We’ve signed a 6-month lease for a level house in Morisset Park.  No steps … well, a small step into the front door, is all.

We have to leave in a week!  The day our application was approved for the house, I came home from visiting Don in the hospital, thinking I would start packing boxes for that 3-hour break in the middle of the day (patients are “resting”, no visiting).  Came home, surveyed the enormity of it all, realised I didn’t even know how to start — and promptly sat down and watched TV for the 3 hours instead.

Now, of course, I am on a roll, and there are boxes in all directions, enormous piles of rubbish and equally enormous piles to go to St Vinnies  — not rubbish for Vinnies, I only give away what I would be happy to buy myself.

Here is the front of the house, and you don’t go down those steps you can see (go via the carport instead).

The living room looks nice and spacious now, probably nicer than when it is cluttered with all our stuff:

But what we really like is the idea of sitting out on the deck, looking out on Lake Macquarie.

A Ramp for the Stairs

Things are getting complicated.  The house is split level, with three steps from the bedrooms to the living areas and kitchen.  Nothing major, but getting too hard for Don, who can now barely walk.

The steps are 500 mm, ie about 1/2 yard, in height.  I looked up portable ramps and found Metalite has a big range. For 500 mm height they provide a 2 metre (approx 2 yards) ramp.

Phoned them up, $970 plus freight from Sydney.  Expensive, but well worth it to make the house wheelchair-friendly.

But no!  Sam the OT says it rises too sharply and the ramp has to be much, much longer.  She came to our house and measured.  It has to be seven metres long!  Just step that out in your living room and see where seven metres takes you!  In our house it meant the ramp would pretty much fill the house.

Our son David and I agreed that Occupational Therapists have to abide by strict health and safety standards so she probably had a very conservative model for the recommended ramp setup.  We decided that if Metalite were selling it, it must be OK and we would go ahead and get it anyway.  Just as a trial, though, we got some 2-metre planks from the garden and propped them against some outside steps at a height of roughly 500 mm — yes, this was a meticulously exact trial — then David got into the wheelchair and I attempted to push him up the incline.

It was not possible.  With the best will in the world, it is not going to work.

So that’s the verdict:  Don can’t come home until we do something about the stairs.

He’s been in hospital for a week now, and although he is improving, it’s a very gradual improvement almost imperceptible day by day.  We can only see progress when we look back a week and remember, when he was carted in by ambulance, that he could scarcely lift a cup of tea because his arms were suddenly too weak, and could certainly not lift his foot.  Now he is punching the air ten times in a row (20 if the physio had her way, but that is her own little pipe dream) and marching on the spot whenever he remembers — oh, sitting down, of course!  And was able to stand briefly once or twice and bear his own weight.

But — the stairs!

They all make it sound like we have a double-storey mansion with the winding staircase, that you see in movies.  And that poor Don is made to clamber wretchedly up into the heavens every night to go to bed.  In fact, we have a split-level home with three steps from the bedroom area to the living areas.  Three quite shallow steps, I might add.

I should explain that Don is 67 years old and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis only three years ago.  When we visited the MS Clinic in August 2005 to have the diagnosis confirmed, we went by train.  It tired him out but he only took a walking stick for support, at that stage.  In the past year he became too wobbly for the walking stick and had to use a walking frame.    Now, with last week’s collapse he can’t stand or walk at all, and I am afraid it might be a wheelchair from here on.

But at least they will let him come back home.

Provided, of course, I do something about the stairs.