Using a mobility aid after surgery

I have had four surgeries on my gut in the last two years. As you might imagine, this puts a lot of strain on my stomach muscles. Muscles we use for pretty much everything, from carrying to simply standing.

When you first start moving after surgery, every twist, every step is painful and you feel like you might just rip your stitches open at any moment. Thankfully, while in hospital, there is always someone to help you, to hold your arm or fetch a wheelchair for you when you can’t quite make it back to your bed. However, when you’re home and out in the real world, those safety nets aren’t always there.

It takes a while for your muscles, and in fact your whole body, to recover and adjust to how things are post-surgery. Sure, a friend or family member will likely be with you on every excursion out the house for the first few weeks but what about when you want to go out when no one can go with you? What about even when someone is with you but you’re not sure you’ll make it to the car, let along the cafe you’re going to for lunch?

That’s where mobility aids come in.

I have a walking stick. I am 31 years old and look fairly healthy, albeit a bit skinny, and I have a walking stick. I got it for the very reasons mentioned above. I can go out with family, sure, but they can’t always hold me and most probably couldn’t lift me if I fell. The walking stick acts as a support for me if I stumble or when going up or down steps, it allows me to keep my independence. It allows me to walk further and for longer and gives me the confidence to go out on my own.

But it’s not only that. It also acts as a warning to others who can’t see the scars, the ostomy bag and the healing wounds, that I may be slower, unable to move out of their way or cross the road in time. It lets people know to give me a little extra space, to catch that door or hold the lift.

My point is that mobility aids are useful and we shouldn’t be ashamed to use them just because we may look healthy or young or otherwise as if we don’t need it. If you feel you need a mobility aid, regardless if it’s a wheelchair, a walker or a walking stick, you should use it. It doesn’t matter if it’s for six days or for the rest of your life, you should use the tools at your disposal if it makes life easier for you.

And to anyone who has felt the need to question why someone is using a mobility aid, it’s none of your business. You don’t know what’s going on inside, what that person is dealing with. They may be walking fine but that’s probably because they are using that mobility aid. Please don’t be so quick to judge.

Let’s Talk About This – 2

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a guy who questioned my use of a walking stick whilst walking home and I asked if anyone else had experienced anything similar.

I’ve had a couple of responses, all of which said they too have experienced some kind of judgement for being “too young” or not looking disabled enough to be using their mobility aids. Some of the prying questions shared include “what’s wrong with you?”, “what happened?” and “That’s just for fashion, right?” And I feel these are all incredibly inappropriate. People don’t questions those who have crutches due to a broken leg or a little old lady who walks upright but still has a walking stick, yet they seem to feel they need to “call out” those who look young and fit and healthy for using these same aids. It’s also no one elses business why someone is using a mobility aid yet people feel they have the right to ask and demand such information.

A few other things that people have had said to them whilst using their aids are “you don’t look handicapped.” and “you shouldn’t be allowed to work in public. You make people uncomfortable.” This is also really inappropriate and rude. Like I said before, it’s no one else business why someone is using a mobility aid but to say they make make you feel uncomfortable is selfish, unkind and, above all, completely insensitive. It is not our job, as chronically ill and/or disabled individuals, to ensure the healthy and able-bodied feel comfortable and happy around us. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable around other people but if someone in a wheelchair or using a walking stick makes you feel that way, then try to imagine how it must be for them. Don’t voice how they make you feel because it’s not that persons fault you feel awkward, they don’t control your emotions.

I know some people would advise to not say anything in these situations and I must admit, I’m not one for starting an argument or making a scene, but what do you think? Would you argue or answer someone if they questioned you for using a mobility aid? What would you say? Would ignore them?

Lastly, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to @maknaebias, @that-eds-life and @notsograndadventures for your contributions! You’re all amazing people and I really appreciate you sharing your stories with me.

Recovery update

It’s been two months since surgery so I thought I’d do a little update.

I haven’t had a partial blockage in a while now and I feel my appetite has returned so I’m eating normal food now in slightly smaller portions with the occasional snack in between meals. I’ve found a normal diet (including gluten and milk) is working fine for me at the moment but I suspect I’ll have to reduce my gluten intact later once I’ve recovered a bit more and my eating habits return to normal. My snacks are usually either crackers, PomBear crisps (I find crisps like Walkers don’t digest too well) or biscuits/cookies. My main meals mostly consist of chicken (breaded or in a non-spicy sauce) with some form of potato (chips, wedges, mash ect.) I can’t eat beans so I’ll sometimes have tinned spaghetti instead. Noodles and pasta are ok for me in moderation but I don’t cook a lot of it as it’s only me who’ll eat it. As for sweet stuff, pretty much anything is fair game so long as it doesn’t have any nuts/seeds or dried fruits in it. I sometimes binge on cookies or chocolate.

As for my walking, I’m able to walk just fine when I’m inside my own flat or at my parents as I know there are plenty of places to sit down if I need to. However,  when I’m outside, I’m a bit slower and a lot more cautious of the people around me (I don’t fancy an accidental elbow to the stoma). I’ve been using my walking stick for the last month or so but I don’t feel I need it as much anymore. I’m sort in a grey area of needing it and not needing it so I’m trying to go out with it in my bag in case I need it later, rather than using it straight off the bat.

In regard to my stoma, it’s been better since using the barrier rings my stoma nurse gave me. The skin looks and feel so much better and the bags feel like they could last an extra day if I needed them to which is ideal.

Lastly, I’ve got an appointment to see my surgeon about closing off the blob later next month so if all goes well, I’ll be stoma-free by the New Year.

Let’s talk about this

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I bought myself a walking stick to aid me in my recovery after my surgery last year. The point of it was to help me to walk faster and for longer. It also worked as a sort of “red flag” to others to give me space and extra time to cross road, move out of their way, ect. As I’ve had surgery on the same area recently, I’ve been using my stick again when walking for long periods.

One such time was recently, when I had to go see my nurse at my GP surgery which is only a short walk from where I live. I got there fine, and I was on my way home when something happened to me that I have never experienced before; someone jeered at me, asking why I was using a walking stick.

Now, I’m 30 years old and I don’t look my age. I also look perfectly healthy so when I use my walking stick, I understand it might look a bit odd. However, their comment made me a little upset and I realised that I shouldn’t have to put up with that. I have my reasons for using a mobility aid at the moment and I shouldn’t have to justify myself.

There is a odd thing that I have noticed as a young person using a walking stick; (some) older people don’t take note of the stick and brush past me with little to no care. By contrast, younger people give me space, offer their seats if there are none free, and hold doors for me. This isn’t to say that all older people are ignorant of others needs or that younger people are kinder, it’s just a observation from my experience.

Has anyone else had someone comment on their use of a mobility aid/s? Have you said anything or just ignored them? Have you also found that older/younger people are more/less cautious around you or are they about the same? I’m interested to know what other people have experienced so please let me know by comment or PM so I can put all together in a post later. Thank you!

Recovery update!

I managed to go out twice in the last five days! I’m back to using my walking stick but I don’t think I’ll be needing it for as long this time. I can walk faster and for longer now verses last year, but I still need the extra support when going out for a long time. The stick also acts as a warning to others that I can’t move that quickly and they may need to be careful when moving around me. It doesn’t always work though as I have had a couple of people (noticeably older people) who have felt it would be fine to just knock me with their bags. Luckily, I was stationary and with someone else when this happened but still.

(Side note: It’s odd but I have found that the people who are the most considerate and take note of my stick are around the same age as me (30) or younger. I don’t mean this as a slight against older generations, it’s just something I’ve noticed.)

Anyway, in terms of eating, I think I’ve been over-estimating my guts capacity because I have had stomach cramps on and off for the last few days. It was worse yesterday (Tuesday) but it seems to have gone for now. I’m finding that the cramps are most severe if I eat too much stodgy food (like bread, batter, pastry ect) and this makes me feel sick. I’m going to try and eat four small meals a day instead of two big ones (I don’t eat breakfast). For today though, I’m only having snacks every now and then because my gut is still sore.

Since getting home from the hospital, I’ve been trying to rebuild my stamina and leg strength with short walks around where I live. I’ve made huge progress, being able to walk for longer without experiencing any pain after, however, I do get stiff and start to hunch my shoulders and lean forward after a while. This means I slow down drastically and find it hard to keep walking unless I sit down for a while. My fiance suggested (as did a friend of mine a little while back) that I get a walking stick to see if it would help. I got this earlier this week while we were out in town (and I was feeling stiff at the time); the moment I started using it, I was upright and moving much faster and easier than I had been before.

I have no intention of using it all the time as I don’t want to become reliant on it, but I think it was a good idea getting it for use at least in the short term. I used it today to get to and from my doctors and I didn’t feel soar or stiff afterwards.

As I have every intention of going to the London Expo Comic Con at the end of this month, I will be taking it with me as I know I’ll be doing plenty of walking around (also, it’ll hopefully provide a sort of barrier between me and the crowds). So, if anyone is going to the London Expo this year and sees a Misty with a walking stick, it’s probably me.