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 Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - MARY SCH­NEI­DER star2@thes­tar.com.my

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

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