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Life as a Scot in California

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Archive for the ‘Disability’ Category

What I have in Common with Partans

Posted by berkeleyscot on October 10, 2010

My Facebook friend, Gordon , from Boddam in Aberdeen-shire, is an Inshore Fisherman. He documents his fishing activities with videos and photos, which he posts on Facebook.

Recently, Gordon posted a video of a fellow crab fisherman cutting the crabs’ tendons (you need a Facebook account to view this). At first, I didn’t know what he was doing and didn’t realize the crabs were alive. He made slicing movements with his deft knife and tossed the crab aside to work on another one. The pile of crabs grew and I thought were dead because they were not crawling over each other.

I mentioned this to Gordon and he responded, “They’re nae deid!  We hiv tae cut their tendons or they’d fecht ane anither!”

So the crabs were hamstrung and rendered ineffective and cripple, but the catch was intact. I don’t know if they felt pain, but I did not see them move again.

Watching this reminded me that the tendons of my right leg are also cut. This was done to me when I was four years old and it was done because it was done to children with Cerebral Palsy. The overall intention was to help me walk better. There are many websites, which give information on this procedure. Here’s one.

I don’t remember the surgery, but I was in stooga from ankle to knee for 6 weeks afterwards. I still went to school. Mam pushed me there in a hurly chair.

I remember being in great pain and when the stooga was cut off, the doctor declared there was gangrene in my right ankle. I remember there was a big black, smelly hole. The Doctor poured some kind  of liquid into the hole and I fainted when I smelled sizzling flesh.

The surgery was a disaster. My ankle healed after the gangrene, but I cannot bend it and rather than walking more easily, I drag my foot.

Like the partans, I canna rin awa, bit I dinna get intae fechts aither…

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Posted in Disability, Scotland | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Primary School

Posted by berkeleyscot on July 16, 2009

I started school, in the Infant Class of Buckie Primary School in August 1954. My 5th birthday was in December of that year, but I was lucky to be admitted to school early. The usual age of school entry was at 5 years old.

This was the start, not only of my life outside of the Catbow, but the start of my independent life. I now could no longer rely on Mam to do things for me, or to make cerebral palsy easier for me.

At the start of each school year, Mam came to the school and talked to my teacher about my having cerebral palsy, but she was shy, intimidated by the teachers and was not my best advocate. Some teachers didn’t understand what she was trying to tell them

At first glance, it’s certainly not obvious that I have cerebral palsy. But then, when it comes to ‘doing,’ it is. In the 1950s, being left-handed was discouraged to the point of punishment, but what could my teachers do with a pupil who had no use of her right hand and they were not trained to ‘deal with’ students who had a disability. But I still learned to write, even though the inkwell was on the wrong side of the desk and I was messy with my pen and ink.

Cerebral Palsy is messy. Some people have no facial muscle control and drool and spastic, uncontrollable spasms are a nuisance.

But, the teachers realised I was one of their brightest pupils and we had to work together for me to get the quality of education I was supposed to get. I had supportive teachers and I had stupid teachers who refused to make allowances for me. I didn’t want special treatment. I simply wanted to be treated with respect and an awareness of what I was physically unable to do.

My classmates were often unkind. That was a long time ago and I cannot and don’t care now.

I had one special friend, Mary, whom I love dearly to this day. I felt normal in her company and I never had to explain anything to her.

mc3mc2

Posted in Buckie, Disability | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Early Catbow Memories

Posted by berkeleyscot on June 26, 2009

For the first four years of my life in the Catbow I knew only Mam, Dad, Granny and Granda the neighbours and relatives who lived close by. I did not know they were not my relatives and added ‘Auntie’ or ‘Uncle’ to their names.

I was aware of my surroundings, from a very early age and understood much more than I could articulate.

I knew that Dad and Granda went to sea during the week and sometimes were away for longer.  Mam and Granny each had their ‘own ends’ of the house, but Mam did most of the work in the house. They didn’t have an easy relationship and I know that Mam wanted a house of her own.

I was aware of the tension between them. Dad seemed unable or unwilling to do anything about it and just tried, ineffectually, to keep the peace.  Granda didn’t get involved at all. First World War guns had rendered him completely deaf and communication was difficult.

I spent a lot of time with adults and didn’t play with children of the neighbourhood very often. I couldn’t keep up with their active games and I fell a lot. I didn’t know I had cerebral palsy and figured that out for myself later. Dad used to say I had ‘a weakness.’

They did their best for me, but they had limited resources.

So this was how ‘OorMargit’ began, sitting on a creepie by the fireside, in the evenings, listening to the neighbours’ gossip and stories.

I absorbed everything they said and learned to speak the Doric before I learned to speak English.

On the left is me in 1953 in the Catbow before the road was made in 1963. On the right I’m posing for a professional photographer who came to the house.

Catbow 1953Posing in 1954

Posted in Buckie, Disability, Oormargit | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

My Experience at the Orthopedic Surgeon’s and Did I Mention I have Cerebral Palsy?

Posted by berkeleyscot on March 22, 2009

My knee seized up, as I described in a recent blog.

I made an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon, someone I’d consulted a few years ago.

He wanted to have x-rays of my right knee.  He has an x-ray facility in his offices and that should have been a straightforward procedure.

The technician led me to the x-ray room and told me to get onto the table and lie down.  “I don’t think I can,” I said.  I’d had an x-ray in the same room and on the same table a few years ago, but now I wasn’t the same at all.

My broken arm has affected my balance and I’m unsteady. There were no handrails to hang on to as I tried to step on the stool to reach the table.

The table was a stainless steel tray. It reminded me of the tray that corpses lie on, in a morgue. The trays side in and out of drawers, with an identifying label attached to the deceased’s big toe.

There was a pillow on this stainless steel tray, but that didn’t help me feel comfortable.
The technician was aware I was not coping, physically, but she commanded me to lie on my right side.

I absolutely couldn’t do it. I tried. I was sliding all over the tray and believed if she’d tried to physically manipulate me, I’d actually fall off.  I had nothing to hold on to and was vocal in my distress.

She left the room and came back with the doctor. He tried to maneuver me around on the tray, but stopped when I grabbed his tie. It was the only thing near enough to hold on to. I was NOT trying to strangle him, but when I realised I might have, I grabbed his shirtsleeve and tried to sit up.

There is absolutely no traction on a stainless steel tray and there we were, sliding, strangling, shirt-ripping so I could sit up.

Don’t laugh!

It was frightening. The doctor was struggling. It would have made a great You Tube clip.
But it shouldn’t have been so difficult.

We seek medical help for that very reason. We need help.

When the doctor and I had recovered our breath, he looked at the one and only possible x-ray and decided to give me a cortisone shot in my knee.

I don’t think it was in revenge, but the needle was large and he made me promise I’d not kick him.

I didn’t and, for now, cortisone is now my friend.

Posted in Disability, Living | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Presenter on BBC Television is Giving Children Nightmares?

Posted by berkeleyscot on March 1, 2009

I have not seen this UK television programme, but I have read about it on the Internet.

As someone who was born with a disability, I’m also scared and might have nightmares.

Laws have been passed to protect and to encourage those of who have disabilities, but there can be no legislation against the primitive fear of disability.

I’m scared of people who don’t want to see me. Not on TV. Not in stores, restaurants, theatres, etc.

I’ll get a wee bell to ring to warn you I’m coming so you can run away!

There is indeed a woman, who exercises at the gym I use, who panics when she see me.

It’s primitive fear.

Posted in Disability | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

I knew that having cerebral palsy would complicate things…

Posted by berkeleyscot on February 6, 2009

I’ve spent today in my office, completely unable to stand up.

My right knee is swollen and very, very painful.

I knew that it was swollen when I got up in the morning, but managed to go downstairs.

Then I went back upstairs to my office to start my day with email, as usual. I wanted to have a productive day and I’d made a list of things that I might accomplish. But I couldn’t stand up. My right knee was double its size and I was in awful pain. I thought my kneecap was dislocated.

Richard said we’d have to call an ambulance and go to hospital.

I couldn’t bear the thought, so we’ve struggled through the day with heat, ice, massaging and a lot of bad language.

The swelling is subsiding and I might just be able to get wheeled to bed in my typing chair.

That’s the description of the complication.

I had physiotherapy on Tuesday and I did one exercise sitting on a balance ball. I rolled backwards, forwards and from side to side.

That put great stress on my right knee. I heard and felt it grinding and I should have stopped…

Now I am stopped! Completely!

I have cerebral palsy and I need to be vocal about it!

All I can say right now is a very loud “OUCH!!!!!!”

Posted in Disability, Living | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

The Progress of the Plan

Posted by berkeleyscot on January 17, 2009

No progress today on ‘the Plan.’ But I’m pleased to have people comment on the plan potential.

I did see a competent physiotherapist, Janet. She has assured me that all moving parts will move again and maybe even better.

I have to do exercises. I will do them.

I am glad they don’t involve squeezing a beanbag. In the 1950s that was supposed to be a cure for cerebral palsy.

But it didn’t work.

I wish Richard would not refer to the piece of metal in my arm as a ‘sizable chunk.’

Will he sell me scrap if we fall on hard times?

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“Do You Always Walk That Way…”

Posted by berkeleyscot on January 6, 2009

Asked the nurse who had just officially discharged me from the Surgery Center.  She was accompanying me to the waiting area where Richard was to collect me.

I’ve given lots of thought to this kind of question.

I’d like to say, “How do I walk? Show me!”

But, I was immediately post-surgery and anesthetized at that moment and just needed to go home, so I admitted that I do always ‘walk that way.’

Cerebral Palsy will complicate my physiotherapy. I will have to explain that I couldn’t make a fist with my right hand before and I won’t be able to now.

I never could write with my right hand so calligraphy is not going to happen.

A close friend said, “I’ve always thought you must be right-handed, because, although your hand-writing is legible, it’s as if you’re a right-handed person, writing with your left hand!”

It’s curious that I had planned to experiment with cerebral palsy in 2009. By that, I mean, attempting to do things that I haven’t done in a long time – getting on a bus, for example.

How much is the aging process affecting me? What is it like to age with cerebral palsy?

AND – how do people REALLY see me?

When I was in the operating theatre, and before I went under, the crew chatted to me, thusly… “How boring that you tripped on the sidewalk and did not fall on the ski slopes… You’ll be driving by the end of the month… You’ll be using your right hand again!”

I am in awe of my great surgeon and the work he did to fix my arm – but the Surgery Center isn’t Lourdes, and yes, I will always ‘walk this way…’

I’ll just be so happy to see my wee right hand again in its natural curled up cerebral palsy state.

Posted in Accidents, Disability, Living | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mingus

Posted by berkeleyscot on August 12, 2008

Mingus is not our cat.  He is supposed to live with a family across the fence, at the bottom of the garden.
But, every morning, he appears at our backdoor, begging to come in.
He’s fast – and darts in as soon as we open the door.
He’s bites and scratches if we try to lift him up, so we let him stay in the laundry room. He jumps into the big laundry sink and rattles the lint trap until we heed his signal to turn the tap on so he can have a stroopie of water.
Now, the sad thing is that his family does not talk to us.   We see each other most days and especially at the weekends, when everyone is at home.
It’s odd that the family can see us, but never makes eye contact or acknowledge that we are so close together that we can hear each other’s conversations.  This does not faze Mingus one bit.
Most mornings, his lovely yellow eyes, stare at us through the glass panes of the backdoor. As soon as we open the door, he is IN and doesn’t care if his family is observing.
We don’t feed him, of course, but we do keep cat treats and use them to coax him out.  Mingus hates to be lifted up; he plays rough, but will happily run outside if we discreetly throw a few cat treats out.
If I had my own cat, I would be upset if someone used that method to get the cat out of my house, but often needs must, especially if Richard is away and I have to leave the house and lock up.
One day, his ‘Mam’ saw Mingus rush into the house as soon as we opened the door.   She was fizzing mad and yelled at me for ‘stealing’ her cat!  She yelled and shook her fist at me.  It was a whilie before she calmed down enough so that I could explain that we weren’t stealing Mingus at all, but he had chosen to come over. I told her I couldn’t lift him.
“Oh! If I’d known you are disabled I wouldn’t have shouted at you!”
Now, that is discrimination and I believe strongly in equal opportunity yelling.

But Mingus does discriminate.   He has shown, quite clearly, where he prefers to be!

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Where Do We Spend Our 35th Wedding Anniversary

Posted by berkeleyscot on May 30, 2008

We hadn’t given this much thought till last week. Richard travels a lot and I am very content to stay in my ain wee hoose.

We thought we’d walk at the Berkeley Marina, then come home and drink champagne, but OCH! We walk at the Berkeley Marina regularly. We love that walk, but a 35th Wedding Anniversary deserves something a wee bit extra.

We’d go away, but to whence?

I get stiff if I sit for too long so that ruled out a plane journey or long car trip.

I live very well in my ain wee hoose, where everything is set up to help me function at a high level. But leaving it might be a leap into the dangerous unknown.

After much positive argument, which to most others would be a shouting discussion, we remembered that, last year, on our way home from San Louis Obispo, we drove along Big Sur, past the Henry Miller Library and said, “We’ll come here next year!”

I Googled the accommodation at Big Sur.

There are campgrounds, one offering yurts. That wouldn’t suit, since I can’t get down on the ground.

There are also small hotels and motels, so I called a couple of them. I carefully explained my need for an accessible shower, with handrails and a seat. The receptionist at the first place had no idea if the showers were accessible, but she put me on hold while she asked.

The answer was that the shower is wheelchair accessible. There is a ramp into the shower, but no chair/stool or grab bars in the shower. I don’t know of anyone who uses a wheelchair who actually takes his or her wheelchair INTO the shower. I’m sure there are wheelchairs that are designed to be used in a shower, but they would not be a primary means of transportation. But this was no help to me at all and I called another motel. This time, I didn’t ask if the showers were accessible, but explained what I need. The answer was that they “In good faith, couldn’t help me.” There were no grab bars or seats in the showers.

Perhaps there are other accommodations at Big Sur that would suit, but, by this time, we had decided we’d stay at a hotel in Monterey. In the hotel we have chosen, all rooms have showers with grab bars and seats. We’ll have an ocean view, with balcony.

Making such accommodation for those of us, who need grab bars and seats in the shower, surely isn’t so difficult or expensive.

Someone said, ‘THE disabled don’t go on vacation anyway.’

Why don’t we? Not that I’m a “THE!”

Surely everyone would enjoy showering in the comfort of a shower with a seat and grab bars.

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