Wednesday 1 May 2013

Blogging against Disablism Day - Today I Travelled to Sheffield

Long before I started my own blog I began to read the Diary of a Benefit Scrounger as I found Sue Marsh had helpful and meaningful things to say about coping with a disability and not letting the system grind you down.  Looking on my Blog Roll this afternoon I noticed on a few posts that I follow that today is Blogging against Disablism Day #8.

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2013

Most of my blogs are about family and local history, but one of the reasons I started writing was to give me an outlet when things got a bit tough - somehow writing about everything being too much makes you take a step back and realise that it maybe isn't that bad after all, or if it is then there is still something you can do about it.  Here's a link to one of my better thought out blogs about being ill.

Today was a day on which my illness was greatly on my mind - I had to travel to Sheffield for some more tests - I've not done a lot of travelling on my own for the last couple of years - the pleasure of seeing different places and maybe achieving some particular goal seems to be outweighed by the sheer exhaustion afterwards and usually the pain during the journey.  I also have to consider where the public toilets are ... just in case ... and carefully plan my eating around my journey.

The Challenge: To get to the hospital in Sheffield by 12:30pm (and home again!)

If I know I'm going on a long journey I have to eat at least a good clear hour, or hour and half to be absolutely safe, before travelling, especially in the mornings.  I've had one or two very close calls in the past when the toilet on the train was out of order, and I've no intention of ever getting into a situation like that again.  So getting up was planned for 8am - for a departure time of 10:30am.  Unfortunately the cat had other ideas and I was woken at 6am as usual and she didn't want to let me steal that extra hour and a half of snooze after I'd fed her either.  I read some stuff - and cooked a quiche for the OH's lunch/tea.  He's very busy this week - there's a Beer Festival at Elsecar from this Friday and he's heavily involved with setting it up.  I don't expect to see him much ...

I left the house at 10:25am with that comfortable, "everything is fine, the plan is working" feeling.  As I went out of our front gate I saw a bus pulling into the stop across the road - should I try for it?  I had built in time in my plan, there was no hurry ... then the bus did that maddening thing of sitting, going no-where as I approached, I put a spurt on to the best of my ability and started waving my bus pass around in the hopes he would see it and not pull out just as I got level with him.  Fortunately there was another potential passenger doing the same thing from the other direction and with me in front and her in his wing mirrors he probably thought he'd better wait.  Good - until he said, as I scanned my pass, "You should try leaving the house a bit sooner love."  Grrr!  I had, I was early, but he was there, should I have just waved him goodbye and waited for the next one?  You can't win.

Railway station next - no train in on Platform 1 as I got off the bus - so no need to rush.  I was now in plenty of time for the train before the train I had to be on (that's another common feature of my travelling plans where-ever we go - aim to be on the bus or train that's the one before the one that gets you there just in time - 'cos it only takes one delay and the whole perfect 'Travel South Yorkshire' journey plan is out of the window).

I was able to catch the fast train instead of the stopper - it saves about fifteen minutes journey time - and that's a good thing for me these days.  It's been a while since I was on the train on a weekday - I'm sure the Metro used to last until I was in the last tunnel before Sheffield, I used to have to rush to read Nemi.  Today I was folding the paper and putting it on the table before we had even passed Chapeltown, in fact the chap came around and cleared it away with the rest of the rubbish at Meadowhell (excuse me, local terminology!)

A Sheffield Supertram going over the arched bridge on Park Square, Sheffield
A Sheffield Supertram (from Rail
Sheffield Station - shall I do the lift or the stairs?  No rush - it's not busy, I won't be causing a queue of busy commuters to get stuck behind me - stairs it is.  Slowly 'cos for some reason sitting on a train makes me very stiff, but moving does help and hey! the exercise is good for me.  A couple of flights up to the bridge and then a few more at the tram station end.  It's fine, given time, no problem. 

There are no seats at most tram stops, I suppose they don't want young people to lurk in them.  It's not so bad if you can lean on something - I picked a blue boxlike thing at the end of the platform nearest the railway station - that would put me in line for getting on at the front door of the tram - but as it wasn't rush hour I would probably be able to get a seat and not have to stand in the big standing crush space that's in the front and back parts of the trams.  Otherwise the inner doors are better, there's a couple of steps in the tram, but most of the seats are in the middle section.

I like the trams, but what I can't understand is why they didn't plan them to go to the hospital; they go quite close, the University stop is about half a mile away, but when you get off at that tram stop there's no bus stop nearby for a change to the hospital.  I opted to get off a stop before and visit the Oxfam bookshop on West Street on the way - as I now knew for certain I'd got a clear hour before I needed to be finding Floor N and the Neurophysiology department.  What I'd forgotten is that I'd only brought a handbag, not my backpack, so the three books I bought had to be put in a reusable carrier bag for transport.  Hmm, not so elegant.  There's a bus stop across the road from the Oxfam shop and then it's just two stops to the hospital from there.  I had walked another four hundred yards or so though - it was beginning to add up. 

From the bus stop to the hospital, first cross the road, then up some steps (or go the long way around) and walk along the front of the hospital into the main foyer, maybe another two hundred yards ... to be honest waiting for the lift was harder.  Standing still with nothing to lean on is much harder than walking, which, when all's said and done is just a form of co-ordinated falling over and then catching yourself by moving a leg at just the right moment!

Oh drat - they're selling second hand books in the foyer - for NeuroCare - is that related to the department I'm visiting today?  Only 50p a book ... the bundle in the recycled carrier bag just got two books heavier.  I will have to carry it like a bag and cease any attempt to be cool by carrying like a parcel against my chest.  My shoulder is trying to tell me about it by now anyway.  But they were a bargain! Mostly non-fiction, plus one classic (Joseph Conrad's The Shadow Line - I think it's about sailing ships, so that's research for my Master Mariner ancestors) and one romance (but it's set in Sunderland, so honestly that's background material for my ancestors too!).

Floor N is a long way up - and when you get out of the lift there are no windows - aww! the view would have been stupendous from up there. 

I borrowed someone else's picture of the view (Thank you!)
I had to wait for a short while before being called for the tests - but there were chairs, oddly in the lift foyer, not in the department itself.  An assistant (nurse?) came and fetched me and introduced me to the doctor - who seemed a nice young man - but little did I know he was (and I'm joking ... really ... I know he was only doing his job) about to become a sadistic torturer.  The leaflet that came with the appointment said I should expect a tapping or tingling sensation during the tests.  Hmmm!

Maybe I have a low pain threshold or something ... but it really hurt.  This is not normal for me, I go around with painful ankles, knees, wrists and shoulders all the time, but that's mostly a dull persistent achy pain with occasional jabs when I don't take as much care as I should moving.  If I overdo it moving is much more painful the day afterwards, and those days I'm so tired I just stay in bed or on the sofa anyway. 

This was different - there was sharp pain where he put the electrodes, and yes, there was the Tens machine like tapping and shivering, but he kept turning it up ... and up ... and up.  He tested both legs and my right hand.  The final straw was the test where he put a fine needle into my right leg, this is to test the muscles rather than the nerves, and he had to ask me to lift my toes up and push against his hand so he could observe the muscles working.  I had mentioned I get a lot of cramp in my right hand and foot, so I don't think he was terribly surprised when I started yelping and wriggling.  I had to get off the couch and walk around to put enough pressure on my foot to uncramp it.  That is usual for me, it seems to happen when I sit down to watch television and put my feet up, fairly quickly my right foot cramps and I have to stalk around the sitting room for a while until it goes off.

The doctor said that he had enough data and he didn't need to do any more tests, he also warned me that my leg, below the knee, might feel a little odd for a few hours.  I did apologise for leaping off his table, but I really didn't have any control over that foot just then.

The journey home was uneventful -  I was lucky with the bus as I came down the steps from the hospital, I didn't bother with the change to the tram, even though that meant a longer walk from the bus station to the railway station.  It's not too bad, about another four hundred yards and I had been sat down on the bus for a little while - but it all adds up.  I was getting much, much slower when I arrived in the concourse of the station, heading towards the toilets ... only to find they now charge 20p a visit.  Like Barnsley bus station, except I knew about Barnsley and didn't know about Sheffield railway station.  Time for a rethink, I couldn't risk getting on the train without a visit first ... I'd eaten my 'lunch', a chocolate chip cookie I'd fetched along, as I was walking through the bus station. 

I knew that a few weeks ago, when the OH and I changed trains at Sheffield the ladies on platform five were free, so with crossed fingers (fortunately I wasn't at the point where other things had to be crossed!) I set off up the stairs and along the bridge.  In hindsight I really should have used the lifts at this point - but I hate using the lifts - I don't look ill - it's just stubbornness on my part I know, but I feel judged if I squeeze in the lifts with girls with buggies and people with big suitcases ....

The toilets were free on platform five, hooray!  But on my exit from the Ladies I discovered that the next two trains back to Barnsley were both from platform 1B, all the way back the way I'd just come.  *Sigh*

I was just in time for another fast train (they only stop at Meadowhell and Barnsley), and as it wasn't yet 3pm got a seat with no problems.  It used to be a different matter when I commuted - I'd often have to stand as far as Elsecar on the stopping train, and that's no joke when you've been at work all day. 

You'll laugh, but despite the chocolate chip cookie I fell asleep, and only woke as the guard announced Barnsley.  I could quite easily have ended up in Wakefield or Leeds!  I used to do that a lot on the way home too, on the days I got a seat, that is.

I was lucky for the bus home as well, there was one in when I got across from the railway station to the bus station and it too wasn't crowded, although there we did have to stop for a little while part way through the journey to let a couple of girls unpack their children and fold their buggies before they got on as the bus already had two on board.  Ah, I remember when you always had to fold pushchairs (as we called them in the Jurassic age) before you got on the bus.  Sometimes it was easier just to hang the shopping from the handles and walk all the way home! 

Getting off the bus was a bit tricky though - I'd got that bag of books remember and my handbag and it's a looooong step down from a bus when you're stiffening up.  A case of sort of pivoting from the hand rail whilst holding everything in the other hand and free falling towards the kerb far below hoping you aren't going to go flat on your face.

Home now, tired and achy and with a rather painful right leg below the knee.  Is this normal?  Is that what he meant was going to happen?  My foot is still hurting from the cramp too and that doesn't usually last this long.  My mum just phoned me as I finished this post and hobbling across the room to get the phone was rather tricky.

Conclusion: Challenge achieved - Barnsley to Sheffield and home again - but tomorrow I think I'll have a nice rest ...

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