it became affectionately known: a house in a beautiful location, with a huge garden and cool rooms for Siberian Huskies during the heat of a summer day.
The day we moved there you changed.  You became relaxed, chilled and bounced around everywhere with a huge smile on your face every day.  I had not realised how stressed you had become through me.  My stress passed to you and you struggled to deflect it.  But it went deeper than that.  You were happiest when the whole team was happy and when Ian joined our team your happiness reached a new level.  Your beautiful words of song were frequently heard in the village when one of your beloved team members was absent…

Rest assured dear Krofti that you will be with the team when we walk down the aisle to meet Ian next year.  Our Honeymoon was booked thinking of you and your special friend will be the special friend that makes sure I get to the church on time….

I want to write forever to you, talk of the times we ran together and the times that you ran with others.  The time you ran in the Olympic Torch Relay as I carried the precious flame.  The times you played with ponies and cats and rabbits – the only Siberian Husky I have ever known that loved all forms of life and hunted none.  The one time you accidently killed a mouse remains strongly in my mind as I accidently captured the experience on camera!   I want to write about the times that you shared your sense of humour with us, entertained us and forced us to respect you and understand why you did what you did. 

I want to write about all the foster dogs that lived with us and how you helped teach them about respect.  You did not suffer fools gladly and I am forever grateful for that.  You guided us and tried to help us understand.  I want to write forever, but I cannot.  I will never forget you, but our family needs me and the future needs me.  The memories of our life together are so precious and deeply ingrained in my mind, etched forever, along with the memories of our lives with Friday, Kai, Kade, Brego, Kez, Ian, Lara, Kobi, Kroi, Spike and Arwen.
I missed you this Christmas, dear Krofti, but every time I did I looked deep in my heart and mind and found you.  No matter what, I believe that you are out there somewhere, finally reunited with the pack that we both loved, watching us all from above.  

Please take care of Spike, he can be a very naughty dude sometimes and even with his Angel wings, he may not be ready to be good all the time.  He needs guidance and if anyone can do that, you can.

Until we meet again dear Krofti, I look forward to seeing you in my dreams.

Forever and a day I love you. xx

(images thanks to Ian J Berry, Carolyn Thompson Easter, Paul Hammon and Eastleigh parkrun)

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Spike - This is not a Story of The Blues

When we first met Spike he was called Blue and he was grey/ black in colour.  For a short while he was called Little Boy Blue and then he became Spike.  Spike was the most colourful husky I have ever known, both inside and out.  He saw beauty and felt delight in all that was around him, he found pleasure in things that many of us take for granted.  He was a very special Husky and his essence radiated outwards, shared with all he met.
To view the world from Spike’s perspective ensures a personal experience that warms your heart and lifts your mind.  While greys and blues were Spike’s external colours, his mind was a beautiful never ending rainbow….  

To walk down a path and be entranced by a leaf dancing in the wind; to then gaze at the leaves as they fall from the trees during the Autumn fall, entranced by their natural beauty; to gaze for hours at birds flying high in the sky, wondering where their journey will take them; to bounce like a frog when trying to hunt them….

Spike was fascinated with all that was around him and all the living creatures he met, humans, horses and pigeons were his favourite, but let us not forget the squirrels and cats too.  For some unbeknown reason, he did not react strongly to deer and hares which are the two creatures that our other Siberian Huskies react strongest too.

He was scared of badgers, probably originating from the time one charged straight at him along a narrow path.  I do not believe Mr Brock’s intention was to attack Spike, it just panicked and chose the most direct route home, straight through Spike and the human holding his lead.  Mr Brock was on a collision course with both Spike and I, but we were saved from the impact by the dog we call Superbrat.  There was a short scuffle before Mr Brock decided that a fight with Superbrat was not a good idea and went home to tell his family about the day he took on a Siberian Husky….
Even left-over porridge would light up Spike’s face.  He loved porridge, cottage cheese and mashed potato and would bounce around in sheer delight when they were on the menu.  Give him raw meat and “normal” husky food and dinner would begrudgingly be consumed.

Spike’s naughtiness brought colour into our lives.  In a silent room he would suddenly charge and start shouting, trying to evoke a reaction in the innocent person deep in concentration.  If he was reprimanded he would simply dash out the room and peek his head round the corner, and shout even louder.  This was a game he used to love playing regularly with me, irritatingly distract me and then run away.  When I realised the objective of the game it became easier to pretend to be cross, but hard not to laugh seeing the pleasure that it clearly brought him.

In the darkness of the night, he would awaken the household to let us all know that a hedgehog was trespassing in the garden.  Cue lots of red words from the humans as sleep was adjourned and replaced with the hedgehog emergency rescue operation procedure.

When Spike left us, we entered a very dark world.  It was full of blackness with multiple streaks of blues.  Immense sadness that we would never again see or feel him, hear his shouts or see his smiles.  And as the sadness subsided there were tormenting questions in the mind.  The passing of any young creature always brings those tormenting questions, always wishes and dreams that something could have been different.
As time passes, our lives are becoming colourful again as we remember the lessons in life that Spike taught us and our happy memories of him replace the sadness of the things we never got to show him or share with him.  Spike taught us to see beauty in all that is around us, take joy in simple things and do all that you can when you can.  Seize every opportunity that comes your way and accept everyone for who and what they are.  Spike had a very damaged and disabled body, but he did not let that hinder his positive outlook on life. His determined mind set appeared to give his frail body a special power and ability that defied medical logic.
In September we took Spike to a beer festival in the New Forest where the Ukulele band “The Mother Ukers” was performing.  The lead singer saw Spike happily playing with children and dedicated a song (ironically “Love Cats”!) to him. 

Yesterday we went to a beer festival where the same band was playing.  Unbeknown to me they had learned of Spike’s passing.  They dedicated one of their songs to him and it was not only us that felt immensely profound emotional impact.  The majority of the audience started dancing around and singing, I have never seen anything like it at a CAMRA beer festival.  The crowd responded to that dedication and the merriment continued for the remainder of the band’s performance.

The song they chose was “500 miles” by the Proclaimers.  One day I hope to run again and when I do I want to run 500 miles for Spike.  I want to run each of those 500 miles in beautiful colour.  It will be my tribute to Spike and confirmation that his legacy lives on, in me, in you and in anyone that chooses to view the world in multi layered colour, no matter what life throws at them.

(Eternal thanks to Ian J Berry for his outstanding photos and helping to make me cry with happiness at a beer festival)

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

One last letter to Spike

Dear Spike,

Thank you for always being you.

Days after we met, the day you met your special friend
The day we met you we were astounded with your fighting spirit and determination.  A pitiful bag of bones with very little fur you bounced into our lives with a personality bigger than any dog I have ever known.  Neglected and abandoned by humans you had learned how to survive.  Not only how to survive, you had taught yourself how to make the most of every day and every opportunity.

You were only supposed to stay with us for a few short months.  We were going to nurse you back to health and help find you a forever home.  We did that and off you went to your new home, we shed tears on the day you left, but felt proud that we had achieved our objective.
36 hours later you were back with us.  It matters not why you returned, but truth be known, we were rather happy when we picked you up and brought you home.

And that is what our house became to you.  Our house became your home and you joined our family.  History will show that we officially adopted you after we learned of the extent of your disabilities several months later, but the reality is that when Ian and I hugged you on the day you returned from the failed adoptive home, we were never going to let you go again.

Learning about the full extent of your physical issues was hard.  The scans and x-rays at the best veterinary facilities in the world confirmed news we had feared and were not prepared for.  Severe elbow dysplasia on top of the hip dysplasia we already knew about.  You were only one year old and the only options for you were elbow replacements and a life of operation, 6 month cage rest, another operation and another 6 months cage rest. 

Amazing spirit, you believed in yourself for sure!!
From an ethical perspective we could not do that to you.  So we made a promise to you, that for the rest of your life we would do all that was humanly possible to give you happiness.  The expert medics forewarned us that 6-9 months would be the time that we had left with you.
I guess you had other ideas….

You showed us what made you happy… new experiences; running with your Siberian Husky brothers; meeting people; eating weird foods like porridge and cottage cheese; watching birds; playing with ponies; chasing yard brooms at work; hugs; hunting hedgehogs in the garden; barking at birds; ripping up Ben10 duvets; biting the water from the hose; being tickled; hanging out with our Husky friends; warmth, especially the sunshine and radiators in winter.

We helped you have then all.  Truth be known, I didn’t like the shouting, but you knew that didn’t you?  And that is why you always shouted at me and then dashed away before peeping round the corner to see my response.  I saw the smile on your face… it was our game.

Your happiest moments were when you ran with your Husky brothers.  I had the honour and privilege of running most of them with you.  Yes I got frustrated when you shouted at the others and refused to follow my instructions, but I know only too well how annoyed I get when someone tells me not to do something I want to!

You scared us last year when you ruptured your left cruciate.  Emergency surgery was performed but we were worried as to how you would cope with the recovery.  You coped, just.  It was horrible to watch you struggle.  One of the worst experiences I had in life was seeing you after that operation.  You had had enough of medical intervention and from that day forth you were never going to trust another vet, apart from your special friend.

To see you run again after that was nothing short of a miracle.  But we lived in fear that one day your other cruciate would rupture and if it did we knew surgery was not an option. 
The people that saved your life
When it happened on Sunday, it broke me and it broke everyone in the family.  To watch you struggle to stand or lie down was heart-breaking.  We knew that our time together was coming to an end. 

But before I go, I have some amazing news for you.  Do you remember the last time we ran together?  That moment was captured on video and as of today over 15,000 people have viewed it!!  That is amazing as the memory of that run is forever etched in my mind and many others too. 
You had that impact on people, they will never forget you because you are one of the special beings that lived and walked amongst us.

As I write to you a song as just come on the radio that sings about “from a distance”…. You are so far now from me and I hate that.  I want to hug you and know that I will never again do that.  I hope you are watching from up above and knowing how much we are missing you.  Forever and a day I will remember you and on the days when I struggle I will remember you and rise above it all.
A very special morning

You taught us so much about life Spike in the short time that you lived with us.  Thank you for all that you gave us.

I will never forget today.  You collapsed in my arms and I had the honour of carrying you to the place where you fell asleep forever, surrounded by your favourite people and the Huskies that became your family.  Ian held you and Kroi stood watching over you as you fell asleep, but you don’t need me to tell you that, you knew.  Your hero and pack leader was with you as you fell asleep, to dream forever.  

Go now and catch those dreams, run forever pain free.  You are one of the most inspirational beings I have ever known and one day I will write a book about our life together.  The book will include another special dude that led you to us.  His name was Kobi, you would have liked him.

This is the hardest letter I have ever written.  Tears are flooding down my face as I think of you.  We miss you so much already.  We want to hear shouting at us, annoying us, anything to break the deadly silence that is now around us.

Forever and a day, we love you Spike.

Sandra and Ian xx

(thank you North Pole Marathon, without your help Spike's life would have been very different)

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Spike: the little star that still sparkles

Spike gave us a terrible fright recently. 
His condition has been gradually deteriorating for several months and he suddenly became very lame on his one “good” leg, his right hind.  There was no incident or trauma, he just stopped wanting to use the leg properly.  This was the only leg that, to date had not appeared to give him significant pain.  He struggled to stand up and lie down and did not want to weight bear on that leg.  We placed him on even more restricted exercise, which he struggled to cope with and became very depressed.  It looked like he was going to slip away from us.
We increased his medication and hoped for another miracle from our special little star.

We took him to Top Dog hydrotherapy fearing that it would be his last ever session.  We were worried that even gentle exercise in controlled conditions and with his body supported by water would be too much for his fragile body.  The water in the tank was set higher than normal and the treadmill was on extra slow setting.  Even with the support of the water Spike still only toe touched his right leg while stationary, but he did use it when moving and his range of movement improved as the session progressed.  Once the session was over Spike looked happier and there was a definite sign of the sparkling Spike that we have come to know and love.

We took him home after his hydro session, he had dinner and then he crashed for the rest of the day.  I think he slept for 12 hours solid in the same place.  He awoke when we did the next morning and was extremely stiff, but after a few minutes moving around he started using the right hind leg, albeit limping heavily.

He was perkier all weekend and after another successful laser treatment session from Shelley we felt a glimmer of hope that another Spike miracle was happening.  Based on historical evidence, every time his condition worsens he stumbles, but then he appears to accept his new situation and fights back with renewed energy.  His fighting spirit is incredible and his adaptability astounding.  Having legs that don’t work properly does not stop him from digging, bouncing around and shouting at the top of his voice.  What does bother him is not being able to run and work with the other members of the pack.  That makes him very sad and we have to give him extra stimulation to make up for something he will never have again.
Thankfully Spike loves meeting people and doing things like going to shops, pubs or beer festivals.  He loves the attention and is a social butterfly.  I am also very grateful that we have a very stable pack and when the bottom of the pack member gets special trips out with the Humans of the family, the other Siberian Huskies are totally accepting of this.  Although he is quickly reprimanded by boss dog when he gets over cocky about his privileged status!  
Spike now has hydrotherapy and laser treatment every week, he also wears pyjamas at night to keep his joints warm.

However, there is further bad news.,,,

When Spike ruptured his left, cruciate ligament in September 2014 and underwent emergency TPLO surgery, we knew that there was a high probability he would sustain the same injury in his right leg.  We have tried to protect him as much as possible while allowing him to enjoy life and our hearts sink with each new discovery of pain or lameness. 

Following careful examination from our favourite vet this week, we know that Spike is feeling pain in his elbows, hips, back and his right knee.  There is also swelling in his knee.  There is a very high probability that his cruciate will either partially or fully rupture.  From an ethical perspective Spike cannot undergo another TPLO procedure.  It breaks our hearts to make this statement, but we have to be realistic about Spike’s condition and his quality of life.

There may be something that we can do to protect Spike’s knee without surgical intervention.  When humans damage their joints, they can opt to wear a brace to support the weakened area.  I know only too well the benefits of ankle supports and braces as I have worn one frequently since I was a child and have maintained a high level of activity.
Knee braces for dogs are available, but with a very limited success rate.  On-line reports on their usage are generally based on dogs in good health where surgery is an option that is pursued. 
We have made contact with a very well know Veterinary Practice and also a company that make braces for dogs.  We will know more next week as to what our options are, but we do know that it would have to be custom made for Spike, which will take time.

Or there may be some engineering genius out there that could design and make a brace for Spike.  We are also considering shaving his leg and applying KT tape…. Well it does apparently work well for humans and horses so why not dogs!

In the meantime, our Superstar Spike continues to sparkle a little every day.  He is not yet ready to become a Supernova J     

Sunday, 6 September 2015

When quitting is not an option, it is a death sentence...

When I first started writing today I was going to write about me.  It was going to be about the techniques I have used of late to manage my temporary life of severe restrictions.

But then something happened to stop me in my tracks…

As I was tiding up dogs toys today (we have a lot of them!) I made three piles:

 Keepers - to be washed in the washing machine

Dead toys, to be disposed of


Simple plan you would think, what could go wrong…

I placed the “dead” toys on a table, the “to be cleaned” toys in a neat pile on the floor and the “keepers” in the toy box, the “undecided” were located close to the “keepers”.  As I did this, all four dogs were fast asleep, or so I thought.
I went upstairs and returned to find all the “dead” toys happily living on the floor and the smallest toy ever (from the undecided pile) in a corner near the front door.  All dogs were fast asleep in the garden and in the dogs’ room.
So what happened in the minutes I was upstairs?

I can guess who was responsible for the removal of the toys from the table because every time I go to throw out a toy he decides that it is the best toy ever and starts playing with it or puts it somewhere only he is allowed.

But what I did not understand was why the smallest toy ever was under corner protection, almost hidden from view.  That is not normal behaviour for Superbrat, he is the most honest and open dog I have ever known, some might call him brash with some of his behaviours, but I chose the words predictable and self-assured….  He does not do secretive or unusual, no way did he place a toy into a corner, unless I don’t know him as well as I believe that I do…

I puzzled over this scenario for a few minutes.  I was pretty confident that the world’s smallest toy was not a prized possession for a Superbrat dog, so I came up with a plan.

I strategically placed all the toys and walked away…

And my plan worked.  I returned to find the world’s smallest dog toy in a corner, but this time it had extra protection.  A very growly dog was standing guard over it.  As I approached his growling became louder.   This toy was his and no way was any dog or human going to take it from him.

This was the point I burst into tears.  My gut instinct was correct.  Spike had chosen to save probably the only toy that Superbrat had no interest in.  It did not squeak, had little stuffing worth removing and it came from McDonalds.
None of that mattered all that mattered to Spike was that it was his.  A dog found on the street in a horrendous condition, he is a survivor and a fighter when it matters.
Through my tears I was still able to connect with Spike and he allowed me to pick up his prized possession and play with him, it was a very special moment.  Two years ago he would have bitten me if I tried to take his toy.  I have always respected his fear and that is why he has never bitten me, he trusts me now.
Spike has been struggling recently and his deformities cause him great pain, each and every day.  Spike has amazing supporters that help him and he is on daily pain medication, but drugs can only help to a certain point.  We made a promise when we adopted Spike that when he stopped loving life we would help him over the rainbow bridge.   I remember this vow every day.
However if you cannot run as you want to, live as you want to or even be as you want to be… if you feel passionate enough to save a teeny weeny toy then the rainbow bridge is not calling for you yet. 

Silver harnesses will have to wait for Spike, he wants to live with us for as long as possible and we will ensure that he gets what he wants.

It is our promise to him, forever and a day…

Monday, 31 August 2015

When a dream requires divine intervention...

Setting challenges is easy.  Creating dreams requires a little more work with lots of emotional attachment and sometimes divine intervention is required. 

I like creating dreams.  It is something I have done since I was a child.  Dreams have helped me escape from the reality of life at times and they have helped propel me into action.  Dreams inspire me, motivate me and make my heart and mind soar.

Challenges are logical, measurable and generally require planning in order to be achieved.  Challenges can be simple or difficult but the more difficult ones can either make you or break you.

Most challenges are achievable with hard work and determination.  Dreams can be lived, but some are destined to forever remain a dream.

You can have one dream or lots of dreams, or no dreams at all.  Some people never dream and only ever set themselves challenges.   There is no right or wrong, it is all about what works for you.

I only have one dream just now all other dreams have been gently wrapped in cotton wool and safely stored in the hippocampus within my mind for future retrieval.  

For now I am working on challenges.  These daily challenges are what get me up in the morning and continually deny my mind the self-pity that it craves.  Most are simple little challenges and when I achieve them my little mind demons are temporarily silenced.

But sometimes those little mind demons start shouting and it takes a greater effort to silence them.  To sit and listen to them is not an option.  I did that once before.  I listened to them and believed what they told me.  They made me become someone that I do not want to ever be again.  Thankfully I had a very special guardian angel that helped me kick the butts of those little demons and in doing so it taught me a very valuable lesson in life.  I learned how to manage those little demons and have never forgotten how important early recognition and action is. 

My action now is to set myself a physical challenge each day to silence the grumblings.  When I could run it was easy, just pop on my trainers and head out the door.  Not being able to run or even walk means that I have to be a little more creative with my challenges, and more planning is required.

Running in rain is fun, select the correct trainers and mud can be safely negotiated.  My wheelchair does not cope with wet or with mud.  Hands slip, wheels spin and forward movement is a tortuous affair.  Crutches are a little bit easier to manage in the rain, but more than a couple of minutes use is painful for my entire body and puts excessive strain on my right leg and hands. 

I have never been a fan of running on tarmac and have always chosen to run on trails or grass where possible.  The scenery is more inspiring and nature lives all along the trails, in the hedge grows and the fields around.  My creative mind comes alive when I run in the countryside, away from people and man made things.  I lose my worries, my fears and self-doubts and I dream.  I create amazing images and thoughts in my mind all with vibrant colour.  Most of my creations will forever remain locked in my mind, but some emerge into the real world and become dreams that I chase.

I can only work with my wheelchair on tarmac or very hard packed surfaces.  Places where people work or drive every day.  My exposure to wildlife is mostly limited to slugs, snails and wasps eating the fallen rotting apples on one section of track.  Yesterday I did come across a very little shrew, but the shrew was lying on its back and definitely not sleeping.

I am enjoying my daily wheelchair challenges.  From learning how to control it to getting better at powering it, each day has taught me something.  I have devised a little training plan and it is very rewarding to see and feel the improvements.  On day one I could only manage 20 minutes effort and had to stop several times.  Yesterday as part of a 95 minute adventure I managed to negotiate a 1.4km continuous ascent with only two little stops.  Both times I got really stroppy because the chair was pulling badly to one side as a result of a very awkward road camber.    

I have become more respectful of those that spend long times in a wheelchair.  Prior to my experience I had never imagined how difficult it is to power and control a wheelchair.  I have absolutely no idea how the sporting elite wheelchair users can cover the distances that they do and in the times that they do it.  I struggle to move faster than slow walking pace on a relatively flat paved or tarmac surface.

Having a wheelchair has given me mobility and freedom that I do not have with crutches, especially in the house.  I can prepare dinner, safely transport items around even prepare and manage husky dinners for four!

Challenges are good and rewarding when achieved.  But I cannot forget that one dream that I feel and breathe each every day.  I have known for over a decade that the day would one day come when I would no longer be able to run.   But I don’t want it to be now I am not ready.  I have too many dreams and that I want to live.
(all photos thanks to Ian J Berry who helps me live my dreams and achieve my challenges)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Novice Guide to a temporary life on one leg

Most of us have experience of walking or running with some sort of restricted capability of our lower limbs.  Whether the restriction is as a result of pain management from a minor or serious injury, the result is either limping or adapted movement to manage pain and protect the perceived weakness in the affected limb.

I am very experienced in limping.  It is something I have done to varying degrees since I was thirteen years old.  My body has coped very well with the physical challenges I have imposed on it, but as I get older the over compensation injuries get worse.  From hip to knee to foot, they have all suffered over the years in my never ending self-discovery quest.

Without the help of an amazing physiotherapist and a genius orthopaedic surgeon I probably would have been forced to stop running a long time ago.  Physical pain gets harder to manage as I get older and my body takes longer to recover.
However, when limping is not an option and you find yourself with very strict instructions not to put any weight on one foot for a prolonged period of time, normal life becomes very difficult.
However, adapting to change and perceived problems in a positive way is one way I believe that we can evolve into greater beings.  Seize opportunities when we can and have some fun along the way.

Here are some of my top tips to a temporary life on one leg:

      If you can, hire or buy a second-hand wheelchair
A wheelchair allows the “good” leg to rest and if you get a self-propelled one you can achieve a great upper body workout.  Having a wheelchair in the house also allows you to prepare and cook dinner and also to safely transport a cup of coffee (or beer) from one room to the next.
We found a fabulous local mobility shop with an extremely helpful owner.  He allowed us to have a nearly new wheelchair for a cheaper than hire price.

Wear gloves when using a wheelchair or crutches for longer than 15 minutes.
Padded fingerless fitness gloves are best for crutches and padded gloves with full thumbs for wheelchair use.  I learned the hard way and got myself a couple of huge blisters on my thumbs when I used the fitness gloves without thumbs for first wheelchair adventure.

Do not negotiate stairs on crutches after a few beers.
I probably don’t need to explain this one!  All I will say is that no further physical injury has been sustained in the learning of this lesson.  Only my pride was hurt.  Please also refer to number 9 for guidance on how best to manage this situation….

Put padded tape on the handles of your crutches.
Good quality bike handle bar tape is the best.  I applied it to my crutches after my last operation 5 years ago and it is still going strong.

Teach yourself balancing tricks and body awareness using crutches.
Someone suggested that I tried break dancing on my crutches and although they were only joking it did get me thinking….  Since then I have spent time playing my crutches to see how the position of my body affects my stability.  I started by trying to lift both feet off the ground and remain motionless for as long as possible.  When I first tried it I managed less than one second.  Yesterday I managed nearly 5 seconds.

Limit your hopping.
Hopping can potentially propel the body forward very quickly.  I know this as I have been practising, BUT it does puts huge strain on the body and risks injury.  It also makes you look like a toadstool as the muscle development on the working leg and bum/ hip area gets greater and the bad leg gets weaker…
Today I hopped more than I should have in order to avoid the strain that the crutches were placing on my hands.  The result is that my whole body is aching, from neck to toe.  Please avoid being a silly billy like me.

Set yourself challenges SMART Objectives
By SMART I mean Simple Measurable and Realistic Timescales.  For example a sub4 minute mile in a wheelchair on a mostly uphill grass course is probably only achievable by a Paralympian.  Sub 30 minutes is possible for me.  The challenge of working towards achieving the objective gives the opportunity to devise a plan based on my running and fitness experience and it is fun learning new stuff like how to keep a wheelchair on a straight line when the camber is on your stronger side.  And once I crack the Sub 30 I will give myself a little pat on the back and then go for Sub 20…..

Use your bum and one crutch to open doors.
Sometimes people help a person on crutches by opening doors, but mostly they don’t and anyway there will be many occasions when no one else is around and you need to get into a room with a door.  Best technique for doors opening away from you is to use your butt to open it and then squeeze through the gap.  Outward opening doors should be approached with great caution and when you do open it, wedge the crutch against the bottom of the door, but please take care that the rubber bit does not catch on the door and make you lose your balance.  If it does, whatever you do, do not allow the protected foot to hit the ground.  Sacrifice your knees if you need to. 

Do not crawl or get in/out of the batch without knee pads and shin guards.
My leg and knee currently resembled the legs of a polka dot pony.  Baths, wooden floors and stairs, and negotiating many other obstructions while kneeling or crawling has resulted in a rather large number of little bruises on my left leg and knee.  Full protection horse travel boots are my recommendation for this

Always remember others.
In the past two weeks there have been several occasions when I have nearly thrown all my toys out of the pram.  I get very frustrated at my temporary disablement and I erupt in an emotional mess.  But then I remember the amazing people out there that are forever disabled.  They raise their game and put us to shame with their heroic efforts each and every day.  And I also remember those that help me every day and whom without their help I would not be able to manage.

(all images courtesy of Ian J Berry and