The patient life
Having a disability, albeit a temporary one, is a lesson in patience for the sufferer and the people closest to her.
THE last thing you want to do when you’ve broken a bone in your foot is walk the length of London’s Stansted airport. Or any airport, for that matter.
Some of Stansted’s departure gates are located so far from the check-in counters that you need 40 minutes to get to them, or so said a large sign at my check-in counter.
“Forty minutes for whom?” I wondered, as I stood in the queue with my partner, four pieces of luggage, a handbag, a winter jacket and a pair of crutches.
Usain Bolt could probably sprint from one end of the airport to the other in a few minutes, while a passenger with reduced mobility (a PRM as they are called in airport lingo) might need more than an hour to cover the same distance. Maybe more, if you take into consideration the frequent breaks necessary to provide some relief from the painful condition known as “crutch armpit”.
“Do you need assistance to get to the departure gate?” asked the woman manning our checkin counter, as I wobbled on my crutches.
Before I knew what was happening, I was being fast-tracked through airport security and passport control in a wheelchair pushed by my partner.
The next thing I knew, I was at the departure gate with a bottle of duty free spirits on my knee and renewed faith in British airports and my partner’s patience.
A few minutes before boarding, we were directed to a PRM holding area, where I met two other wheelchair-bound passengers.
An elderly man greeted me with a wide grin that showed a mouthful of teeth that looked like peanuts randomly set into his receding gums, while the other PRM, a rotund middle-aged woman, almost fell out of her wheelchair in an attempt to high-five me – such was her joy at inviting me into their fraternity.
“I spent nine months in a wheelchair after my ankle reconstruction surgery,” said the man. “Now I just need to use this little cane to walk short distances.”
He offered me a peek at the full length of his walking stick. He couldn’t have been prouder if it had been an Olympic gold medal.
“You just have to be patient,” he said, as he nodded at my crutches.
“Me, too,” the woman chimed in, obviously impatient to tell her own story. “I underwent knee replacement surgery a few months ago. I can’t wait to be fully mobile again. I’ve just piled on so much weight sitting on my backside all day that my recovery is a little slower than it ought to be.”
Beneath the jacket folded over my lap, I surreptitiously felt the beginning of what might be a muffin top straining the top of my jeans.
“What happened to you?” asked the man.
“Yes, do tell!” said the woman, moving her ample bottom in her chair in a manner that suggested she was expecting me to present her with the Dead Sea Scrolls, or something equally as important.
“I fell off my bed and broke a bone in my foot,” I said, feeling like a complete underachiever.
“Well, we won’t ask any more about that,” said the man. “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.”
“No, we won’t,” concurred the