I’ve found Christmas shopping anxiety provoking at the best of times, but since starting to struggle with my mobility and pain it’s become a whole different story. I’m sure it’s no secret, I LOVE shopping. One of my yearly highlights is an all-day November shopping trip with my Mum, cousin and Auntie. But it’s fair to say that I just can’t shop like I used to!
For those of you who aren’t up to date with my own journey, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. I’ll spare you my full medical records; else we will be here for days. I’ve had a number of health issues since I was really little, namely chronic asthma and anaphylaxis (life threatening allergies). I’d always been a clumsy child who experienced frequent injuries, but we just assumed I was a muppet (partly true) who couldn’t walk straight or aim through doors. Through my teens and early twenties I began experiencing weakness and pain in my wrists and chest pain. In 2017 I developed lower back and leg pain, which was later diagnosed as two herniated discs and a pars defect (fractured vertebrae). In 2019, after many, many scans, tests and Consultant appointments I was diagnosed with Joint Hypermobility Syndrome and secondary Fibromyalgia.
So, what does that all mean? In short, daily life can be a challenge. I injure myself often, falling down stairs and out of doors, spraining ankles and wrists and breaking toes. My joints slip out of place. I can’t stand or walk for long periods. My hips/elbows/ankles/wrists/thumbs/knees hurt. Like really hurt. I suffer with fatigue and I seize up in the mornings and evenings. And that is just a small selection.
If you’d have told be five years ago, that I’d be using a mobility aid (or a variety of them) in my early thirties, I’d have laughed in your face. If you had told me that those aids would include a rollator I’d have fallen off my chair. I know what you’re thinking, because it was the same thing that I initially thought too; “aren’t they for old people?”. Well yes, they can be. But they can also be really useful for younger people with a whole variety of disabilities and/or chronic illness. Up till recently I’d only been using crutches on the days when my lower body hurt. But they’re not helpful for when I also have pain in my upper body. I tried out a power chair recently, which was AMAZING for when I was in pain all over and/or fatigued. But what about the days where I needed something different, when I want to walk, but need something for support and to sit down when needed?
And that’s where Fenetic Wellbeing came in. I was given one of their Ultra Lightweight rollators – which is apparently the lightest available in the UK to try. My wife, son and I headed in to our local town centre to take it for a test drive amongst the Christmas crowds. I’ve recently spoken about how I’ve found Centre MK a great place to be a disabled person. The shops are generally all on one level, with no steps in or out and the shops that are over two levels have a lift. With the exception of one or two shops (Sports Direct and TK Maxx, I’m looking at you), it’s really easy to navigate around the shops with a mobility aid.
I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t initially self-conscious about using the rollator, because I was. I was worried about what people would think and whether I would get stared or laughed at. Thankfully, Frank and the pretty Christmas display were a welcome distraction and before I knew it I wasn’t even aware of my embarrassment. And funnily enough, nobody said anything and nobody laughed (as my wife pointed out, you’d have to be a special kind of a-hole to laugh at a disabled person).
The rollator was really easy to set up for the first time, with nothing other than the detachable bag needing to be added to the frame. Simply push the handles to each side, tighten the screws and you’re ready to roll. The wheels are puncture proof, smooth and rotate with ease, so curbs and dips are no issue. The seat was unbelievably helpful and meant that I could have a rest whenever we stopped to admire the lights or watch the Christmas train pass for the 15th time. Despite being on wheels, it felt incredibly supportive and stable and there were no moments where I worried I was going to fall off. The breaks are really light and easy to activate; perfect for when my hands don’t wish to function correctly. The shopping bag is ideal for keeping personal items in and was actually large enough to accommodate my handbag. Whilst we went for lunch I was able to collapse the frame to save space. It folds flat but still stands up, meaning I could tuck it next to the table. Magic.
At times being stuck in a crowd with a mobility aid can be a daunting thing, which means that Christmas can be a horrible time to have to go out for those with disabilities. The rollator actually provided me with the extra space I needed and stopped me getting squished. Despite my initial reservations, it’s a hands down (not because I fell over) yes from me to the Ultra Lightweight Rollator (available here https://www.feneticwellbeing.com/ultra-lightweight-rollator-lightest-in-uk) and shopping in Centre MK
Disclaimer – this is a paid partnership with Fenetic Wellbeing and I was given the frame for the purpose of review. All views are honest and my own.