How a man with no legs gets up the stairs

When I came home from hospital after my sepsis, I was in a difficult position.

At first, I was in a powered wheelchair, which was difficult to pilot around our tiny country cottage. I was forever bumping into the furniture and taking chunks out of the door frames. It was awkward. We found a way to manage somehow, but I soon realised how important it would be to learn to walk on prostheses. I had to fight to overcome the pain and discomfort of that quickly if we were going to make any progress in the house.

Physically speaking, I was at a low point.

I wasn’t strong, but I needed to be. The cottage had a steep set of narrow stairs that I needed to find a way to somehow negotiate – otherwise, I’d have to sleep downstairs. I was nervous about being on my own, in case I needed help during the night. Nic & I considered all the various solutions, but when it came down to it, there was only really one option. She’d have to carry me. Going downstairs was fine – I could just bump myself gently and slowly down to the bottom. But to get to bed, we’d have to work out a way for her to lift me.

It wasn’t easy and we had to work at it.

I still had wounds and bandages and I was frightened of falling and cracking my head. I had no idea what Nic was thinking. Apart from the physical challenge of single-handedly lifting a 38-year-old quadruple amputee, who for all intents and purposes was still a patient, and pushing him up a flight of stairs, the mental impact must have been profound. It was pitiful, humiliating, dangerous, shocking, all at the same time. Suddenly, a relationship of equals was one of complete dependency. I was incapable of putting myself to bed. We were both doing a lot of adjusting.

So how did we manage it? Simple. From the living room sofa, I would slide down onto a pile of cushions, then onto the floor. Next, I would shuffle my way out into the hall, turning my back to the bottom stair. Standing in front of me, Nic would then brace her arms around the backs of my knees, holding my leg stumps close to her chest. Placing my elbows above me on the first stair, I would push as hard as I could, and at the same time, Nic would lift the lower half of my body. And so we continued, up thirteen stairs, one step at a time. It became a ritual. It brought us closer together.

Necessity is the mother of invention. We found a way. We were determined. And our achievement made us stronger.

6 Reasons Not To Panic When You’re Faced With Something New

  • you’re experienced, you’ve come this far, you can deal with anything
  • you’re not alone, you have friends and allies who love you – use them
  • very few experiences are actually life-changing, 99% of your life remains the same, take comfort from that
  • the new situation will bring you attractive new opportunities
  • by breaking down the new reality and analysing it intelligently, you can build systematic coping strategies
  • we grow through kindness, so be kind to yourself and others when going through change – allow yourself time

THIS WEEK: RESILIENCE & CO WILL BE SPEAKING ABOUT RESILIENCE & DELIVERING THE FUTURE OF HEALTH & CARE AT THE EXCEL CENTRE, LONDON