I'm back here, in my "electric chair". I've been on a trek to the bedroom, one which I make many times a day. I drink a lot of water, you see, in the belief that constantly flushing my overworked kidneys helps preserve them for that little bit longer.
This trip becomes a greater challenge daily. It demands micro-planning on a scale that the bloke I was five years ago had not the faintest ability to imagine – a person possibly like you, but I don't presume that, because you might be in a wheelchair or confined to a bed, or you might look after someone who's in this position.
The trek. Firstly, I must discipline myself not to wait till the last minute. That's not as simple as it seems. There's always some last thing to do on the computer. Tracey knows this all too well when I'm supposed to be going to bed, and it must drive her bonkers at times, because "last" turns into second-last, and something always goes wrong at that critical point that takes more time. I constantly make resolutions that it will never happen again, but whaddyaknow.... Anyway, let's come back to the point.
It's time to take another loo break. Like, now! But, firstly, I have to put the computer to sleep. That is, my laptop Hal, with a sentience of its own, primitive as it is. It takes an eternity for the laptop to close its one big Cyclops eye while I sit squirming.
Just as I pick it up by its corner with my one good hand, I see that the space for it on the little table beside the chair is occupied by a glass of water. I sigh, put the laptop back on the tray on my knees and move the water to clear the required space. Good. Hurry. Laptop gripped firmly with just enough strength in the fingers, my arm swings across like a tiny crane and settles it neatly into its spot. Then I place the tray on top of it. Hurry.
Now, I must elevate the chair until it's high enough to help me stand upright. It's like an ejector mechanism except that when you're in a hurry it seems like snail's pace. The walker is close enough. Aided by this lifting, I struggle to my feet.
The left leg does all the work. It gets me high enough to lock the right knee into position. It's as if that knee has only two modes, on and off. Locked and unlocked. That's not quite true but it's close.
Now, to grip the walker handles. The left is no problem. I depend on it not to be one. The ease with which I grip the right depends on how long ago the last seizure was. It was barely five minutes. The hand wanders around jerkily and alights clumsily on the handle at last.
With the left hand, I move the errant fingers – that's most of them – into where they should be on the handle, and tell the hand to grip. Aloud. There's a remarkable reason for that but sorry, I'm in too much of a hurry to explain. I haven't even got under way yet. The hand locks on.
I lean on the walker with both arms and put the right foot forward, with the arms taking its weight. My arms are now in effect one of my legs, doing its work. If I put the good leg forward first, it's bad strategy. It means I must drag the right, pulling it along like Quasimodo, or the guy with a gammy leg I remember as a kid. Everyone called him "Stepper". He dragged his leg every step of the way. Not I.
I walk gripping the walker firmly with both hands, full concentration, putting my worst foot forward and bringing the left up to it. Then right foot forward again. It's as cumbersome as it looks and not quite as shaky, but it's the best way. Trust me. I'm a doctor. OK, so not a medical one.
Concentrate only on getting there, not on the relief it's going to be when you do, Dr Bozo, because it does strange things to you to anticipate. Just get there.
Right. I'm at the spot, but mustn't start anticipating. I have to turn the walker around, to get a secure hold on the bar with the left hand. The right wants to retain its grip on the walker but I need both hands free once I'm balanced. It's been locked into that grip so long that it's not responding to command. I have to let the fingers release reluctantly of their own accord. It's a bit like those of the person in the movie do when they're trying to retain that failing grip on the cliff-edge twig.
I undo the robe, one-handed of course. Thinking about not thinking about the relief to come is as fatal as thinking about it. The knot slips, Dieu merci. The robe falls open. One handed, the pants are dragged down. Now be careful, some things need two hands if you want controlled action. Garments are to be kept clear, right? The right hand has to be called into the operation, even with tremors.
Too much information? I know you didn't ask, but bless you, you've stuck with me this far and you'd help if you could. Maybe?
As I said, this is an operation that demands balance, so – no hands on the walker. Why don't I just sit down? I have my reasons. I don't want to discuss them here. Not now. I stay on my feet. I don't fear a seizure as I used to. I anticipate better than I did.
Whew! All done. Crisis averted. Ablutions performed. All's right with the world. Decency preserved. But I have to tie my robe, with only one good hand. I have a method. I get it done.
Now to get back to the lounge. The activity has brought on a seizure. I am close to the bed, so I can sit on it till I recover. The right leg is more likely to collapse just after a seizure, and the right hand will have little grip on the walker. The arm will be weaker too. Give it a few minutes.
When I feel the time is right, I stand up, and start the journey back. Going round the corner from bedroom to lounge is most dangerous. There's more transference of weight between feet, more chance of knee collapse, so it's concentration all the way. Don't hurry. There's no need.
I'm here. I shuffle backwards square on to the electric chair and sit, as gently as possible. I have to pick up the controller, but it's in the right side. It hasn't occurred to the makers that the right side of the body might be paralysed. Would it have been too hard to have a left-side socket as well? So it seems. But again, I have a work-around.
I can use the failing hand as a hook to pick up the controller. I get it close enough to the left hand to transfer the controller and press the button, and sit in relative comfort again. I put the tray on my knees, and gather strength to crane the computer back into place in front of me.
Hello world inside the laptop, until next trip to the bedroom. It will come soon enough. Too soon in fact.