The handles of her wheelchair were touching the door. The footplate was touching the toilet seat. If she could stretch out her arms, she would easily have touched the walls on either side. This was the disabled toilet in our local accident and emergency department.
My daughter wasn’t even the patient. But I am her sole carer, so if I have to go somewhere outside the hours of her day programme, then she usually has to come too.
I had to seize an opportunity and we left the house in a mad rush, just a few random things thrown into bags and hung off the back of the chair. No time for her to use the toilet, I just had to hope that there would be a usable facility available and that we wouldn’t be waiting too long. I *may* have been a bit too optimistic.
Phone calls were supposed to have been made, and we were promised we would be met on arrival. It didn’t happen. And when I saw how many people were waiting to be seen I understood why. There wasn’t an empty chair to be seen. Luckily my daughter was okay – one advantage of bringing your own seat with you everywhere you go.
Once I realised we were in a queue of indeterminate length, my first priority was getting help, and this is where Facebook is a life saver for me. I did text a couple of people first, but they were not available. And yes it was close friends who responded again, but I felt more comfortable putting out a general plea instead of approaching them directly and perhaps making them feel pressurised.
Being stuck in A&E means very little choice of food and drink, especially if you have a disabled daughter who needs a mashed diet. Again my friends were able to bring something suitable for her, and later a bag of (very good) chips for myself and the patient.
But my friends couldn’t really help with B’s toileting needs. I had to sort that out all on my own. I sat on the toilet seat and changed her while she lay half out of her moulded seat – dangerous and uncomfortable for both of us. I’m still amazed I managed it at all.
Later she was crying due to needing to go again, but I was trapped while the patient was getting attention and there was nothing I could do to help her until I got her home.
Really hospitals are no places for severely disabled people, even though the busy staff were friendly and welcoming and made sure we were seen quickly.
This particular hospital is due to get a new Accident and Emergency Department soon, and I really hope that a changing places toilet with a bench and hoist is part of the plan.
My daughter is very healthy right now, but that could change at any time, and she should have the same right to a suitable toilet as everyone else.