Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Power Child

In one tiny corner of this universe, life has stopped. But children don't have a pause button or an off switch, as far as they are concerned the world keeps turning and they keep going.

Little Fish has been lent a powerchair on trial to see if she can get to grips with it. She's a whizz in her manual but because she's so tiny the powers that be would like her to have a power chair to save her muscles - she is after all going to be pushing herself around for quite a long life. We hope.

So yesterday afternoon, the wheelchair therapist arrived bringing whizzy new purple tank (and forgetting cushions and charger but hey ho). Little Fish has tried this chair out before, at the hospital. Because she's never walked, the concepts involved in moving forwards and backwards aren't things she is particularly clued in with. She knows how to push herself in her manual wheelchair but that's not the same as walking and that's not the same as pushing the joystick. So, she has everything reversed. Very clear that she understands the concept "I wiggle this stick and something happens" but beyond that - she is consistent, but consistently wrong. She pulls the stick backwards when she wants to go forwards, forwards when she wants to go backwards, left for right and right for left. This makes for an interesting time. Small child wants a cuddle from Mummy, and finds herself backing into the bookcase instead. Small child wants to go to the kitchen and finds herself running over my laptop (I'm being charitable here and trying hard to believe it wasn't a deliberate attempt to stop Mummy from spending so much time online). Small child hits object and panics, locking her hand around the joystick and not managing to let go.

I'm having to think about so many different things. Different ways of directing her. "Stop" isn't helpful because it causes her to pull her hand back, sending her into reverse. Whilst this might be useful on the occasions when she's actually run over my feet in the forwards position it's far more likely I'm trying to stop her from running Mog over behind her. The therapist suggests "Let Go" as an alternative. OK this works. Except that now I can't use "Let's go" as a means of getting started. Well - I can, but when I do Little Fish gives me the cross eyed "oh mother make your mind up" look. Similarly "Come" doesn't work because the sign for "come" is a beckoning motion, so Little Fish tries that whilst holding the joystick, sending her once more whizzing backwards across the room. "Push" and "Pull" are handy and we'll be working on them, but they don't spring naturally to my lips when I want her to move forwards or backwards. I had never appreciated how complex driving a powerchair could be - and how much of our language can be so confusing.

Taking pity on my furniture and doorways I decided we should go outside. Being either thoughtless or stupid (or possibly both) I thought a quick trip to the shops might be a good expedition. Someone tell me why because I really can't remember what made me think it might be a good idea. I mean, I know we needed loo roll but I've got babywipes and boxes of tissues, it wasn't that urgent...

Picture this. I've mentioned the push-one-pull-one shuffle before. Now manoeuvring two girls in two manual wheelchairs with handles at different heights and cambered pavements is tricky enough. I'm now trying to push Mog with one hand whilst guiding Little Fish hand over hand with her joystick in the other, every little jiggle and joggle sends the chair flying in an entirely different direction. Fortunately Little Fish thinks this is hysterically funny. Especially when my hand slips off and she manages to run away, leaving me to abandon Mog and chase after her before she hits parked cars or falls off the kerb. Half tempted to let her hit the cars which are parked across the pavement but suspect this would not be a good way to maintain friendly neighbourhood relationships.

Eventually we make it past the cars and into the park. Fun times. Little Fish begins to get a bit confident now, and starts grabbing my hand then whizzing off in direction unknown, up the grassy banks, over the woodchips, over the paths, into the benches, scattering elderly grandmothers and small children alike, howling with laughter as she goes. Meanwhile Mog sits in her chair with its faulty brake and gently drifts into a downhill circle, grinning to watch me chase her little sister and alternating that grin with her "I can't believe you're doing that and you are nothing to do with me" look. As an alternative to making me scramble over grassy knolls, Little Fish decides to "brum" Mog. This involves coming up behind her, grabbing Mog's handlebars and pushing her backwards and forwards on the spot. In the powerchair however Little Fish is somewhat higher up, and so the handlebars of Mog's chair are now nicely positioned at "poke your eye out" level. Combine this with the fact that we still have not perfected the "STOP!!! er I mean LET GO!!! I mean wait for me ARGH" manoeuvre and it makes for a particularly interesting ride.

It is, naturally, whilst in the midst of all this that people decide it would be a good idea to try to gain my full attention to offer condolences. Don't get me wrong; it's lovely that you're concerned and I thank you. But perhaps when we're all three howling in laughter but at the same time concerned with prevention of imminent and seemingly inevitable injury, then just perhaps this is not the right moment. So if that was you and you didn't catch what I shouted as we sailed past, it was "don't be nice to me" - I can deal with anything but that right now.

It was a good afternoon. I'm not sure the loo-roll shop would agree with that assessment. But we didn't cause any criminal damage, not even any "going to take two shop assistants a very long time to clear up" type damage. Just some minor sending stacks of soft toilet tissue to the floor whilst still giggling uncontrollably type damage. Perhaps the "my condolences" and "if there's anything I can do to help" ladies could just pop round and clear that up for them?


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