Saturday, 14 January 2012


I had an interesting discussion with my medical support team the other day about my use of a wheelchair. The debate basically cantered on two differing points of view, both of which were right.

The Medics saw the wheelchair as a retrograde step which would further reduce my ability to walk, whilst my Psychologist and I argued that the wheelchair was giving me the opportunity to get fitter and perhaps more importantly giving me the opportunity to get out and about with minimal pain.

The Physio has seen it all before, patient saying, ‘but I will only use it a bit’ and then going into physical meltdown. I understood that. At the same time I felt I had already melted down and needed to do something about improving my fitness and lifestyle and most importantly my psychological health.

I left the meeting very demoralised, in fact it took 2 days to get over it. I eventually did this by discussing it with my wife (it just goes to remind me how important communication is when you suffer from any chronic illness). She pointed out that she would be there to help leaver me out of the chair and keep me exercising, whilst at the same time supporting me in using a chair to keep fit and get out and about.

I believe I have a sensible plan laid out which will help me to build fitness using the chair as another tool in my toolbox, primarily being used as a means of getting aerobic exercise and maintaining social links with people beyond the confines of my house. I would be very interested in hearing the points of view of anyone who has been in a similar situation.

Once again I have written a poem on the subject, I hope you like it.


He places the sticks in front of him,
takes the strain on his mighty shoulders
and takes a pace forward.
Pain sears through his skin
as his trousers brush against it.
As the foot is placed, weight transfers
an explosion of pain shoots through the limb
and bile surges upwards.
He’s moves just under a foot.

He thinks back to the old days.
He has time to think, as he gathers
the courage to take the next step.
He’d run up Ben Nevis and Pen y Fan*.
The playgrounds of his youth,
oh those were the days.
Yet here, crippled by pain
he laboriously advances foot by foot
as if climbing Everest with no oxygen.

Every day he walks, and every day
the distance covered in the hour shrinks,
all the while the memories hurt more
and the abyss deepens.
Here a man who would not quit - quits.
Old before his years, crippled, worn out.
The bag of memories contained in a
fat, pink fleshy membrane
stops and salt water seeps from his eyes.

He tries a wheelchair; instant freedom,
powerful shoulders drive him forward.
Mile after mile through the lanes
Stopping at will to seize the moment,
A hedgerow primrose, tricked into early blossom,
Birds singing in the empty branches above him.
The sea like green glass three hundred feet below.
A dog walker offers to push him up a hill,
Proudly he declines, they chat as he struggles on.

Unimpressed the physio warns,
‘the legs will fade if you don’t use them’.
He knows, he’s struggled for years only to be
trapped in a body that’s too painful to move.
The choice she sees is use wheels and lose legs.
The choice he sees is use wheels or lose life.
For what use are legs that hurt too much to use
If the sound, scent and sites
of our beautiful world are unattainable.

John Carré Buchanan
14 January 2012

* Pen y Fan. is the tallest mountain in South Wales, I came to know it very well as a member of the Parachute Regiment in the mid 80's. We seemed to spend a lot of time running over the mountain on a run affectionately called 'The Fan Dance'.


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