Headfirst Thrills on Wheels

Eventually, my novella is out: “Headfirst Thrills on Wheels”. The best words to describe it are thrilling, enthralling, inspirational, motivational and enlightening. A non fiction thriller. An account of my independent travels across the globe as an ordinary wheelchair user. The book highlights the challenges that I encountered as well as the enlightenment.

It might not be a hit but I guarantee you that somewhere and somehow, it will touch the minds of think tanks. The novella is also a good read packed with humor and impeccable English. Above all it inspires the wheelchair users and disabled people alike to travel further afield independently.

NB. I would encourage people to it on kindle while it’s selling at a reduced price of £3.99. The paperback is not yet available on Amazon. However I prefer it if people purchase the paperback on lulu.com £9.99.

*Success is a community effort therefore I need your support.

Would you date or marry a disabled person?

When I was a teenager some of my wishes included- wining every argument, solve every mathematical problem, travel to wherever I want and date whoever I like. After I sustained a head injury, I still tend to win every argument, I now hate anything to do with numbers, I still can travel to wherever I want but can’t date whoever I want.

Back to the question, I often pose it to acquaintances and friends, particularly ladies. What I gathered is many answer it reticently and with careful consideration. They fear to reveal they truest opinions to try and not offend disabled people.

In my utopia or in a socially, politically & morally perfect society; I want to see more disabled people getting hitched to abled people so as to support each other. However this is the real world where many abled people avoid dating the disabled like plague, more so noticeable disabilities such as wheelchair users. One open minded European lady I met in London (Cansu) said to me “…because it can preclude a relationship” and she asked me if I want kids. “Yes of course, so that I can see part of me with no head injury and ideally I want to be espoused to someone non disabled like you” I answered with cheeky smile.

Indeed, in an idealistic world, love is all about loving the person, just the way they are (Bruno Mars). Or all about kindness, intelligence, humor, and other aspects of personality. In the real world, intimacy is a requisite to maintain relationships, where ability is deemed a paramount factor. “Expectations to perform are high… Good intimacy fuels marriages” said she. Other key aspects for keeping a relationship afloat are, mutual interests and spending time together. There is a saying which says that, a family which eats together stays together. I’m afraid the same doesn’t apply to a husband and a wife. “Having one person in a wheelchair would cause significant friction” said the lady.

From her point of view equal footing is important in a relationship. A friend of mine once said to me “it’s easier for you to find a wife because you go to church”. I told him that, wether a lady is from church or not, they naturally share the same desires, wishes and fantasies. I metaphorically added that “I have more chance of getting hitched in the house of Judah than the house of Joseph”.

Finally someone who is not afraid to state his opinions.

“When I was 21, I dated for several years, someone who was slightly disabled. I adored her personality, and she was so much stronger because of her physical condition too. When entering the relationship, I believed that it wouldn’t be much of an issue, and it really wasn’t! For many months, being together was awesome”

“However… there was so much waiting. Most activities we did together moved at a necessarily slower pace. When I walked with her, I had to cut my speed in half, and we split walks into half-hour segments for rest. She had always wanted to ice skate, but we discovered together her ankle couldn’t take it. I wished we could explore the city by bike together, but alas, no biking, no running, no hiking, no climbing… As someone who moved quickly and valued efficiency, I wondered how much of my identity I had to compromise to be with the person for whom I cared so much.

It ended for a variety of reasons, but sometime in between I admitted to both myself and to her that I was struggling to stay patient with her physical condition. Call me cruel if you’d like, but it was true, and I’m not proud of it”.

“And what if it gets worse? Illnesses have a tendency to worsen, either through natural progression or increased strain from compensating. Where are you willing to draw the line? Bedridden? Paralysis? Vegetative state? Are you going to abandon them then? You’ve heard stories about how a serious illness can tear a family apart. Dating someone in a wheelchair means willingly entering a similar situation”.

The privilege to work is a gift.

The power to work is a blessing.

The love of work is success.

(the 9th LDS church President, David O McKay)

Following my last post

Work hours

Time is the wrong matrix to use when evaluating work done by an employee. It’s not about how much time the employee works or you work it’s how effective they/you use the time. From my ergonomics observation If it’s merely about time it feels like punishment more like pain in the hindquarters or ass and the employees won’t wait to knock off work only to be stuck in traffic. Also from my experience of working with PAs and employees alike, giving them autonomy is key to increasing their effectiveness better yet they fall in love with they craft. Hey ho, they might even come up with better ideas than you to run your business or life.

There is a fallacious saying which states that “if you want something well done do it yourself”. This will only waste time and to some extent unwise as the late Steve Jobs said the best things (resources) in life are free. For instance time doesn’t costs any money so use it wisely.

Love and Happiness

2pac said what you won’t do, do it for love meaning love is a sacrifice. Happiness as well can be defined as the fruit of what we are willing to sacrifice now. For example copying the hard work in our early lives is key to having a comfortable life in the later years. You could be young, dumb and broke as Khalid said but have the heart to persevere.

Key attributes to happiness

Positivity, brilliance and passion are some of the key attributes to create a happy life. Passion is arguably the currency of life. Find your passion and be happy, my niece pointed out that some times its hard to realise your passion. Well it’s easy to identify your passion- what do you like to do with your spare time? What do you like to read? What are your favourite tv programs and why? What are you following on social media? What makes you tick? Such questions will help you to identify your passion, find something you love to do. You can also use your passion to generate income- getting paid while doing what you love to do. Some love reggae and use it to make a living. Well some might say music takes talent, natural ability to sing. Another good example is Michael Dapaah’s (Big ShaQ) passion is to make people laugh and doggedly persevered to make a break through with the hit comedy song “mans not hot” which made him. Dapaah used to grind 9-5 at Vodafone and had enough of that life. And wanted to do something creative and interesting so he started creating comedy skits and characters like Big ShaQ

Where there is muck there is brass

However some enjoy that hard earned cash through sweat and drudgery based on the principle that the harder the money is earned the more enjoyable. In Yorkshire, UK people say “where there is muck there is brass”. The saying was coined during the industrial revolution were mining was the mainstay of the region’s economy. In general some folk desire the life constant struggle and hard work to derive derive a sense of survival and purpose.

Doing work

When you do something do it well, work is inescapable it is key to your well being. Every human, you, me and everyone around us we are built to work. To derive meaning, value, pleasure and fulfilment is to know why you are doing it and how to do it well (your mission) then it will feel less laborious. The average person works an average of 90 000 hours in their mortal life that’s a lot of hours to be miserable so developing a passion to do your craft is a panacea to boredom.

However overworking is no good it leads to stress or worse. For instance in Japan a considerable number or deaths are attributed to the working culture known as Karoshi, which can be translated literally as “overwork death” in Japanese.

Your mission is to create a sense of purpose. It could be argued that the main purpose of life is not only to be happy but to be useful to be honourable and to be compassionate as well.

Conclusion

A wholesome plan of Happiness is provided by the church The Plan of Happiness . Therefore a balance between secular and religious lifestyle is essential.

What doesn’t kill you can only make you Stronger: A Journey to North Cypruse

Time has a way of messing with people when doing nothing it slows down and when preparing to do something it moves fast and before you know you are late and there is no time to smell roses.. Having said that, Tuesday 26th I woke up at 05:30 in the morning and straightaway dressed up like a cowboy for I took a shower before I went to bed. It was my strategy to hasten things and catch an early train to Manchester Airport. The previous evening I tried to book me a taxi to go to Leeds train station but to no avail. Understandably, I was informed that it was elusive to try and procure one because of school runs early in the morning particularly wheelchair accessible taxis. “Why is everything to do with disability limited?” I screamed on the phone with frustration. The receptionist on the phone replied, “sorry sir you can try Streamline & Telecabs they have more wheelchair taxis than us”. However despite being a loyal account holder with the aforesaid for half a decade they decided to stop transporting me because of my electric wheelchair. One of their drivers complained that my chair has no proper points at the rear to fasten it yet my batteries (situated at the back) have got fastening points, actually the incident happened when I went to France in May. Anyhow, I was left with no option but to use a bus. Where I live the frequency of buses is appalling, one after every hour during Monday- Saturday and no service on a Sunday. In order to access a more frequent service I have to weave through houses for at least 0,9 miles. One bus in particular is more ideal because it drops me off outside the entrance of the train station.

I got to the bus stop at 06:30 and the information screen was indicating that my bus is due in 15 minutes. This was cool knowing that the 08:16 train would be able to get to Manchester Airport for 09:06 and my flight was due to leave at 10:45. In the afternoon with less traffic the journey to the train station takes about 30 minutes and in the bus before it got to the station the time elapsed past 08:16 as a result my mind started bouncing off the walls.

At Leeds train station I had to wait to get the 08:43 train to the airport and arriving at 10:01. I was still ok but living on the edge. To my horror when the train was arriving at Piccadilly station, the penultimate stop before the airport, the train stopped before the platform and my heart nearly stopped as well. I was increasingly getting worried that I was going to miss my flight, to exacerbate my worst fears “ladies and gentlemen this train is now terminating at Piccadily due to traffic congestion” I heard the announcement probably I didn’t hear clearly I told myself. That was the first time to hear that trains encounter traffic congestion. At Piccadily I had still the hope until the infuriating and constant announcements of train delays particularly the one I wanted it seemed to be increasingly getting delayed. When the Journey was first disrupted the train was said to be only delayed by 6 minutes, the second announcement the train was said to be delayed delayed by 14 minutes and the third announcement it was highlighted that it was delayed by 20 minutes. After the third announcement the wider passengers on the platform groaned and moaned. After names were taken down possibly for reimbursing or compensating the affected passengers, throngs of people made their way to the taxi rank out of the station. Myself I agonised over decisions, wether to leave the platform or not. On one hand the train journey from Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadily Station is more direct. On the other hand I had never taken a taxi before to go to the Airport from Piccadily but I knew that the process to procure one was going to be long. Eventually I left for the taxi option for I was doing something rather than doing nothing at all, in general I learnt that it is only by doing something that you can achieve something. Though the taxi queue was big it was fast proceeding better yet they were plenty of taxis available including the wheelchair accessible ones. “Y’all right cock?…how come you had to wait in the queue?… That’s mingin that” said the Mancunian taxi driver. Colloquially in Manchester, cock and mingin’ means mate and disgusting correspondingly. In general disabled people don’t have to join the queue however the train assistant left me behind it maybe and understandably she didn’t want to provoke the frustrated passengers into starting world war 3. In my opinion all busy taxi ranks should have a sign denoting that priority should be given to disabled people or a separate pick up point altogether.

The journey to the Airport seemed forever and a day, I needed a dose of anxiolytic to calm me down for I was going nuts.

When I googled I learnt that the Journey takes 20 min however this doesn’t take into consideration the external factors such as traffic congestion which seems to be quite ubiquitous and quite frustrating.

When I arrived at the airport I was downbeat far from my usual upbeat self. I rushed back and forth trying to locate the Turkish Airline check- in point. There was nobody, “Sir do you know where Turkish Airline is?” I asked with a dull voice expecting mercy like a burnt child. “It looks like the check-in point is now closed for boarding” said he hardly showing a glimpse of sympathy. I was late due to a series of unexpected external factors. It was like premeditated incidents- obstacles thrown at me to thwart my journey on purpose. I had used Turkish Airlines before when I visited Cyprus last year in May but this time around I couldn’t locate the reception. When I eventually found it I was told that I had missed it, “yeah I know that” I exclaimed with frustration. I was told that there was another flight due to leave at 4:50 and if I wanted to get on it I needed to buy another ticket. “But I can’t do nothing for you because you purchased your ticket through an online travel agency” I was told. Straightaway I called the travel agency and a bloke called Morris answered who happened to be the same guy who sold me the ticket. “I told you to wake up very early in the morning” annoyingly said Morris rubbing it in. If someone is in the wrong people are quick to give wide off the mark judgements or grossily generalise things. Morris just assumed that I had woken up late without asking me what had happened. To be fair most people fabricate stories in order to justify they lateness. A person living wild young and free might claim that he had to take his or her kids to school or a person allergic to pets might claim that my cat is sick. Even if I had lied, flight policies don’t curve in for no one let alone for a regular guy like me. No wonder most of their employees look like psychopaths lacking a human touch particularly when negotiating, it’s the unbending policies they deal with.

Practical Enlightenment

After comparing prices and looking at available deals he notified me that the cheapest flight costs £900 assuming that my inbound flight wasn’t cancelled. That was almost double the price of my return flight, to make sure that Morris wasn’t being misappropriate, while on the phone I asked Turkish Airlines to gimme a quote for the same flight. “It will be £1200 however only for the outbound flight if you want the return it will be slightly more” I was told and that was shocking. To exacerbate my frustration I was informed that the inbound flight had been cancelled as well. This was repulsive extortion at its best I felt like I was being punished for wanting to persist with my journey. “So what’s the costs including the return” I asked still connected to Morris on the phone juxtaposing the prices. Shockingly I was told that the tickets costs threefold the price of the flight I missed. Expensive they were but I was told that if I add only a few quid I will be able to fly in business class. I was in a pickle, I had booked my flight; accommodation and transportation so it was a decision making conundrum wether to cancel my journey or not. More so I had promised to attend the graduation without fail for I was going to be reunited with a brother I had not seen for 15 years. As a counterintuitive to a stress free life I bought the tickets, I accepted my misfortunes and moved on. In general, what life throws at us could be perceived as practical enlightenment if it’s not fatal, it’s been said and sung that ‘what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger’.

Steve Jobs was Turkish

Afterwards I waited for the check-in and my flight was departing at 16:50 and getting to Istanbul at 22:40 with a transit time of 1hr 15min, finally arriving at Ercan Airport at 01:30. When the flight arrived at Ataturk Airport, Istanbul it was still as bright as the day. From my previous experience I was told that 1hr 15min wasn’t enough to transfer my chair from one plane to another but this time around the procedure was flawless. Straightaway I was taken from the plane to the check point for the next flight to Ercan, simultaneously my electric wheelchair was being transferred from one plane to another.

While seating on the bench waiting to check-in I made acquaintance with a Turkish guy also waiting to check in. “When you get to your hotel call me” he said with an affable countenance passing me his business card. The card’s logo resembled the ‘Apple logo’, an apple with a piece bitten off. “Do you work for Apple?” I asked inquisitively. The guy then told me that it was a different company. Then I started wondering how his company was able to get away with using the Apple logo, knowing that Apple has had heated disputes with New York’s ‘GreeNYC’ logo and Woolworths’ ‘apple-y’ logo yet the aforementioned logos looked totally different. He then told me that Steve Jobs was Turkish. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or having a babble but I never believed a word of what he was saying. Albeit it was good to have a chit chat in English with a Turkish person more so he was helping me out and offered to help me when I get to Ercan Airport.

When I arrived at Ercan the taxi I had pre booked was waiting for me as well as my bro and his mates. Though it was late the presence of my bro was a prerequisite and I’m glad he was there. So that he could assist the driver to load my chair into the car because I couldn’t find a wheelchair accessible taxi when I was making my travel arrangements. Like most parts of Europe as I highlighted in my previous writings Nicosia, Cyprus doesn’t have wheelchair accessible taxis. Particularly in Lefcosa, North Cyprus the part occupied by Turkey. Likewise and to some extent Turkey is also a nightmare for disabled people. In 2015 it was highlited that Turkey has 13% disabled population yet the country continues to have maladaptive environments and technologies. Though strides have been made in other areas there is still a repulsive dearth of disabled services and accessible infrastructure as well as transportation.

After my chair was put in the taxi it set off to my hotel, at the time I didn’t know how far it was, I was charged £70 including return when I booked. After I googled the Airport is circa 34 minutes away from the hotel which was a fair fare similar to the London charges which charges £48-£90 for an approx 30min to 60min journey. Notably, if I had booked it from within and using the local currency it would have been a lot less, dead cheap.

Merit Hotel Lefcosa

This was the only disabled accessible hotel I found in the area however there is only two big hotels in the area. As a five star hotel I expected the hotel to have the best facilities for the disabled folk. When I first saw it I was wowed and said to myself what a glistening edifice with psychedelic lights and its glow reaching my retina. I got off the taxi and I accessed the hotel through a slightly precipitous ramp and at the reception I was given keys to my room. As I opened the door the room was expansive cluttered with antiquated furniture. Merit hotel Lefcosa This is all rosy as it evokes sentimental feelings however not for me, thank you, disabled access and the bygone era don’t usually coexist.

The colour of the carpet was reminiscent of the Old Turkish sarkoy kilim rug with traditional banded design. All I could see around me was band-band-band even the pillow cases were banded. To me that’s dull and mind-numbing. The furniture was made up of blue velvet and dark brown hard wood which supposedly complimented the fabric of the room. Annoyingly it was thwarting my access particularly the foot stool in front of my bed blocking my passage. It would have been ok and probably luxurious for an abled person but for me it was redundant and unnecessary. So I called the reception and asked to have it removed from my room. In the bathroom though the toilet had grab rails the shower had non save for a low seat. After taking a shower the following morning I somehow utilised the toilet grab rails and had to be extra cautious because the bathroom floor was susceptible to slipping. The bathroom design appeared to have had no input whatsoever of an actual disabled person.

During the course of my stay I encountered a myriad of issues. The hotel wasn’t built with the disabled people in mind but the disabled facilities were rather cost effectively retrofitted. The ramps in the hotel were too steep to the extent that going up or down I required assistance. I remember trying to go up one of the ramps independently, I went up the ramp guns blazing and my chair was forced to veer diagonally by the gradient force as a result it crushed into a pillar which nearly shuttered the monitor. Luck enough my chair was still in good working order. Can you imagine if the chair couldn’t work, it would have been murky and an intricate endeavour to try and fix it. However unlike other top hotels that I have stayed at facilities such as the pool area were accessible.

The food; the staff in the restaurant and the hotel at large were fabulous, thankfully there was an English speaking staff member who had spent some time in Chicago.

The graduation: Cyprus International University

I was told that the graduation starts at 7pm due to the warm weather. In the hottest months of July and August the temperatures are said to soar up to 34 °C and even to 40 °C. Now that’s hot from the day I arrived 27/07 till 29/07 when I returned I hardly went out of the hotel during the day. Like nocturnal animals late evening were the best times to go out.

I was told that people don’t go out in the afternoon unless having a compelling reason.

The graduation ceremony took place in the open air in order to accommodate multitudes of people from across the world particularly from Middle East and Africa. That said I never accessed any of their buildings even the toilets. Therefore I didn’t analyse the disabled facilities at the campus but after searching on internet about the disabled accessibility of the university, their website highlights that “the Rights of People with Disabilities is aimed to be taken as a basis and to ensure that the rights of these people are followed”.

After my bro was handed his certificate we took some photos

The return journey and the importance of sleeping

My flight was due to depart at 08:40 and arrive in Istanbul at 10:15- connecting to Manchester at 13:15 and arriving at 15:20. The brother I had not seen in 15 years stayed at the same hotel when he came from Africa therefore he helped me to pack my clothes after the graduation ceremony coupled with the celebrations. Having said that I didn’t have enough time to crush out, as soon as I finally went to bed like a watchman I annoyingly woke up to focus at the task at hand. I went to bed at 02:00 and the taxi came to pick me up at 05:30 not enough time to sleep at all but amazingly I was wide awake and careful. I guess the Harvard biologist Christopher Randler was right, in 2008 he discovered that early risers are more proactive and found out that they anticipate problems and try to minimise them. However it is important to sleep when necessary as Winston Churchill the former British prime minister credited his successes to leading the country through World War II to the naps he took. Many highly successful people also have one thing in common- they wake up early, people like Oprah Winfrey; Richard Branson and the former President of the United States of America Benjamin Franklin. Sleeping is important but from my point of view it’s usually a 3-5 days task based on the rational that that’s how long it took me to recover from Jet-leg after I travelled from New York. If I don’t sleep beginning of the week I make sure I will have enough during the rest of the week. If I sleep well I tend to be proactive or in other words increase my personal productivity.

When my taxi came I was all set and my brother and the concierge helped to load my chair. Earlier I didn’t describe Ercan Airport, it’s a very small airport with mediocre facilities. On my inbound flight I used the disabled toilet and it was covered with layers of old dust coupled with a dump and mouldy floor it made my skin crawl. I’m glad I didn’t have to seat on the commode, after answering the call of nature I left the toilet as fast as I could I even forgot to take a photo.

I was glad to leave the God forsaken airport and arrived at Ataturk Airport, Istanbul with a layover of three hours. I was assisted out of the plane and straightway I transferred into my electric wheelchair like a boss. Better yet I was escorted to the business lounge by a very nice dude (grounds staff), it’s either he loves his job or he has a hidden agenda, I thought at the time. After the dude helped me to settle in the lounge he stretched his hand and with a crafty smile he said “tip”. Really and truly if I had some Turkish Lira with me I would have given him but I had spent it all. “I’m sorry mate I have nothing but I will give you something” said I reaching to my side pocket on my right hand side of my chair with my left hand. All I could find was one quid and 50 pence, I handed him the money and shaking his head he gave me back the 50p. Very cheeky but he reminded me of Mathew 7:7 ‘Ask and it shall be given you…”

For both journeys I was flying in the business class so I had the opportunity to use the business lounges in Manchester and in Istanbul. Turkish Airways uses Aspinall business lounge at Manchester Airport, garish looking food and ok facilities, I thought. However I was wowed by the Business lounge in Istanbul.

The food also looked great and appetising far from the one served by Aspinall lounges. In general Turkish Airlines offer good service I think. From my point of view their food served in the plane was even nicer.

Biological mechanism of survival

This was my second time to experience business class, the first time is when I used British Airways to fly from London to JFK, New York. The comfort is second to non particularly in British Airways but you know what happens when people are feeling comfy and relaxed- they fart I endured yet another bomb shell. I harbour not vicious resentment in my heart for people who fart because it’s a biological mechanism of survival. However I hate fart. In the process of metabolism, the lavish meals are broken down into heat and energy (nutrients) by microbes. These food-munching organisms produce a smelly by product of hydrogen sulfide gas, the same stench that is discharged by rotten eggs. Now that’s nasty I could even taste the rich and fetid smell in my mouth. I travelled in economy on numerous occasions and I can tell you that business class fart is more pernicious.

Turkish Disabled Facilities

The disabled facilities are shocking, before boarding my transit flight I wanted to use the toilet in the business lounge. I wanted to go for number two but I changed my mind after I saw the toilet lest I get stuck in the toilet without a buzzer. This was a toilet in a business lounge at the airport and it’s a perfect representation of the appalling disabled facilities in Turkey. In 2017 I also had worst experiences after I spent more time in Istanbul.

Manchester Airport: doing work

The plane arrived in Manchester at 15:30 then I was assisted last and was told that my chair wouldn’t be delivered to me straightaway but as soon as possible. I was taken to the baggage area in a manual wheelchair. “Do you have a bag to collect or just your chair?” Asked the grounds staff with a lackadaisical tone. Probably he had had a long day but in my opinion when people take a job they should try to be enthusiastic about it or find another if possible. I digress, when employees are doing what they love to do it makes a difference. When you do something do it well, work is inescapable it is key to one’s well being. Arguably, human beings are built to work so to derive meaning, value, pleasure and fulfilment is to know why you are doing it and how to do it well then it will feel less laborious. However it will be hard to apply the same principle to some of the most demeaning jobs.

To exacerbate the situation the ground staff couldn’t locate my chair, he went back and forth like tennis. “I don’t know what happed but I cannot find it… I will leave you in the ‘Global Baggage Solutions’ queue to find out what happened” said he and he promised to come back after double checking it’s whereabouts. Thereafter he left me in the que and I waited for about 10 minutes before someone was free.

Since I couldn’t move forward in the queue I shouted to get the attention. I was a bit far and the person at the reception was reluctant to talk to me because he probably expected the ground staff to bring me closer. A further 5 minutes or so elapsed trying to get his attention and finally he stood up from his chair “you shouldn’t have been left alone, where is the person who brought you?” I recounted what had happened then he said he was going to check. When he returned after sometime he informed me that my chair was coming. Thereafter I ridiculously waited for the chair I don’t know for how long then finally a fat chap in greasy attire came and left my chair on my side and I asked him to help me transfer but to no avail. Meanwhile the ground staff never returned, so I had to figure out myself how to transfer into my my electric chair.

People packed like sardines

From about 15:20 when the plane arrived I finally left the baggage area at 17:30 and headed to the train station which happens to be within vicinity. The next train to Leeds was said to be coming at 18:18 however it was announced that the train was cancelled and passengers waiting for the Leeds train were advised to take the following train to Manchester Piccadily and then make the connection. However when that arrived it got fully packed quickly even the carriage with wheelchair seating. Disappointedly I posted the following on social Medea:

Trains are getting busy and unreliable.

Train to York cancelled and the alternative train to Manchester Piccadilly station was full of passengers from the cancelled train. Good sign that people are using more public transport but inconvenient. Big investment will only solve this problem, HS2 is coming and why many were against the project it’s beyond me

Over crowded is an understatement people were packed like sardines or worse. If I had managed to get on I would have been uncomfortably stifled by people’s crotches and backsides and showered by sweaty stinky armpits. Albeit I wouldn’t have minded if it meant getting back home early. After I missed that I notified the railway staff my situation. I was then made a priority on the following train to Manchester Piccadily which was due at 19:18. Eventually I got on a train at 20:35 arriving in Leeds at 21:34. I like using public transport but has become unreliable and an anathema.

TBI Effects: My view point

Intensive Care Unity, Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) with Juliet Dube (sister)

People who have experienced the mercy of God first hand after a near death experience feel obliged to share a message from the other side. Actually I stared death in the eyes, the traumatic brain injury (TBI) would have rendered my life pointless if I had let it.

As a result of the acquired brain injury I sustained in November 2002, I can’t recall the events leading to the ruinous car accident. However I recollect waking up from a coma in an intensive care unit after a several number of weeks. My right arm was constantly clenched and numb, neither could I seat up nor feel my legs, lo I was freaked out. I thought to myself I must be in a South African hospital. Rationally, I knew that I wasn’t in Zimbabwe because the hospital staff were predominantly Caucasian. Many white folk had left Zimbabwe following the seizure of white farms. However even before that there was hardly any white people working in the public sector. I couldn’t ask because I had lost the ability to speak (aphasia), the only way to draw attention was to conjure up cacophonous racket with the lingering breath in my lungs. When I was transferred to a ward with other patients my bed was next to a white bloke who introduced himself to me as a South African (SA) which coincidentally reinforced the notion that I was in SA.

In January 2003 after I learnt how to speak a little coupled with gaining a little bit of strength to at least press a buzzer I was transferred from Leeds General Infirmary to Chapel Allerton Hospital, Leeds for further rehabilitation including speech therapy. My speech therapist was called Tory, a lady from Scotland. She wanted me to pronounce words in a certain way and I remember easily getting frustrated due in part to my brain injury. As a result I gave up “Tory you are Scottish and there is no way I will be able to speak like you, all I need is for my family and doctors to understand me” I recall quitting speech therapy. Quitters never win and winners never quite, I wish I knew that at the time but my mind was deleted, premonitions and vagaries were the order of the day. My thoughts were plagued by misery and despair thusly moods used to rage like a storm. I used to become sad just thinking about my sad life, that was the saddest, darkest and lowest point of my life I had hit ‘rock bottom’.

Slowly I started to feel my legs and I commenced Physio sessions as well as Occupational Therapy. At first I learnt to be up on my feet using a Zimmer frame, boy I loathed it because I had never seen a young person gliding on one before, I was only a teenager but on the eve of adulthood. I wanted to be cool and I couldn’t envisage the young me running an errand in the morning pushing a frame through the alley ways. However, physio gave me a glimmer of hope, henceforth I became courageous and worked hard aiming to walk independently. “To be honest with you, you will never ever be able to walk without a walking aid” Amy my physiotherapist said after I asked her to give me a candid opinion. I guess she was right wasn’t she because I tried and tried again but I was never able to put my foot in front of the other without a walking aid. Crutches are now part of me like my limbs. My Occupation Therapist was called Nicola from New Zealand about the same age as me. Cool I thought she was, disappointedly it wasn’t until Community Rehabilitation that I started having occupational therapy sessions on a regular basis.

Urinary Catheter and Constipation

Admittedly I didn’t know if unconscious folk poop or not, so after I googled I found the following answer on Reddit:

Ex hospital tech here.

I used to work in a lot of ICU’s and was the person in charge of cleaning up sh*t. Literally this encompassed half of my daily job duties in an ICU.

When people are unconscious whether it be medically or chemically induced (some patients are given drugs to induce an unconscious state) they still poop. Most are given a stool softener so it will pass easily. So 90% of the time their poop is the consistency of gravy.

However after the comma I remember suffering from chronic constipation and I had a catheter for a long time which I used to go to Physio sessions with. It was a funny site to see other patients coming from Physio walking with the catheters dangling on they legs. However, one guy in particular was very tall and gangly wore shorts revealing his disgusting thick piss because he hardly drank any liquids unless encouraged by the nurses. On a lighter note I loved it because I didn’t have to visit the bathroom so often particularly when drinking, back in the day beer used to loosen my tongue. I remember when my friends took me to a pub in Chapel Alleton, “how come you are not going to the toilet?” One of them wondered because he couldn’t see the catheter concealed under my baggy attire.

Ward 2 Chapel Alleton

This is a special ward to rehabilitate acquired brain injury sufferers both traumatic and non traumatic such as stroke & meningitis. During the coarse of my stay there I had the opportunity to live with brain injury survivors alike all with different behaviours. I seek to briefly analyse their behaviours by using only their first names so as to keep their identity anonymous. Where I can’t remember the name I will use a manufactured one.

It is said that brain injury survivors may experience a wide range of Neuro-psychological problems such as Behaviour problems; Personality Changes; Memory Problems; Establishing Structure; Lack of Emotion, Emotional Liability; Aggressive Behaviours; Self Centred Attitude; Poor Concentration; Lack of Awareness of Deficits and Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour. The fortunate survivors may make a full recovery simultaneously the unfortunate ones may loose their lives.

Help to Care Givers

When I was transferred to ward 1 my bed was next to a chap called Peter from Bingley. He was a lovely old chap (55+), he used a Zimmer frame to glide. He couldn’t speak properly hence he muffled and waffled most of the times but could vividly utter the phrase ‘cup of tea please’. In one single day he could use the phrase more than 24 times. He would seat up in his bed like Undertaker who has risen from a knock down and gracefully drink his tea.

When Peter got discharged his bed was occupied by a guy called Guy in his late 20s or early 30s. He was smart and very articulate, one day I listened to his conversation talking to student doctors and was inspired. I was curious and I wanted to find out more about him unfortunately he didn’t seem interested in making friends in the ward. He only seemed to be interested by the company of his hot wife and the practitioners in the ward. Im sure he was a nice guy, very serious and goal driven anyhow he didn’t stay long in Hospital, he came in with a walking stick and didn’t need it when he was discharged.

Steve came from Pudsey he was a middle aged man talking like a hard man like Ray Winstone. Actually he was hard save for his left upper and lower limbs. He used an electric chair with a golf ball as a joy stick to enhance his grip. I used to be envious of his chair it gave him freedom to go outdoors and smoke all day. Hence I wanted to try and use one, after pleading my case I was given a few lessons to learn how to control it. I passed my driving test but disappointedly it was taken off me after I suffered a seizure. Lo I was upset and my anger triggered yet another seizure. Steve liked to make people laugh occasionally picking on me, fair play I now realise it was banter. However I used to take it personal. He was organised in what he did and wanted to be the voice of reason in the ward (alpha male) better yet for him he used to get on well with Billy the Charge Nurse. However I saw the relationship as teaming up against me I didn’t want nurses to take sides, unfair I thought. Therefore I was jealous of their relationship and rightfully so. Frans de Waals a Dutch primatologist found out that monkeys don’t like unfair treatment. Similarly people are creatures with intuitive for fairness. Empirical study using monkeys.

Harry was a nice guy and he also used to live in Pudsey as a result he was best buddies with Steve. The head injury affected his left-side regardless he could walk without a stick dangling his left hand which looked overbearing. His speech wasn’t clear but it wasn’t hard to tell what he said. He had a chevron moustache like Freddie Mercury and had a long term lovely girlfriend called Sue. The couple liked me, likewise I enjoyed speaking to them. Later I met him at a Community Rehabilitation Centre and we shared a room. One day out of the blues he tried to kiss me on the lips but told him “nah man I don’t get down like that”. I couldn’t fathom his actions his lovely girlfriend had just left the the room.

Mike was a quiet man because he had lost his capacity to speak thankfully his lovely wife never left his side and used to help him out with conversations. I would say Vicky the wife was in her mid thirties and Mike was in his early forties. They were a solid couple almost everyday Vicky was the first visitor to come in the ward and the last one to leave. Occasionally she used to book the side family room to spend some time with her husband. They made friends with my sister because every-time she came to see me she would have a good chat with Vicky. I liked Mike he used to push himself to the limit to try and get better, he had something to look forward to. I could see it in his eyes that he wanted to get well and be the patriarch of his family.

When I first saw Melvin I thought this guy has a head with no screws, an absolute nutter. Physically he looked normal and active apart from his lazy eye. Actually he was hyperactive, restless and a wanderer throwing swear words left right and centre. My bed was the first one on the left hand side as you enter the ward. Therefore every body who entered the ward used to see me. Every-time Melvin passed me he used to blurt the phrase ‘f*cken monkey’ spitting on the floor in disgust. I detested this dude I thought he was a racist, too often I reported him to the nurses and I was told to ignore his remarks because it was the brain injury which made him that way. To me he knew what he was doing because by and large he offended me in the ward because I was different. At the time I remember arguing that take away the brain injury facade and you will find out that the guy is a racist and now revealing his ugly side which was concealed at the back of his subconscious mind. However extensive research on brain injuries highlights that it can change people’s personalities.

Brian was a family man he never stayed long in hospital. The wife told us that he used to have a top job and unfortunately the brain injury had slowed him down, feeling woozy oftentimes. Looking at him seating on his chair was deceiving at best, he looked healthy and sophisticated. Unlike Melvin he was calm and soft spoken.

Stephen was a young dude same age as me I think, his brain injury was due to drug abuse. As a result his legs were severely affected and used to cry all day.

As for me my speech continued to improve by the day and was feeling comfortable oblivious to the harsh realities of the out side world. Nothing could have been better than beating nurses at chess. Other than that hospital life was monotonous, mundane and the food sucked. I recall one of the Dinner Ladies giving me extra portions thinking she was treating me but it was more bland food I had to endure. The occasional tasty treat from family was like manna from heaven, I remember Tau bringing me box of KFC it was like the best thing I ever had.

“Max we thinking of discharging you in a couple of months” speaking to me and my sister the charge nurse said. My stomach clenched worryingly “but I’m not ready and I have no accessible house to go to”. The nurse reassured me that my sister was getting help from the Local Authority to find an accessible dwelling for me. Finally I got discharged as an inpatient in June 2003 and continued further stints of rehabilitation as an outpatient at the Community Rehabilitation Centre, St Mary’s Leeds. Two weeks every three months I used to go there.

Life after hospital

when I got discharged from hospital reclusive sociability was the order of the day, all the kids went to school and my sister went to university coupled with work commitments. However I had two carers who visited the house twice a day for a total of 1 hour per day. Therefore I spent most of my time playing chess and nothing but chess against the computer. I started playing the middling level & gradually proceeded to play the hardest level and occasionally surprised myself by beating the computer. From this perspective it could be argued that chess played a big part in my rehabilitation particularly mentally.

2004/5 were the years of community rehabilitation and attending a community centre in my local area.

2006/7 I employed my first outdoor support worker, a student at Leeds Metropolitan University. 20 hours of support throughout the week so I joined a gym for working out as well as having swimming lessons. That period is when I started to attend Headway Leeds social events (a charity set up to help brain injury Survivors). I inquired about getting back to studying and I was told to prove myself that I could do it. So I enrolled for AS in Psychology at Joseph Priestly College (night school). Notably 2006 is when I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, happy days.

Started my independent living trial in 2008 and eventually moving to my purpose built home in 2010. In 2008 I also commenced a programme in Human Geography & Planning from 2008- 2011 at Leeds Metropolitan University (now known as Leeds Beckets University). As a result I was crowned Headway UK Archiver of the year, to my elation. Consequently I studied a Masters in Town & Regional Planning and graduated in 2012, worked as an intern at Leeds City Council from 2013-14. In 2015 I started travelling world wide independently to find out the challenges faced by wheelchair users and disabled people alike on a daily basis by having the first hand experience.

Award ceremony at The Dorchester Hotel in London with two Irwin Mitchell solicitors, Jane Horton & Jane McNair (left to right)

Pursuing my dreams

Throughout my journey the magnitude of support from my sister and her kids as well as family friends was great and will forever feel grateful. However when it came to pursuing my dreams in the aftermath of my accident I took the initiative I didn’t wait for someone to tell me what I can and can’t do academically. It was within me to know what I was capable of. In general if you think you can do something ‘Just do it’ like Nike, wether you think you are right or wrong you are right, Henry Ford.

As highlighted earlier that head injuries affect people in different ways. Myself I lost the ability to do many essential physical things like walking. However many tell me that I have accomplished outstanding things despite my brain injury such as obtaining my MA in Town planning.

Therefore I encourage brain injury survivors and people at large to live to reach their full potential by sustaining a positive mental attitude because if people focus on their problems and limitations they become disempowered.

Acknowledgements: first and foremost I want to convey my gratitude to my sister and her kids, relatives and friends. You helped me when I was rock bottom for that I appreciate you more than you know. Trying to walk again I fell several times and Shelton you helped me up on numerous occasions. Throughout the road to recovery I was helped by many professionals pointedly: Dr Paul Chumas thank you for believing that I would make a considerable recovery alongside my sister and to overturn the decision to switch off the life supporting machine. To Amanda thank you for your continuing support work. Tom and Katie thank You for playing chess against me in hospital so too I convey my gratitude to NHS particularly staff for showing a brother some love. Shout out to the retired lecture from Leeds Becketts University, John Seacomb you believed in me and gave me a chance to prove myself. Headway Leeds cheers for giving me a social platform to meet other brain injury survivors alike. I’m also grateful that I became a member of The church of Jesus Christ in 2006, lovely folk. Last but not least I want to give a massive shout out to Irwin Mitchell Solicitors for being my financial pillar and for being my voice when I lost it.