39. Last Walks

[Numbers in square brackets refer to posts listed on the right and on the Home Page/Archives page.]

It has been 14 years and 8 months since that fateful hot summer day in 2004, when my life was turned upside down as a result of a biopsy operation of a spinal cord tumour  unexpectedly detected by MRI. [01] 

     Walked in, Wheeled Out
     (First posted on January 4, 2015 [02])

I walked into a hospital
in a hot summer afternoon in February 2004,
for a biopsy operation on a spinal cord tumour.

The Neurosurgeon said,
‘This is going to be a simple operation for you
because you are healthy and well.
You will be able to get out of bed tomorrow,
                            but I couldn’t
leave the hospital three days later,
                            I didn’t and couldn’t
and return to work a month from now.’
                            I never did                               

Three months later,
I wheeled myself out of
the rehabilitation ward of another hospital.


The biopsy operation resulted in ‘incomplete paraplegia’ – I couldn’t move my once good right leg [09] and I had spasm in my left leg [04]. The right leg became hypersensitive to the softest feather, but the left leg was completely numb to the roughest brush [03]. And
I never stand upright or walk freely again.

When was the last time I stood upright? When was the last time I walked upright? Where was I? What was I doing? Who was with me? How did I feel? When and where were my last upright walks leading to that fateful day? 

Summer, 2004.  Intensely hot and dry.  Midday. Wondered how much UV light my broad brimmed straw hat and reflective umbrella managed to filter out. My face seemed to have become a block of burning wood, dying for a big splash of chilled water. My loose, long-sleeved, thin, cotton blouse was flowing gently towards the back, and my below-knee, cotton skirt was like a heated, thin metal sheet wrapping around my body. My feet were also on fire. Walking along the long, exposed, above-ground walkway was like walking on a track of burning charcoals in a fire festival, or bathing in a big, hot fan-force oven with heat waves bombarding from all directions. Even the occasional breeze was like a stream of hot wave from a suddenly flung open big oven nearby. I was like a lone traveller staggering along in a hot desert, eager to reach an oasis or a shelter.

I had just finished two weeks of teaching the intensive course in the summer school, for the fifth time. Once again, I managed to cover 13 weeks of one semester’s work in ten 3-hour mornings of seminars and workshops. Relieved. Exhausted. Cranky. Feeling even more difficult to cope with the nagging pain along my spine and lower back.

I would never have imagined that this would be my last summer school teaching — in fact, my last teaching day! And my last walk along this long, exposed, above-ground walkway from the classroom to my office, with one hand holding an opened, heat-reflective umbrella against the hot sun and another hand dragging a heavy trolley full of teaching materials, handouts, a recorder, and a big bottle of precious drinking water.

About a month later, when the new academic year started, I didn’t go into the classroom. I was going on a one-month medical leave. I handed over my usual teaching to another lecturer. On Friday, February 20, 2004, late afternoon, I switched off the computer, tidied up the desk and locked up my office. I expected myself to resume my duties after the medical leave. I then walked out of the building to the car park. My last walk at work. Never would I have imagined this would be the last time I drove my car off campus. The end of my sadly missed academic life.  

On Tuesday, February 24, the day before the biopsy operation, accompanied by my sister (KC) from overseas and my friend (M) from Sydney, I dragged myself to the supermarket and did our grocery shopping for the week. We bought plenty of fresh vegetables (broccoli, beans, zucchini, eggplant) for cooking and for salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, capsicum, fennel, celery, carrot, rocket, basil), fresh fruits, brown rice, breads, seeds and nuts, cereals, butter, jam, eggs, fresh pasta and sauce, yoghurt and ice cream, snacks, etc. The last time I ever walked upright in a supermarket.

On Wednesday, February 25, morning, just like going to work every morning, I walked out of my bedroom, through the dinning room, kitchen, sitting room, and up to the front doors and locked them up. I walked out of the house into the garage and locked up the garage doors and set the house alarm. I then got into the car, but I didn’t drive down the steep driveway to go to work. I got myself driven down the steep driveway to the hospital for the biopsy operation. Those were my last upright walks at home and from home.

On this very sunny, hot summer day, with apprehension, I walked into a private hospital, accompanied by my sister (KC) and two friends (M and Sh), for a ‘simple biopsy operation’.

The operation was scheduled at 1.30 p.m. I was warded in the morning in a room with other patients waiting to go into the theatre  too. We were partitioned by curtains penetrated by whispering and quiet speaking — calming fears and giving blessings? While lying on my back, waiting, I did my usual morning exercises in bed: I raised my knees up, grabbed them with my hands, and pressed them towards my chest. I raised my legs up to a 90-degree position to my body and then grabbed my feet with my hands and stretched them down to the left and the right. I sat up, bent forward, and touched my toes with my hands. I bent my body down until my head rested on my legs. Then, I bent my legs inwards, so that the soles of my feet could touch each other; then I grabbed them with my hands and pressed my knees down repeatedly. This would be the last time I could do all these exercises without assistance.

I was then given a bar of special soap to have a good scrub of my body under the shower. That was my last standing shower.

After the shower, donned with a one-size-fits-all, over-sized hospital outfit, I walked back to the bed to wait for my turn. That was my very last upright walk on this planet, 14 years and 8 months ago!

 

 

Standing and Walking In my Dreams     

In my dreams in the first few years,
I still saw myself
standing ‘tall and slim’,
walking ‘like a swimmer or dancer’;

doing things I did every day;
doing things I had never done before —
in familiar places, in strange new places,
in bright places, in dark and unfamiliar places.

In my dreams in recent years,
I often see myself in my wheelchair,
doing similar things differently, slowly, cautiously —
sometimes perfectly, sometimes clumsily, 
messily;

having the additional freedom of
doing things I had never done before;
doing things I had always wanted to do —
all successfully, happily!

 

 

 

 

 

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NEXT POST : CHRONIC NEUROPATHIC PAIN (1),  NOV 15, 2018
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Zahara de los Atunes, Provincia de Cádiz, Andalucía, España.
Photo by M Peinado, Spain. CCA 2.0 Generic License, via – 
 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:006351_-_Zahara_de_los_Atunes_%287426899582%29.jpg

A Desert Wanderer in the Winnemucca dunes, by John Fowler from Plascitas, NM, USA, 2017. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Desert_Wanderer_(27426340729).jpg

A Woman Walking, by Daniel Case, 2016. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woman_walking_in_exercise_clothing_on_Como_lakefront.jpg

A Woman Cooking at Home.  Cuinar_a_casa_3.jpg. 2015. Sourced from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/128390842@N06/16322582654/ 
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cuinar_a_casa_3.jpg

Australian wheelchair basketballer Liesl Tesch looks stoked during 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games match, by Sport the Library, sourced from Australian Paralympic Committee/Australian Sports Commission, 2000. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:141100_-_Wheelchair_basketball_Liesl_Tesch_stoked_3_-_3b_-_2000_Sydney_match_photo.jpg

A Wheelchair Dance. Ukrainian dance duo Vladimir and Snezhana Kernichnye. World champions 2013. On sports dances on wheelchairs. Masters of Sports of International class. Rec invasport, Donetsk, Ukraine. By Ar4en, 2014. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kernichnye.jpg

Skating in cardinal during the 2006/07 season. By Jeremy vandervalk at English Wikipedia, Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Magog the Ogre using CommonsHelper. This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Jeremy vandervalk at English Wikipedia. This applies worldwide. At https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Skating_2.jpg 

Baile flamenco en el museo de Baile Flamenco de Sevilla. (Flamenco dance at the Flamenco Dance Museum in Seville.) by Schnobby, 2014, Sourced from File:Flamenco in Sevilla 03.jpg, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.  at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flamenca_001.jpg

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38. My Irreversibly Changed Life (1): Managing Disability, Chronic Neuropathic Pain, Spasm, Illness

This is an introduction to the topics I will be writing about in more detail, to share. [Numbers in square brackets refer to the posts listed on the right and on the Archives/ Home Page.]

An Irreversibly and Drastically Changed Life

Back in 2004, a ‘simple’ biopsy operation of an accidentally MRI-detected spinal cord tumour [01] performed by an eager neurosurgeon unexpectedly resulted in ‘incomplete paraplegia’ [02], making me permanently ‘wheelchair bound’ [02, 10.]. It also resulted in  the sudden onset of frequently excruciating chronic neuropathic pain [03] and the sudden onset of spasm on the left side of my body [04].

An irreversibly, drastically changed life with a colossal and complex condition to manage: permanent disability, chronic neuropathic pain, spasm, cancer. Forced retirement with no regular income against huge expenses. House bound.

I was suddenly plunged into a completely new, unknown world in which I must learn to survive, to cope with, to manage, to transcend, to excel [32, 35]. It has been a steep learning curve and a long and challenging journey.

Spinal Cord Tumour

An Astrocytoma, Grade II, in my spinal cord: growing slowly,
not operational, not removable, not treatable, incurable! [01]
A time-bomb ticking.
“Spinal cord tumour patients live very long!”, said the Oncologist.
Which means I am on a long haul with prolonged suffering!
Yes, it has been 14 and a half years now!  How much longer?

Chronic Neuropathic Pain

After I eventually woke up from the anesthetics for the biopsy operation on that fateful day in February of 2004, I felt strange new sensations in my lower body [03]! Constant busting, scrunching, crackling, flickering, sparkling inside my whole lower body: buttocks [16], thighs [04, 07, 12, 27], especially calves and feet [07, 08, 15, 21]. I asked the Neurosurgeon what it was; he said he didn’t know. I later learned from a social worker working with spinal injury patients that it is incurable chronic neuropathic pain! So excruciating, almost unbearable! Eventually, the pain and sensations extended slowly from my lower body [12, 13, 15, 16, 21, 24, 27] upwards towards the upper body [17, 19, 24, 26, 33]. Fourteen and a half years later, it has now reached my neck and shoulders [26], arms [33], hands, fingertips. Chronic pain all over my body. [13, 20, 23, 25, 26, 34]

Pain management immediately after the biopsy surgery merely involved a daily intake of 8 Panadol tablets, prescribed by the neurosurgeon, which was absolutely useless! Later, an initially low dosage of Gabapentin, an anti-convulsion drug found to be useful for neuropathic pain, was prescribed by the rehabilitation specialist. It didn’t always help! Eventually, I have developed my own pain management approach and strategies.

Spasm

Spasm started on the left side of the body 3 days after the biopsy operation [04] and later extended to the right side [28]. Sometimes, gentle and quiet; sometimes, strong and violent. As if manipulated by an invisible puppeteer [06], who likes to play tricks on me! [14, 22, 28]

Disability

I had to spend nearly 3 months in rehabilitation. Somehow, I couldn’t get into the spinal injury department. I was transferred from the surgery ward in the hospital I walked in to a rehab-geriatric ward in another hospital, from which I wheeled home [02]. There, the rehabilitation specialist, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and social worker  didn’t believe that I would ever stand or walk again and therefore had only the sole aim of training me to lead my life as a ‘competent disabled’, using my hands to wheel myself around and to lift and move my body in self transfers [22] between wheelchair and bed, toilet, shower commode, or another seat (if safe).

I proved them wrong! However,  ….

Managing My Chronic Neuropathic Pain, Disability, Spasm, Illness, Social Isolation.

Not only do I have to cope with and manage my chronic neuropathic pain, spasm and illness, but I also have to live my remaining life as a disabled in a house not built for a wheelchair user [18]. The permanent loss of the freedom of mobility is a great physical inconvenience in a world exclusively designed and built predominantly for walkers. Greater still is the psychological loss of independence: having to depend on carers and helpers for essential assistance, resulting in the loss of privacy.

Chronic neuropathic pain, spasm, illness, disability, dependence, old age: all add up together equals to social isolation. [11, 30.2, 31]

Facing all my difficulties, problems, challenges up front [35, 36], I have developed, over the years, practices and strategies to cope with my multiple impediment, but it doesn’t get any easier as I age.

Sharing and Exchanging

I now share these practices and strategies here with fellow wheelchair users, chronic neuropathic pain sufferers, care providers, healthcare practitioners, pain management professionals and practitioners, physiotherapists, other medical professionals, and anyone interested in knowing how one person manages her chronic pain, disability, illness, and her unexpectedly, permanently changed lifestyle.

Your feedback, comments, exchanges will be most welcome.

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NEXT POST:  Last Walks, Oct 31, 2018
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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, USA, new lava flow near the Royal Gardens subdivision. by Brian W. Schaller, 2007.  This work is licensed under the Creative Commons ‘Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0’ License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/, at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A204,_Hawaii_Volcanoes_National_Park,_USA,_new_lava_flow,_2007.JPG

Trail on a mountain, France. By Tiia Monto, 2015. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mountain_trail_in_France.jpg 

Hiking trail Knight’ Path over the Czantoria Wielka, by Pudelek (Marcin Szala), 2014. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. File:Slezské Beskydy – Rytířská stezka (cesta Nýdek – Velká Čantoryje).JPG , at   https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Slezsk%C3%A9_Beskydy_-_Ryt%C3%AD%C5%99sk%C3%A1_stezka_(cesta_N%C3%BDdek_-_Velk%C3%A1_%C4%8Cantoryje).JPG


 

37. Managing My Chronic Pain

Dear Followers, Supporters, Visitors, Viewers, Family, and Friends,

Thank you for your support and interest in my work and your comments.

I am back after a long break to do something else, to enrich myself, to contemplate. I now feel that to withhold beneficial knowledge and insight and to safeguard my story as ‘privacy’ is an act of selfishness; and that to share them with the aim of benefiting others is an act of altruism.

Having posted more than 35 poems describing my chronic neuropathic pain, spasm, disability, and illness, I will now be writing mainly in prose with some poems inserted and in between:

To tell my story on how in a very hot summer day in 2004, I suddenly ended up in a wheelchair with chronic neuropathic pain and an irreversible lifestyle for the rest of my life.

To describe how I manage my chronic neuropathic pain, spasm, disability, and illness and my irreversible lifestyle in the past 13 years.

To describe how I deal and cope with the difficulties and challenges I face.

To share the knowledge and strategies I have gained and developed from my experience, with the humble hope that fellow sufferers, their families and carers, health care providers, and medical professionals will find them useful and helpful.

Would love to receive your feedback, comments, suggestions.

I look forward to your continued support.

KK Loke

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rayon_de_soleil_et_hirondelle_2.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sunset over the Vercors mountains, seen from Grenoble (+ a swift passing by).
This photo was taken by Eusebius (Guillaume Piolle). © Guillaume Piolle / CC BY 3.0.   https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rayon_de_soleil_et_hirondelle_2.jpg


 

36. Metaphorising My Pain


 

Reproduced from Pulse – Voices from the heart of medicine (publishing personal accounts of illness and healing, fostering the humanistic practice of medicine, and encouraging healthcare advocacy), in their monthly More Voices series (short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme): “In Pain”  theme in October, 2017, on Oct. 24, 2017. [The editor has made minimal stylistic changes.]
https://pulsevoices.org/index.php/pulse-more-voices/in-pain/1175-metaphorizing-my-pain

This is more or less a brief summary of some of the 35 posted poems about my chronic neuropathic pain, illness, disability, spasm. The numbers in square brackets refer to the relevant metaphors used in the poems posted, listed on the right on the Home/Archive page.


 

 

 

 

Metaphorizing My Pain
 | 

My chronic neuropathic pain [03] is a physical reality, not a product of my imagination. It is the result of a spinal injury sustained during a “simple biopsy” [02] of a spinal cord tumor [01] detected through an MRI. The operation was performed by an eager neurosurgeon in 2004 [02]. When I woke from the anesthesia, I could hardly breathe [03]; I felt like a tight band was around my lower chest wall [03]. I also couldn’t move my legs [02, 05, 09], and they were extremely sensitive to touch [03]. Since then, the pain has expanded and intensified [12, 13,15, 17, 20, 21, 23, 25, 26, 33, 34, 35].

A typical dreadful day starts when I am woken up by pain all over my body [20, 23, 25]. Hot, coarse sand grains are pulsating inside my calves and thighs [03, 07, 08]; fine nails are drilling into my feet and buttocks [16]; sharp knives are plunging into my back [19.1]; needles are pricking my chest [19.2]; mallets are pounding incessantly on my arms; warm, fine sand grains are swimming inside my palms and puffed-up fingers!

It was another night with bad sleeping posture. My back must have glided off the three standing pillows propping up my back, curving my spine into a bow and pressing part of it against the air-filled pressure-reduction mattress, igniting pain all over my body. My head must have dropped forward off the pillow, compressing my cervical nerves and kindling pain in my arms and fingers.

By the time I finish my four-hour morning routine of sitting up, lying down, being hoisted onto a shower commode to toilet and shower, being hoisted back into bed, being turned left and right several times for grooming, and finally being hoisted down into my motorized wheelchair for the day, I am usually in agonizing pain. My feet feel like they’re on a tray of warm stones [08]. My calves seem to be wrapped with coarse sandpaper [08, 34]. The small, air-filled cells of my Roho cushion are pebbles under my buttocks [08]. My backrest is a stone-studded board [08].

The escalation continues with increasing power over the next 24 hours and beyond. No escape! [29] Except meeting the pain upfront. Just sit upright, keep my spine straight, sit still, breathe in and out very slowly [19.2, 20, 24, 33], guide the qi to the pain areas, be mindful of it [33]: I sink into the pain–identifying it, recognizing it, analyzing its nature, quality, patterns, locations, and triggers, so that I can learn to prevent it from spiraling into another almost unbearable episode [34].

Kit Loke
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Marine fog rolls in Half Moon Bay, California. By Jacek Walicki (edited by Chalger).
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. At https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marine_Fog_Pattern_1_crop.jpg

Lake Cerknica, by why 137 from Trieste, Italy, Uploaded by Sporti.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  At https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lake_Ceknica_2013_(8568169722).jpg


31. Yearning for the Sea: Who Will Wheel Me There?

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Gardenias wear crystals on their foliage. 
Lemon Grass dances gracefully in its semi-translucent outfit. 
The winter sun nourishes the potted Bay and Basil 
and warms up my north-facing patio.

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1024px-Euphorbia_leucocephala_closeup






.
Snow Flakes dancing against a clear blue sky, 
          like wave trains with white crests in the vast blue sea, 
                    racing to reach the beach.
800px-Waves_in_pacifica_3





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What is it like by the sea today?
Have the sea and the sky become one blue entity? 
Does the winter sunshine warm the sea breeze? 
Are there strong waves crashing against the rocks, 
     producing rich, healthy negative ions?
.
.
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800px-Wave_open_seaBarton_on_Sea,_pounding_waves_-_geograph.org.uk_-_668940






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Are there curious children playing on the beach?
Are there contented retirees strolling along the esplanade?
Are there patient anglers waiting mindfully on the jetty?
Is there a wheelchair user meditating under the huge banyan tree?
.
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Jetty_(4676078969)1024px-Starr_031209-0002_Ficus_microcarpa










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In my fish pond,
a lone purple water lily and a lone gold fish
enjoying with me 
          the soothing flow of the small fountain,
               punctuated by an occasional F major note from the wind chime,
          and the melancholic melodies of Elgar’s Cello Concerto,
               played by the legendary Jacque du Pre;
with me,
     far, far away,
          from the sea
               I yearn to see.

Who will wheel me there?
.
.
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WaterLily5






Gold_Fish_in_Chinese_Gardens
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Photos Credits:

Snow Flakes. “Euphorbia leucocephala closeup” by Tauʻolunga – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons, via – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Euphorbia_leucocephala_closeup.jpg#/
media/File:Euphorbia_leucocephala_closeup.jpg

Waves in Pacifica. By Broken Inaglory.   Licensed under  the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license. via – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Waves_in_pacifica_3.jpg

Waves in open sea. Author unknown. In public domain.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wave_open_sea.jpg

Pounding Waves, Barton on Sea. By Chris Downer. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. via –https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barton_on_Sea,_pounding_waves_-_geograph.org.uk_-_668940.jpg

A jetty (out into the Mar Menor in the Murcia region of Spain). By Xlibber.
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. via-https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jetty_(4676078969).jpg

A Ficus Microcarpa by the sea.  By Forest and Kim Starr. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. via – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_day_at_the_beach.jpg

A Purple Water Lily.  By Aruna at ml.wikimedia.
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, via – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WaterLily5.JPG

A Gold Fish. By Kyle Lawrence.  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, via –  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gold_Fish_in_Chinese_Gardens.JPG 

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18. In a House not Built for a Wheelchair User

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After three months in hospital, I returned home
to a house not built for a wheelchair user.
.
.

Even at snail speed,
my manual wheelchair can’t scale upWheelchairRampAt2500AugustineBlvd
the steep driveway.
At its top, the wheelchair
can just squeeze into
the small front porch
but can’t hop over the threshold.
Now I make a grand entrance
up a custom made ramp
through the garage into the hallway.450px-Roraima_Rampa

.

Suddenly,
my home has become a strange land:
In the kitchen I enjoyed creating new dishes,
wall mounted cupboards have become summits;
floor standing cupboards, deep
underground caves;
bench top, a high plateau;
cook top, a land of fire hazards;
kitchen tap, unreachable water source;
wall sockets, tantalizersEntradaCuevaConejar
at the furthest corner.
All inaccessible now.

Gasherbrum2

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The top shelves of book cases, food cupboard, airing cupboard, and
walk-in wardrobe are
Himalayas summits
only for carers to reach.
I keep my basic essentials
in the lower base camps.

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The elegant hexagonal sitting room has become
an overcrowded furniture showroom,
to allow more space in the frequently used dining area,
surrounded by reachable racks, drawers, and table tops.

.

The cozy ensuite the wheelchair can barely squeeze in.
The shower cubicle I can no longer hop into.
I transfer onto a specially made cushioned chair
securely placed across the bathtub,Wheelyboat_at_the_Corbet_Lough,_near_Banbridge_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1400565
to shower into it,
holding onto a handrail on the wall,
like sitting in a stationary boat.
But I have to disembark later
to use a shower commode
in the modified ensuite.

.

All of the taps in the bathroom and kitchen
need longer handles and spouts.
The toilet has handrails installed on the walls
to help me make a stand up transfer
between wheelchair and toilet seat.

.

From the hospital’s pressure reduction mattress
back to my firm chiropractic mattress
is a shock to my painful neuropathic buttocks, legs and back.
Thick, soft, medical grade sheep skin rugs
now feature 
among pillows for popping up my back
when I sleep on my side.
.
.

In a house not built for a wheelchair user,
I can still go down a ramp
out into the backyard garden pergola,
early in the morning,
to practice deep breathing and meditation,
amidst birds singing, yodeling, whistling, twittering, chirping,
and the murmuring of the distant traffic.

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Korea-Minhwa-Hwajodo-flowers_and_birds-01

'Birds_and_Flowers'_by_Imanaka_Soyu,_Taisho_period,_LACMA_I


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A Wheelchair Ramp. Photo: author unknown.
CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License,  via Wikimedia Commons –
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WheelchairRampAt2500AugustineBlvd.jpg#/media/File:WheelchairRampAt2500AugustineBlvd.jpg

La Rampa, Mount Roraima, Venezuela. Photo by Portodaspartes.
CCA 2.0 Generic License, via Wikimedia Commons –
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roraima_Rampa.jpg

Entrance to Cave Conejar, Spain. (Entrada de la Cueva de El Conejar, en Cáceres, Extremadura (España)).
Photo by Mario Modesto.  CC A-SA 3.0 Unported License
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EntradaCuevaConejar.jpg

Gasherbrum II, Camp at elevation 5900 m, Karakoram, Pakistan.
Photo by Olaf Rieck. CC A-SA license.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gasherbrum2.jpg

A Wheelyboat. Photo by Albert Bridge.
CC A-SA 2.0 License,  via Wikimedia Commons –
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wheelyboat_at_the_Corbet_Lough,_near_Banbridge_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1400565.jpg

‘Hwajodo’ (Flowers and Birds), a genre painting of Minhwa (Korea folk painting), Joseon Dynasty,  Korea.
Author Anonymous. Public Domain work of art,  via Wikimedia Commons
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Korea-Minhwa-Hwajodo-flowers_and_birds-01.jpg

‘Birds and Flowers’ by Imanaka Soyu of Taisho period, Japan.
CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication License,  via Wikimedia Commons –
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%27Birds_and_Flowers%27_by_Imanaka_Soyu,_Taisho_period,_LACMA_I.JPG



11. Who will wheel me there?

.
.
Twenty two degrees C
On this sunny winter day
With gentle breeze
What’s it like beside the sea?
Who will wheel me there?

(Published in Eucalypt, A Tanka Journal, No. 9, November 2010 ; later in Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume Three (2010), Anthology, edited by M. Kei, et. al., published by the MET press; and also in 100 Tanka by 100 Poets of Australia & New Zealand, edited by Amelia Fieldon, Beverley George & Patricia Prime, published by Ginniderra Press, 2013, p.34 )
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800px-main_beach_-_gold_coast_qld.jpg December 20, 2014.



Main Beach, Gold coast, Australia. Photo by Alpha from Melbourne, Australia.
CC AS-A 2.0 Generic License, via –
 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Main_Beach_-_Gold_Coast,_QLD.jpg



10. My Wheelchair

.
Now an indispensable object besides my bed,
an inseparable part of my life:

We call it The Vehicle.
I am the driver, indoors, capable of
narrow hallway manoeuvres and
razor-sharp turns
in a house not built for a wheelchair user.

My originally spotless, well-maintained home
now bears scars of frequent accidents.
All doors and plasterboard walls
are defenceless against the metal parts of
     the back canes, the armrests, the footplates.
Two big holes on the walls from front-on collisions.
Two parallel rows of dents and scratches look like
     underground rail tracks with stations.
Even the hardwood sideboard top has deep scars.
The legs of the wooden dining table and chairs
now wear permanent straps.
Every square pillar has chiselled-off corners.
All un-repairable.

It has become my legs, giving me
freedom of movement and mobility
in an otherwise restrictive life.
Oh! Since when have I got used to using a wheelchair,
permanently?
.

Lightweightwheelchair

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A Lightweight Manual Wheelchair. Photo by en:User:Kesafloyd. Work in Public Domain.  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lightweightwheelchair.jpg