I had major surgery this week but there were various distractions before then.
My body obviously thought I needed a bit more to think about than just having my bones sawn up.
I fell over my tripod walking sticks and got carpet burn on my knee and had horrible bad temper at inadequate equipment.
Dentist last week for broken filling – I insisted on anaesthetic injection as I am a terrible coward. Kind dentist numbed my whole face so I not only couldn’t walk I couldn’t speak or eat for ages, and the coffee I’d been gasping for throughout the ordeal finished up all over my respectable going-to-the dentist blouse.
The weirdest distraction was developing really sore eyes, getting an emergency optician appointment and finding I have some INGROWING EYELASHES!!! Who knew they could do that? That’s exactly what it felt like — something in your eye that you can’t get out. The optician (thank you, thank you, thank you!) plucked them out. Yes, I know, yucky to think of but instant relief. I was imagining going blind in hospital and wondering how I could manage a white stick and two crutches.
That’s how your mind runs before surgery!
But the biggest distraction was listening to the stories of the disabled people in the various campaign groups I’m part of.
Many are worrying about the cost of living crisis. People on disability benefits never got the extra £20 that people on universal credit got so they have really suffered financially as prices rise in the shops and energy prices double.
Imagine yourself, like me, having to use a stair lift, charge up a mobility scooter, perhaps use a hoist to get you out of bed, maybe having dialysis for kidney failure at home. You need a fridge for drugs, such as insulin if you’re diabetic etc etc. Your energy needs are already high and there’s nothing you can cut down on without damaging yourself drastically.
And there’s worry about important services, like a “lifeline”. That’s an emergency button you wear and press when you need help to get someone out to you. When my dad needed one twenty years ago, it was free. Now a friend in Hull who cares for his disabled wife is paying over £4 per week for one.
More are worrying about whether the government will introduce charges for medication. Many disabled people depend on all kinds of drugs to help with pain, control spasms or relax muscles. They’re free mostly for long term complaints but if you have to pay it would become very expensive. The sheer worry is depressing many people. Despair leads to thoughts of suicide or euthanasia.
Or robbery even!
It started as a joke in my disability WhatsApp group: rob a bank as a protest if you don’t have enough money for basic necessities. In prison you get free medication, free food and energy! And being locked up in a cell, one wheelchair user argues, isn’t that different from being stuck in a bad care home during covid with eighteen residents out of forty dying around you. Exceptional I know, but memories and fears stay with people.
Disabled people are furious at politicians who just think you have to learn to cook properly or budget better. They’re most furious at politicians who talk about the value of catering for “working people”. As if you don’t deserve to have any quality of life if you can’t contribute economically in some way.
It’s forecast that the cost of living crisis will definitely mean hardship for the most vulnerable in our communities. No-one knows the extent of the hardship or how bad it’s going to get. It needs more than a temporary financial fix — one off handouts won’t solve the long term problem of chronic underfunding of our health and care services.
That’s why my final distraction was going to demonstrate outside our MP Craig Mackinlay’s office. Let’s ask him to call on his government to do something about it. Here’s his email address: email@example.com
Christine Tongue is a member of disability campaign group Access Thanet