by Richard Sleeman*
It seemed an impossible dream.
Three years after being diagnosed with MND, wheelchair bound and well into my 60s, I saw a TV ad one evening showing spectacular views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I’m going, I declared, to no-one there. The next day I ran the dumb notion past a few more sensible people than me and the answer was almost invariably the same. It can’t be done.
How would I survive a 15-hour flight from Sydney to Vancouver, a layover of some hours and then another flight to Calgary without being able to get up from an economy seat or airport wheelchair? That’s some 24 hours on my bum. On my own!
And even if I did arrive in one piece, I had no wheelchair there, no walking frame, no bathroom or bedroom aids. My dear friend Travis had an apartment in Calgary but with a shower over a bath and nowhere to sit or sleep I could safely get up from. And how was I to get around? It was a year or more since I’d been in a vehicle other than a wheelchair taxi. If we were to drive through the snow and mountains for days, I’d need to get up and down from Travis’ big red truck.
I’m a stubborn bugger though. I knew the negatives. I went looking for positives. Nurse Margie at Sydney’s Forefront clinic in Camperdown was adamant. “Go, and go now”, she said.
I bought a return ticket the next day.