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  • Charlotte McGregor-Graham

Post Pandemic Problems

This time last year, I could walk a lot further than I can now. In fact, I could even walk unaided with just the help of Lexi, who has been trained to provide forward momentum which helps me to maintain my balance and walk in a straight line at a steady pace. But around December 2020, I had an increase in pain in my lower back, legs and ankles which then increased tics in my legs, making it incredibly difficult to walk.


I started studying at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in September 2020. Cardiff is nearly 200 miles away from my hometown in the North West of England, so the decline in my mobility whilst I was so far away from home was the last thing I wanted to happen.

I got a wheelchair on the NHS around 5 years ago when my leg tics started to become problematic. Lexi was still in training at the time so my wheelchair was necessary for days when my leg tics made it too difficult to walk. Once Lexi was 2 years old, she learned to provide forward momentum which made a huge difference to my walking, so my wheelchair spent most of it's time in the cupboard.


Although I haven't used my chair a huge amount over the years, I brought it to Cardiff with me, where it has acted as my desk chair for the majority of the year. It came with me more as a "just in case I need it", not expecting my mobility to decline at all, let alone at the rate it has. Crutches have been my main aid for getting about as my chair is so heavy I cannot self-propel independently. Lexi now walks to heel instead of slightly ahead of me, which has taken a fair amount of training and Lexi feeling slightly redundant from her job! Anyone who has spent any amount of time on crutches will know how impractical they are when you need to use your hands, however they have allowed me to continue to walk for short distances.


In April, I decided it was time to invest in my own lightweight active wheelchair. It was not cheap, but if it means I am able to remain independent, then it's worth every penny.

As my new chair is completely tailor made to fit me, it will take at least 10 weeks to build but could take up to 16 weeks due to the pandemic and Brexit - it's currently week 14, but could be ready any day now!


As the world has been opening back up, I've been forced to sit back and watch. I'm doubly vaccinated now, but my mobility is preventing me from leaving the house without having someone with me. For those that know me or who have followed me for a long time will know that Lexi gave me my life back and allowed me to be independent and live away from home to study at university. She still supports me at home with tasks which helps me to remain independent in my house at home and at university, and she still helps to keep me safe when I am out and about. My time spent outside of the house is currently very limited as I can only manage short walks with my crutches or trips out in my wheelchair with someone to help push me.


I'm usually so active so this hasn't been easy for me to come to terms with, but I've kept myself busy with music and composition, training Lexi, and learning Spanish. I've started physiotherapy to help me to maintain the mobility I have left, and I recently trialled a medication for my tics which I found reduced my tics with minimal side effects. I know my current situation is only temporary, and even if my mobility never returns to what it was, I will soon have a wheelchair that I can use independently to go out again and do the things I enjoy.

A year ago, I never imagined I'd need to rely on a wheelchair to get around, but I'll adapt, adjust, and continue living life to the full!


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