A seat with a view – perspective on being in a wheelchair.

Susanna Di Milo

One of the most profound experiences of my life was being in a wheelchair for 8 weeks.

 Before my injury, I thought wheelchair access was over the top, political correctness gone mad. I used to see all those empty disabled access parking spaces and tut as I drove round trying to find somewhere to park. Or the ramps that seemed to be here there and everywhere, costing thousands of pounds from local councils.

I imagined I was sympathetic for people in wheelchairs, I try and make room for them as they pass,  but I never gave it much more consideration.

From a sitting perspective it is quite different.

I remember the first time my daughter took me out in a wheelchair after two weeks of loneliness, it was odd to be in the world again. But I remember we laughed a lot, she nearly tipped me out of the chair when the wheels caught on a tiny bump of a dropped curb.

it was surprising how different the wold could be from a sitting position

I lost count of the number times I was hit in the face or shoulder by shopping bags – you are invisible – eye level with children and dogs.

I was in a busy shopping centre in an electric wheelchair. I noticed I was on a collision course with a young girl who was looking at her mobile phone and not where she was going. I could not go left or right because of the crowds around me. A instant before we were going to hit, I must have caught her eye – she looked up and had to step aside.  Astoundingly, she then spent the next few minutes (which felt like an eternity) swearing and cursing me for getting in her way!

Another time I was being pushed in a wheelchair and we had just come out of a museum the dropped curb was a few feet away and as we headed towards it a delivery van parked over it. When we pointed out to him that he was blocking our ability to cross the road, he told us he would not be long, got out of his van and disappeared for 5 minutes. We were left waiting for him, he could have parked a few feet forwards or backwards, (There were no other cars parked at all) but it was too much trouble. I had never realised before, just how essential these little dropped curbs were!

Of course it wasn’t all terrible, I met so many kind strangers, who were always willing to offer support.

Using electric wheelchair from a fantastic organisation called Shop Mobility, I was in Ikea and discovered I could not open the door to the disabled toilet –  door opened outwards but at an angle, the wheelchair could not go sideways. I was stranded until a lovely lady came and opened it for me. I remember crying in that toilet, because it was the first time I had to depend on a stranger for something so basic, it was humbling indeed.

I spent a lot of time with my daughter, I don’t think we laughed as much on any other shopping trips!

There was the time that I rode the lift up and down three times because i could not back out of it quickly enough before the doors closed on me.

Or the time I was exiting the shop not realising that I had hooked several handbags on the handles of the chair! Thankfully my daughter noticed and stopped me from going out of the doors.

Being in a wheelchair was the most valuable experience in my life and the thing that kept me going was knowing I would eventually walk again. Others don’t get that option.

Have you had an unpleasant experience that changed the way you see the world?


This is what I wrote at the time of the injury, way back in 2009!

Gastrocnemius tear and tips!

Well, it has nearly been six weeks, and I thought I would share a few things I have learned since tearing my gastrocnemius. The first lesson was knowing I actually had a gastrocnemius, realising it was in my leg rather than a word to describe someone who enjoys their food, or a posh way of saying you have been on the loo more than usual!

If you are reading this because you have torn your gastrocnemius muscle then you are obviously sporty! As this usually occurs during sporting activities! (you can’t injure yourself while sitting on the sofa!) Although government guidelines state you should participate in 30 minutes exercise a day, most hospital  casualty departments are filled with people with sporting injuries, so you decide!

I could go into some brilliant description about tears, first aid advice etc, however, there is a brilliant website dedicated to the medical stuff,

Anyway this blog article is really support to help someone who is looking for advice once they have their diagnosis!

How I found my Gastrocnemius

I was dancing, well technically I was actually walking, when I felt a sensation similar to an elastic band pinging on the back of my leg, followed by the most awful cramp I have ever experienced! Now my first real piece of advice to you is not to do what I did immediately afterwards. I had just asked someone to dance, a rather fast rock and roll dance and my gastrocnemius chose the moment I was walking onto the dance floor with this young man. (he was rather good looking but that is another matter!) The fact was I did not know him well enough to turn round and walk off, or to explain that I had hurt myself. So, I actually danced, well rather hopped through the dance while leaving my foot firmly on the floor. It must have been the worse dance in the world, but the man (obviously a very polite gentleman) asked me for another . I declined and slowly, trying stupidly not to limp and pretending everything was fine (Embarrassment can be a dangerous thing!), I struggled off the dance floor.  Reaching my long suffering  partner, I told him I had hurt myself and scuppered his chances of actually enjoying the pint he had to his lips, explaining, in what was to be quite an understatement, that I thought I might not be able to drive home. The understatement became apparent when we got outside and I admitted it was actually agony to walk! I managed to hop, using C’s shoulder for balance all the way to the car! I got to bed, by going up the stairs on my bum, hoping that all would be well in the morning after a dose of the strongest painkillers in the house! Sadly, we found ourselves among the footballers and pub brawlers the next morning at the casualty department! That is when I discovered I had a second degree tear on my gastrocnemius! And luckily for me I had not ruptured it, or the Achilles tendon!  So we returned, armed with crutches, a sick note and some small round tablets called co-drydamol.

So now you know how I met my gastrocnemius, I would be interested to hear your stories! 

Actual Advice 

Well, that was six weeks ago, I am still on the sofa, (sorry to disappoint you it can take up to eight weeks!) hereare my tips for anyone surfing looking to benefit from someone else’s experience (mistakes), while recovering from a tear in their gastocnemius!


When they tell you to rest your leg, that actually means sitting on the sofa with your feet at roughly the same level as your hips. It does not mean you can climb stairs, do housework or stand up to cook a meal, try and feed chickens or bake cakes,  it actually means REST. This may be the only time in your life when you can justifiably leave the housework! Horay!

Rescue and old bag!

It is a good idea to carry a bag around with you, as your crutches tend to take up both your hands! (this does not work with a cup of tea!) It is also advisable, (sadly it took me several days to realise this) to bring all objects down with you when you come down the stairs in the morning! (glasses, books, etc! Are best brought down together rather than one at a time when you remember!) This of course won’t be a problem if you live in a flat!

Billy don’t be a hero!

Or heroine! Call all your friends, get as much sympathy as you possibly can! After a couple of days you will find you are drifting into a world of Jeremy Kyle and GMTV, the four walls will be closing in on you and your brain will turn to mush! You will need your friends to keep your sanity! It is difficult, I know, to ask for help, but remember how good it feels to actually help someone? Don’t deny your friends the chance to feel good!

Take pride in your appearance

You might be a little more sternly built than I am, but after a week or so, you may find you are wearing soft stretchy sportswear, comfy clothes that are the equivalent of pyjamas, or they are actually pyjamas!  This is not good for your self esteem, with no work to dress up for, you may find you haven’t worn make-up for weeks, (or if you are guy, you might consider growing a beard!) Take a firm hold of yourself, and pick at least one day a week when you are dressed, spruced up and ready to go! Even if it is another day on the sofa with loose women.

Seize the day!

You can take advantage of services for the disabled even though it is only temporary! (sadly not a blue badge!) but enjoy parking in the disabled bays at your local supermarket! Watch as people wait and spy on you to see if you really are disabled! Then get out your crutches and go for it! Some supermarkets actually have electric wheelchairs! Go on, you have been dying to try them. There is a great organisation called SHOP MOBILITY, They usually operate in most towns and they actually let you borrow an electric wheelchair or a mobility scooter! Yipee, this is fun! They will also stamp your parking so you park for free! However, be warned, shops, lifts and people are really hard to negotiate! Fortunately the shop mobility people cover you for insurance!

You will encounter two distinct groups of people as you make your way around the shops, hostile and friendly!

Hostile people will swear at you, walk directly in your path and then shout at you if you narrowly avoid hitting them by performing an emergency stop procedure. People will hit you with their handbags, as your head is now at just the right height. There will be hostile stares as they try to work out why you are in a wheelchair and not dribbling!

Kind people smile at you! They will press the floor numbers on the lift and risk white finger by holding the door open button while it takes you ten minutes to reverse out without hitting the side doors! They help pick things up when you have knocked them off shelves and still smile at you! (perfuse apologies are a really good idea at this point, don’t lean out of the chair, as you could actually fall out of it with the chair on top of you!)

Manage your pain

Although they give you really strong painkillers, take as many as you need to help with the pain. Even though you can have six co-drydamol a day,  you can actually lose days or even weeks if you do this! (I lost a whole day and I only took half the recommended dose!) I might be going against medical advice, and I am not advising this for anyone here. I am an ants in the pants sort of person, when I took the painkillers, during the time  I was not comatose, I did stupid things, like walking in the garden etc! I think pain is actually my body’s way of telling me to sit on the sofa and be nice to gastrocnemius. So just because I preferred to be awake, I did not take the painkillers all the time. As I was in some discomfort I did not feel up to chasing the chickens or mopping the floor!

Keep busy! (A blog challenge!)

You will be aware of many things you are no longer able to do, while you are resting and being really kind to your gastrocnemius! I have started a little list of suggestions, but I am opening up to you guys to come up with some ideas of your own!

  1. Complete a crossword, Sudoku or even a whole puzzle book
  2. Write a blog
  3. Write a book
  4. Learn to crochet,
  5. Meditate
  6. Plan a holiday for when you are fit and well again
  7. Shop on line and get it delivered to your door
  8. Write a letter, (or thank you cards for your friends)
  9. Read a book (this site is a great way to buy books cheaply and save the planet!)
  10. Come up with your own ideas and post them here!
  11. Tell me how you got to know your gastrocnemius and post it here!
  1. Take out the whole series of Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives or lost (it might make sense if you watch it all together!)