From fair weather walking to bum shuffling

You can’t beat getting outdoors for a bit of fair weather walking. I like canal paths. They’re mostly flat, easy to access and you can walk for miles. Don’t launch yourself down any slopes though. I tried it already.At least A&E wasn’t too busy.  I swapped jokes with my buddy and we passed the time between triage, blood tests and x-rays. The nurse dropped her bombshell but the news didn’t really sink in. Words like “immobilisation” “back-cast” and “anti-coagulation injections” left me blank so I just listened politely.

Before long I was hopping off on my new set of crutches with “… whatever you do, don’t put that foot on the ground” ringing in my ears. I was baffled, bewildered and wobbling about all over the place.

Breaking your leg just above the ankle hurts. It hurts a lot. I’ve left out the bit between the ‘gravel slope’ and getting to A&E on purpose.

Home alone with my phone, a bottle of water, the TV controls, painkillers and my foot stuck out front on a cushion, the words “what the hell am I going to do?” rattled through my brain.

Well, two months on and I’m back on two feet. So here are some tips in case the same thing happens to you.Bum shuffling: Get used to it. Crutches are down-right dangerous even on the flat. You’ll get to a step or flight of stairs and be stumped. My ace husband made tray for my pot leg to help the shuffle go even smoother – like it?

Knicker flicking: There’s a knack to getting dressed and undressed that involves flicking your smalls into the air and catching them before they hit the floor. You have to avoid dropping anything on the floor because you can’t reach it without tongs. Tongs, the sort you flick bacon over with, are essential.Wine capping: Carrying stuff, especially drinks is really tricky. Find a plastic lid that fits your wine glass early on – it’s very important. You don’t want to drink your wine stuck in the kitchen because that’s just weird, unless you’re at a party. If you can’t find a lid that fits, the hell with it, just drink the bottle.Toe flossing: Not being smelly is a challenge when you can’t have a bath or shower so work out how to stay clean. Make sure what you need is within reach. If you need help, ask for it because no-one can read your mind, even if you think they can.Wheelchair ironing!?: I was lucky; we got one second hand (a wheelchair not an iron) and it was brilliant. Also, the big supermarkets have battery powered scooters. Just bear in mind that some go faster than others and don’t always stop just when you want them to. Take it from me.Toe warming: Wriggle your toes. They get cold though when you’re watching watch TV so warm them up. My mother-in-law will knit you a bobby hat for them or you can borrow mine.

Do whatever it takes to feel better; sleep, catch up with friends, read, listen to the radio, watch cricket. Your broken bone won’t stay broken but, when it all gets too much…

…swear loudly and launch your crutches across the room –  you’ll definitely feel better then!

LAB Wellbeing

A flyer about a new LAB course lands in my in-box and this statement catches my attention: “…aimed at adults who can self-identify with mild to moderate mental health and wellbeing problems.”

The course is a pilot at the Simpson Memorial Hall and is being run by Chris Higham and Sarah Jones from the Proper Job Theatre Company.I’ve been on a LAB course before. They grab you because they combine being inventive, interesting and challenging with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

I arrange to go along and find out a bit more.

“We help build emotional resilience” Chris explains. “Look at how you view yourself and introduce the idea that you can better yourself if you want to.”“Sounds great, but how?” I ask.

“At the start, everyone sets themselves a task or challenge. It might be something they want to do more of or less of, something new or something they want to change. It can be anything really but it has to be something they can complete by Friday.

If your dream is to get fit and run a marathon you might want to set your challenge to a jog around the block as a first step. It has to be something you can do within the week. Everyone’s target is different but usually it’s physical or mental health that people on the course want to improve.”

“Well, I want to lose a stone!” I butt in.

“Ok, but bring it right down, make it sizeable, so rather than have a massive goal that you fail, it becomes something you can achieve instead.”

He’s got me thinking. I decide to join up and meet the rest of the group. Like everyone else I feel a bit awkward at first, we exchange the usual polite niceties but then it’s straight in.By mid-week we’re chatting away like old friends. Our efforts are displayed around the room; sheets showing SMART objectives, a problem solving cycle, Challenge by Choice diagram, a working agreement and lots of collages.

Chris and Sarah are both brilliant at what they do and capture everyone’s interest effortlessly.

Sessions begin with a physical activity, nothing onerous but enough to wake your body and brain up. These are followed by a series of either team tasks where you work together, individual creative activities or mental problems and quizzes to resolve.They’re not all easy, some really stretch you, some are just a good laugh. Discussions are held throughout when the group reflects on what they might have done differently etc., and each day ends with a brief time to relax.The week closes with a chance to share the challenge we’d each set ourselves. All of them were achieved. Not big strides maybe but steps in the right direction.

A dollop of self belief and I left feeling good.

For more details about LAB Wellbeing and the LAB Project, including future course dates and who to contact, please visit the Proper Job Theatre Company website.

Elsewhere on Another Music there are lots of activities and links to local groups that you might find useful or interesting. The local library, the council, the noticeboard at the supermarket all have information about what’s going on nearby and how you can join in.

Related Stories

”Manchester’s silent army?”

I look after my Dad. He’s 87 and calls me his PA! He has limited vision and his hearing isn’t great. Easy to be with, he likes music, laughing and trips to seaside. He’s very independent but can’t do everything without some help and when he’s ill or bored it isn’t easy.About a year ago I was asked to say something about myself. Without thinking “I’m a member of Manchester’s silent army” popped out of my mouth. I think I meant to say “I’m a carer, one of many and we just quietly get on with it”.

Since then I’ve joined the Manchester Carers Forum.

The forum facilitates group meetings, day trips, provides information, runs a dementia support service, training workshops, even has a weekly local radio slot. There are several groups across Manchester. The North group is organised by Miriam and Christine and meets monthly at Cheetham Hill Medical Centre.

“We’re not saying that we can change someone’s circumstances” Miriam tells me “but we can bring carers together so that they can share their experiences with each other. Those that attend hold a wealth of knowledge and lived experience which is so valuable.  People leave the group feeling they’ve had a break for a couple of hours. They’ve relaxed, let off some steam or maybe come away with some tips, and are better able to cope with life’s challenges until the next meeting.”

Today we’re helping carer George celebrate his 80th birthday by tucking into a box of wonderful cupcakes. While they’re chomping away I ask the group what they thought about the forum.“Tell me a bit about yourselves and why you come here?”

I thought they might be shy – boy was I wrong! Here’s some of what they said:

Just love meeting here. I get a sense of relief. Would be quite happy if it was once a week never mind once a month”

It recharges your batteries and I go home feeling energised”

Everyone’s in exactly the same position as you and it’s a break from the pressure of looking after someone for a few hours”

Discussing issues with the group gives me confidence to challenge the authorities rather than just accept something”

It’s the information that others share and knowing you’re not alone”

While I’m here, for a brief period someone looks after me – even being served a cup of tea and a cake or biscuit is a welcome feeling”

It makes me feel good and I’ve made some great friends”

If something can be changed we have more chance when we come together in a larger group than we would have as individuals”

“I  come here because I like cakes! They’re my commission for sharing what I know”Birthday boy George the ‘cup-cake king’

They talked about caring for wives, husbands, partners, children and siblings, about how important it was that their ‘cared for’ had quality of life. They raised issues about local council services, housing, disjointed health care, benefits etc. Told astonishing, even shocking stories. Some had fought fierce battles and not always won.

Thinking back to my statement a year ago made me smile – a small army they might be but they’re far from silent!

They were clear about role played by the Manchester Carers Forum and the invaluable support they receive.  If you want to find out more about the work they do in your area visit, their website.  You can follow them on Facebook or e-mail them at info@manchestercarersforum.org.