When I was little, my siblings and I invented a torturous game called ‘Feet’. The rules were simple: wait for an unsuspecting kin to start innocently walking the stairs; then scream “feet!” and take chase to grab their scurrying tootsies, before they reached the safety of the landing. For three siblings who hated having their feet touched, it was terrifying, truly terrifying. That was the summer, I learnt that the fastest way up the stairs was leaping three steps at a time! 😉
For the first thirty-two years of my life, steps and stairs caused me no issue. I could run up them, carry boxes up them, tackle multiple flights to the top floors of buildings (to avoid the lift 😛 ). Each day, I’d plod up and down and up and down our staircase, without a second thought. That is, until I became ill.
Overnight, steps became the bane of my life. Exhausting, oxygen-zapping, heart-racing; climbing stairs is akin to an exercise class! As my PVOD lungs can only extract a quarter of the oxygen that normal lungs can; every upward step makes my oxygen levels plummet, and leaves me a-puffing and a-panting. Breathless and breathless and breathless. Consequently, stairs are always taken slowly, with ‘catch my breath’ stops after every couple of steps, and they necessitate a few minutes rest on the landing until my O2 levels normalise. And this is when I’m piped up to my oxygen! 😉 If poorly or tired or my PH is struggling, then my lungs extract even less oxygen per breath than normal; thus the dreaded oxygen deficit. It feels like I’m suffocating. Incredibly bloomin’ scary. Thankfully, I have a wonderful hubby, who carries me up and downs stairs when I’m too breathless to do it myself! 🙂
But despite this; I’ve always refused to get a stair lift. Big and bulky and yellow; I didn’t want one. I wasn’t an OAP, I wasn’t in a nursing home, I wasn’t at deaths door (well, I didn’t like to think so… 😛 ). Phil tried many times to persuade me, but my stubbornness always won out. I hated having visible signs of my disability in my home. I wanted to live as ‘normal’ a life as possible, without reminders of my illness. A stair lift would be an enormous flashing red light for everyone. A pity-magnet, a question-provoker. No thank you. And besides, they were so ugly and unsightly and bulky! So I refused. Every. Time.
Thus I had to develop strategies to live in my semi with its thirteen steps. Through trial and error, I realized I only had the breathe and energy to go up and down them once a day. So each morning, I couldn’t eat or have a cuppa or watch TV or let Lottie outside or do anything downstairs, until I’d done everything, and grabbed everything I needed from upstairs. And as showering and dressing takes so long, that meant 10am brekkies! Then once downstairs, there I’d stay until bedtime. Even if I’d left my glasses upstairs, or forgot my book, or needed a thicker sweater, I wouldn’t go upstairs. I’d live without it. Or get a visitor to grab it for me! 😉 I kept spare toiletries and clothes downstairs for emergencies; I’d write lists to remember what I needed to take up or bring down on my once-a-day journey, and thankfully I had a downstairs loo! If somebody knocked whilst I was upstairs, I’d chat out the window. If a friend wanted to go upstairs; I’d stay down. For nine years, I lived like that and it worked.
But three months ago, we moved into a house without a downstairs toilet. Unable to get one fitted until after Christmas, but still determined not to succumb to a stair lift, and at my strongest ever, I declared that I would walk up and down the steps whenever I needed the loo. But, with an addiction to tea and on diuretic tablets, this meant at least twelve trips a day! 😛 Furthermore, I’d not considered that not only did my body need extra oxygen and energy for climbing stairs, but my clenching bladder muscles did too! 😀 Each morning, I’d proudly manage the first trips; then every toilet visit after I’d go into oxygen debt, or wee myself cause I couldn’t breath and walk and hold my bladder simultaneously! By elevensies, I’d couldn’t face the stairs, and took to weeing in the garden or in a bucket in the kitchen. Embarrassment, disheartenment. I stopped drinking.
So I gave in. A few weeks later, the slimmest, modernist stair-lift I could find, moved in too. I sit on the chair, press the lever, and am magically whisked to the top. Albeit very slowly! 😛 Kep took an instant dislike to the moving monster, and had to be bribed to not eat it, with treats training. But me, I instantly loved it. No more accidents, no more peeing in a pot, no more praying the neighbours don’t spot me with my trousers down in the garden! And not only can I go to the toilet without worry, I can nip up and down to get what I need, say hello to Phil in his study. After nearly a decade of largely ignoring the upstairs of my house, I can now wander freely. I don’t need to keep spares downstairs, or shout from the bedroom window. And it’s really handy to carry the washing up and down! 😉
And far from being a flashing symbol of my disability, my stair-lift actually stops me thinking about my illness. There’s no bigger reminder that you are poorly, than weeing yourself or peeing in a bucket multiple times daily! 😉 Instead my magic chair is actually a symbol of my freedom. For the first time in nine years, I can move around my house as I want. And I can eat breakfast before 10am!
And siblings, next time you casually walk by me on my stairlift… “feeeeeet!”.