Take the Shot.

If there had been a vaccination for the strain of meningitis I contracted in 2011, chances are I would never have developed chronic fatigue syndrome. Luckily for you, I fell ill and then decided to whinge about it, calling it entertainment.

Vaccinations are a contentious topic in the court of public opinion all thanks to a scientist who wanted some extra pocket money. The scientific community are very familiar with publication bias; papers that show no correlation or have a null hypothesis are far less likely to be published. After all, medical journals are still a commercial enterprise and need to make money, and no one wants to buy a book where nothing happens. So the scientist forged some data to give the false conclusion that the MMR vaccine resulted in autism, and the world reacted with its usual level-headed reasoning abilities. Even if this were the case, measles, mumps, or rubella have deadly consequences, whereas autism is at least manageable with the right support despite its difficulty.

However, there is a debate surrounding vaccinations that is much closer to home for me, and that is the association between CFS and vaccinations. Vaccinations make people who already have CFS feel horrendous, which I can confirm from personal experience. I get a flu jab every year, and for the next 48 hours or so I will feel like Jupiter’s gravity is emanating from my chest and I also have an elephant sat on me. However, developing the actual flu would be significantly worse, leaving me incapacitated for several weeks at best, or at worst, dead. Therefore I consider the flu jab worth it.

The real question is whether CFS can be triggered following a vaccination. Having scoured the internet the vast majority of scientific evidence that I can access suggests that there is no correlation between the two, and given that CFS is often triggered by a severe viral infection, vaccinations may even offer some protection against CFS. However, there are also abundant case reports of people developing CFS out of the blue, and it has been noted that in these cases, a vaccination has usually been given a short time before.

Given that we know so little about CFS, it’s causes, and it’s biochemistry, there is no definitive way for researchers to establish a connection between vaccinations and CFS. For all we know there could be undiscovered associations with air pollution, food poisoning, or physical injuries. Vaccinations are constantly in the media and the forefront of our minds, making them the first conclusion that is all too easy to jump to. I remain extremely sceptical, however, as having studied the biochemistry of vaccinations as part of my degree, I simply cannot align inoculations and diseases like CFS.

It is also worth mentioning at this point that CFS, while a brutal disease that can even prove fatal, places far less immediate danger on the patient than meningitis, measles, mumps, rubella, poliomyelitis, and even influenza. Sometimes in life we have to balance the risks, and take the lesser of two evils. Take the shot.

Diary of a Disabled Person: 2 Years On!

In a couple of days this blog will have been a part of my life for two whole years. Two. Fricking. Years. For some reason I have been unable to fathom, people keep coming back for more, and who am I to deny my readers what they want? Except for being, you know, the author.

A year ago I did a recap of all that had happened in Diary of a Disabled Person’s initial year (https://diaryofadisabledperson.blog/2018/01/14/diary-of-a-disabled-person-one-year-on/), ending with a whopping 68,000 views, 80 followers, and 400 Facebook page followers. Now it’s time to reflect on what’s happened since then.

My total view count is nearing 80,000 views, which admittedly means that my blog has been viewed far less this year. This is partly due to my issues with Cracked.com and the fact that I haven’t published anything with them for a long time, but I fear changes to net neutrality may also have had something to do with this. However, while my view count is lower my WordPress following has shot up, reaching 200 just a few days ago. Similarly, the fan base I have accrued is incredibly loyal, never failing to show their support for me. This is reflected in particular in the 5 awards my blog has won in the past year.

I also took time to purchase a web domain and give my website a makeover, using a template to keep it professional-looking, while improving menus, accessibility, and friendliness for phone and tablet use. I created an audio page and went through the entire backlog of posts, making a recording of myself reading them aloud for those who prefer to listen rather than read.

A burst of inspiration also led me to start writing short stories which featured disabled protagonists in farcical scenarios, predominantly to entertain and make people laugh, but also to raise awareness of the issues disabled people can face on a day-to-day basis. These turned out to be incredibly popular, and over the course of the year I published 13 of them.

On social media my Facebook (@diaryofadisabledperson) page has seen some growth, and I set up an associated group as a place to share polls and news articles relevant to disability. I also set up an Instagram (@diaryofadisabledperson) account, which mostly consists of pictures from local wrestling shows and various selfies.

However, by far my biggest success on social media has been setting up a Twitter account (@WheelsofSteer). I am shamelessly explicit with my language, and frequently share anecdotes of both good and bad things happening to me that make people laugh and think. I’ve even taken to adapting famous song lyrics to make them about disability instead. Clearly my sarcastic comments resonate with the Twitter community as I am fast approaching 4,000 followers.

Looking forwards there is still plenty of room for Diary of a Disabled Person to grow. I am working on turning my blog into a book, a complex and time-consuming process but one that will be extremely rewarding. I can also confirm that a further 6 short stories have been written and these will be released soon. I am also thinking of starting some vlogging on the side, something which many of you have requested, as I have found some video editing software that would allow me to do this.

Let’s hope that I have as much positive news to share with you again in a year’s time, when I look back on the third year of Diary of a Disabled Person.

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Happy Wife = Happy Life.

2018 was a great year for weddings; the royal family alone used tax-payers money to pay for two extravagant weddings, and several wrestlers used their own, hard-earned money to pay for theirs. The biggest wedding of the year however, didn’t happen until 27th December and was well worth the wait.

Jarred proposed to me at the most romantic time imaginable; the interval of a wrestling show (https://diaryofadisabledperson.blog/2017/06/08/special-edition-the-perfect-surprise/). I said yes (duh), and we began searching for venues.

At first, we looked at a local gastropub we had visited once or twice, but even after several emails we never heard back from them. The second venue we reached out to was the Royal Armouries, and they responded within 24 hours. We visited the venue, were shown the rooms for the ceremony and reception, and decided on the spot that it was what we wanted. We booked it for 27th December 2018, relaxed due the extensive period we had to organise everything.

Those 18 months seemed to fly past at record speed. We had to book a registrar from the council, buy all the clothes and accessories we would need (dresses, shoes, hair pieces, rings, matching jackets for the wedding party etc.), order a bouquet, choose a cake, choose our music, send out invites, choose a suitable menu, choose our preferred décor, and create a seating plan for the reception. Fortunately, the coordinators were experienced and provided a great service, making the ordeal a lot less stressful than it could have been.

The night before the wedding my bridesmaid and her partner, Wiki and Nathan, crashed on a double air-bed in the living room, which once inflated had to be crawled across to get from one side of the room to the other. Jarred spent the night in a hotel so that his best man could help him avoid a wedding-stential crisis in the morning. My friends cooked and we played video games before having a relatively early night.

In the morning we didn’t have to wait long for the stylist, my bridesmaids’ sister, to arrive. Wiki was the first to get the makeover treatment, and then it was my turn. My thick, frizzy curls are a stylist’s worst nightmare, and it took over an hour just to pin up my hair. We sent Nathan out to McDonalds for fries, which I ate as my makeup was applied, being told when I could and couldn’t start chewing again. Wiki’s sister than helped us into our dresses and shoes, and after several hours of preparation, we were finally ready. Nathan had taken all of ten minutes to get ready.

I plucked my bouquet from the vase and we made our way downstairs to wait for our taxi, which for the first time in my entire life, was early. We arrived at the armouries half an hour before the ceremony was due to begin, so I mingled with family, friends, and soon-to-be-family in the foyer before being led to the waiting area behind the ceremony hall. There I waited with Batman and Robin, who had honoured me with their presence, my dad, and my bridesmaid.

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A few minutes later the doors opened, and I made my way slowly down the aisle to Welcome to the Black Parade, because I’ve never really grown out of my emo phase. Jarred stood at the head of the aisle trying not to look nervous, next to my decorated walking frame so that I could sit down after the 15 m marathon I had just completed.

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The ceremony opened with a reading by Jarred’s brother, and then after no one had expressed their objections, it was time for the vows. Jarred’s teenage brother provided the rings, and as the ring was slipped onto my finger, I noticed that Jarred was trembling. I wasn’t sure if it was out of fear or excitement, and that is still the case.

Next, I made the same vows to Jarred, thankfully minus the “in sickness and in health” part which in my case seems a bit redundant. As I slipped the ring onto his finger, I had to bite my lip to stop myself from laughing, having just noticed the Darth Vader plaster he was sporting on his finger after cutting his hand on a broken wine glass a few days before.

With that the ceremony closed, and it was time to sign the marriage certificate. This turned into an opportunity for photographs with the bridesmaid and best man, the entire wedding party, and with our parents. It was at this point I realised that I technically have two mothers-in-law, as Jarred’s parents had divorced and his father remarried some time later. Fortunately, both mothers-in-law are nice.

The next hour was filled with the drinks reception, which included taking a few photographs by the large Christmas tree and also the war elephant in one of the museum’s many galleries, as well as mingling with our guests. This was my first meeting with many guests from Jarred’s family as they live so far away from us, and the time quickly passed as I got to know them.

We entered the reception room a little before 6 pm, and I got a good look at the little gothic cupcakes before undertaking my first ever livestream. The livestream was short and sweet, but I put my phone in my bag afterwards as a flood of notifications poured in.

Once I’d ended the livestream, we had the speeches, where my father recounted a rather embarrassing incident involving a hedgehog sanctuary, and asking a member of staff what to do with a dead hedgehog (I had found one the week before on the way to school). Compared to other anecdotes from my childhood this was fairly tame, so I don’t mind to much, even if I am now being spammed with hedgehog emojis from my friends.

The best man’s speech was just as good, noting a theme of violence in our choice of proposal and wedding venues, and stating the statistic that the person most likely to murder you was your wife/husband. Jarred’s speech also discussed wrestling having messaged the wrestling company at who’s show he had proposed, to which they had responded “Didn’t get an invite though, did we?”. They are still adamant that we should have wed in a wrestling ring, as we all know how famously smoothly those marriages go.

The meal followed the speeches, and having dined on carrot and ginger soup, roasted pepper risotto, and strawberry cheesecake I was almost too full to move. Unfortunately, I had to move for a little tradition we call the “first dance”, and we wobbled unsteadily around the floor to The Only Exception by Paramore.

Shortly after the first dance we handed out the cupcakes, and the DJ began to play an excellent set list of rock tracks, from classics like Bon Jovi and Guns ‘n’ Roses, to mid-00’s punk like My Chemical Romance and Green Day.

As the evening progressed, I mingled with guests, spending a great deal of time discussing wrestling with one of Jarred’s cousins in particular. Slowly guests began to drift off until eventually only me, Wiki, Nathan, and Jarred remained. Jarred called a taxi and by midnight we were home.

It took Jarred 40 minutes to unpin my hair, removing a seemingly endless supply of bobby pins and bobbles while I tried not to laugh. Make-up removal required several wads of cotton wool, particularly as the very impressive long-lasting lipstick lived up to its name. It was almost 1 am by the time I crashed into bed, falling asleep almost immediately. Other typical wedding night activities would simply have to wait.

Now we just have the rest of our lives to go…

New Year, Same Old Me.

In early January 2018 I started my first job. After 5 months of HR dragging their feet with the paperwork I was relieved to finally start work, even if my hours were limited. When I arrived my new employer had even more concern for exasperation with HR as my computer login didn’t work, and the fact that the IT department were inaccessible complicated matters. We asked about incorporating access but were told the cost was too great, which due to all the budget cuts is believable. I finally managed to get onto the computer only to find that one of the programs essential for my role hadn’t been set up properly, so once again IT had to come to the rescue. After this I spent the first few days going through my compulsory training, but there was no job-specific training, so I simply learned from following what my colleagues did. It seemed to work well. These were all just teething issues that settled down as time passed.

In mid-January Diary of a Disabled Person became 1 year old, and a week later I accepted my first ever award for my efforts, The Leibster award. I was gaining confidence in my work and felt ready to expand my horizons.

By mid-February I was developing my new website; I had paid for a web domain and used a template I liked to create what you now see before you, added better menu and search functions, added my social media, and added a donate button. I also decided, after much deliberation, to set up a Twitter account. I was a little reluctant to do so as I had heard so many things about online trolls and generally toxic behaviour towards each other, but I also knew that it would enable me to reach out to a wider audience. However, once I had set up a profile online I realised that my concerns were mostly unfounded, and I was introduced to many new people and opportunities. I began writing accessibility reviews and giving interviews for podcasts and magazines, and I quickly gained a substantial number of loyal followers.

Glam

Before I knew it Easter was fast approaching. I had been given more hours at work and was feeling more positive about the role. I also received a work phone, which was a relief as up until that point I had been using my personal phone as my work one, using up the minutes on my contract and meaning that I constantly had to fend off work calls on my days off. I had many understandably frustrated customers when I had to tell them I wasn’t at work that day so couldn’t help, as I didn’t have access to the necessary resources.

Knowing that my hours were increasing allowed me to pull what was, in retrospect, quite a mean April Fool’s prank. Having waxed lyrical about the extra strain put upon me by my increased hours I informed my readers that I would no longer have the energy to write, and that Diary of a Disabled Person was coming to an end. I let them believe this for 4 whole hours before breaking the news that this was a prank. I thought the prank wasn’t particularly convincing but clearly I’m a better liar than I had anticipated, and I still feel a little guilty about the whole scenario. I aimed to ease the upset a week later when I accepted my nomination for a second award, which thankfully seemed to go down well.

Shortly after Easter came the Leeds Digital Festival 2018, something which my office were heavily involved in. I had helped arrange several seminars and workshops all over the city, some of which I got to attend in person, and that was the precise moment when my wheelchair decided to break down. My wheelchair had to be taken to a workshop for testing and repairs, and I was informed that I was lucky to receive a replacement wheelchair for the month I spent without my own, a luxury that was apparently not awarded to most people who were left to levitate if they wanted to leave the house. I was more thankful for the fact that I didn’t have to pay for any of the repairs, which included a brand new set of batteries. I was particularly thankful as the landlord wanted the annual rent up front, on a tighter deadline than the year before, which we could afford but didn’t leave much in my account.

In June things began to deteriorate at work. I would come home in tears almost every night, usually frustrated that I appeared to be making an excessive number of mistakes. Eventually it got so bad they insisted they write instructions down for me, but fortunately it was this that highlighted I had been following instructions without making too many errors, and that the majority of the time the mistakes were in the instructions themselves. However, mutual trust and respect had been shaken enough to create a tensely uncomfortable environment.

It was also in June when I got my first tattoo, a simple piece of calligraphy down my right arm reading “Disability Doesn’t Mean I Can’t”. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pain wasn’t unbearable, and I had no issues at all with the healing process thanks to some good advice from my boss. Given that they are the only accessible tattoo parlour nearby, even going so far as to bring a tattoo station downstairs for me, I was relieved to get good service; it means I can go back!

DDMIC Tattoo

In July Jarred graduated from university; I watched from the front row next to my future brother-in-law, and we celebrated by eating together later in our favourite restaurant. Then Jarred, who had been looking for work since finishing his studies a few weeks before, managed to land a job as a care assistant. We both settled into the new routine quite quickly, and things seemed to be going well.

Right at the start of August life dealt me two of the hardest knocks I’ve ever taken a matter of days apart. Firstly, our beloved hamster Tribble managed to escape in the night and hasn’t been seen since. While a hamster may seem a trivial pet to grieve over I was distraught, having lost a loving companion, and I was still struggling not to suddenly burst into tears at random intervals when I lost my job.

They told me their funding had run out and were letting me go, but they were taking on new staff at the time so I’m not sure how much that influenced their decision. I think a disagreement with one of my colleagues, who had told IT that I would go over to see them despite the fact that I had already arranged for them to come to me, had more to do with it.

They tried to ease the blow of losing my job by saying I could transfer to other admin roles within the district, the only problem being that the only ones with regular or substantial hours were based in the inaccessible building. Tired and fed-up, I quit on the spot.

Once again I began job-hunting. The days were drawn-out and seemingly endless, weekends and weekdays merged into one, and I became increasingly depressed. Even accepting more awards taking me to a sum total of 5 did little to cheer me up.

There were a few issues surrounding inaccessible offices, but eventually I found that this time around I had much more luck obtaining interviews due to the work experience I had, so this wasn’t as much of a problem this time round. Less than a month after losing my job I was offered a new one, this time a salaried, full-time role in medical research which my knowledge and skills were much more suited to. I obtained references from my past employer, had my hen do at the local cat café, and bought my wedding dress.

On October 1st I started my new job, helping to chase-up erroneous or missing data, ensuring that anomalies were explained wherever possible, and producing a mistake-free dataset for the statisticians to work on. I was also involved in some trial management skills, booking meetings and promoting studies to boost recruitment, and fell in love with the varied role. The training was substantial which helped to boost my confidence in my ability to do the job. I was never bored and, because it is based at a university, there were absolutely no qualms about accessibility. My colleagues and superiors are lovely and even offered to guide me through the Access to Work scheme, although fortunately for them I had completed the scheme previously anyway.

The winter months grew colder and the wedding fast approached. I saw a few friends and family as the wedding approached, although most of the visits were fleeting as people were saving money for the actual wedding. Clothes were bought, cakes chosen, and invitations sent out. For obvious reasons I am actually writing this before the wedding takes place on 27th December, so I cannot tell you how it went. It is strange to think that I write this as Jarred’s fiancé, but will publish this as his wife. Still, I cannot wait to end 2018 and welcome in 2019 on such a high.

Happy new year…

Happy New Year!

Away in a Wheelchair: A Christmas Story.

Mary sat in the waiting room scrolling through social media, trying to avoid the news as it was nearly always miserable. An old man was coughing loudly in the corner, and on the other side of the room a mother comforted a snivelling child. The receptionist could be heard tapping away at her computer, interrupted only by the phone ringing.

There was a beeping noise and Mary’s name appeared on the large screen mounted on the wall above reception. She clicked off her brakes and manoeuvred her way towards the doctor’s office, knocking on the door in the vain hope that they would open it, but simply hearing a woman’s voice brusquely say “come in” from the other side instead. Mary pushed the door open with her feet while propelling her wheelchair into the room, and positioned herself opposite the doctor.

“What can I do for you today?” the doctor sounded bored.

“Well, it’s just these new pills you’ve put me on,” Mary began, “they’re very effective but they also have side effects.”

“And what would those side effects be?” the doctor pressed.

“Very vivid hallucinations,” Mary tried to sound as self-assured as she could while at the same feeling highly embarrassed.

“How strange, that’s never happened before,” the doctor said as she scanned the prescription on her computer for the list of side effects.

“Yeah, it was…weird,” Mary offered.

“So what did you hallucinate?” the doctor looked back at Mary.

“Well…err…and I promise you it all seemed very real at the time…err…I…um…I met an angel.”

“What?” the doctor said, flummoxed.

“I met an angel,” Mary repeated self-consciously, “and the angel told me that I would soon become pregnant with the child of…oh, this is ridiculous,…of God.”

The doctor barely contained her amusement, a small snicker escaping before she continued.

“Ridiculous indeed, to have children you’d need to be able to have sex,” the doctor quipped.

“Really?” Mary raised an eyebrow, “how did you pass medical school if you don’t think disabled people can have sex?”

The doctor opened her mouth but Mary interrupted, “Don’t even ask how, OK? I lie down. Sheesh.”

The doctor closed her mouth again looking thoughtful.

“There is one way we could settle this matter if it would put your mind at ease,” the doctor recovered her professional demeanour, “You could take a pregnancy test. I have some in my desk, and the disabled toilet is just around the corner.”

“Fine,” Mary took the pregnancy test from the doctor and left the room, returning 5 minutes later.

“May I have another please, I think I did this one wrong?” Mary looked somewhat sheepish.

“Sure,” the doctor handed her another and spent the next 5 minutes filing paperwork while she waited.

Mary returned looking even more sheepish than before, carrying both pregnancy tests on her lap.

“Well?” the doctor inquired.

There was a short pause before Mary replied, “I’m pregnant.”

***

Lounging back on the sofa Mary rested her mug of tea on her swollen belly, trying not to fall asleep. When she heard Joe’s keys turning in the lock she slowly sat herself upright, and waited for the rustling of hats, scarves, and coats being removed before the door into the lounge opened.

“Evening,” Mary said, noticing Joe looked somewhat distressed, “Are you alright?”

“Have you seen the news?” he said.

“You know I never watch the news,” Mary replied.

Joe sighed, “A huge hurricane has been spotted crossing the Atlantic and it’s heading straight for us. It’s due to hit in 24 hours; they’re evacuating the city tonight.”

“Is this what you call a joke?”

“No, Mary, I’m serious. We need to pack our bags and go. Now.”

“But the baby-“

“I know the baby’s due any day now but we’ve got no choice. It’s not safe,” Joe swiftly left the room, and Mary could hearing him dragging the suitcases out of the wardrobe. Awkwardly she shifted from the sofa to the wheelchair, the seatbelt of which had long since given up hope of keeping her safe, and rolled through to the bedroom. Someone would need to direct the packing or they’d end up with enough underpants to sink a ship but no nappies for the baby.

***

The train station was the busiest it had ever been, with all the ticket barriers left open as people streamed in droves towards the trains. As they approached the platform of the nearest train an official walked over to them.

“Have you booked a ramp?” he asked Joe.

“No,” Mary responded coldly.

“You need to book a ramp 24 hours in advance if you want to board the train,” the official continued speaking to Joe.

“Oh I’m sorry,” a tired, grumpy, and very pregnant Mary said, “I’ll just call the Met Office and ask them to delay the hurricane so we can give you a warning in advance that I can’t levitate. This is an emergency evacuation, surely your ableist policies don’t apply now.” Joe placed his hand on Mary’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. She fixed him with a glare colder than Medusa’s own.

“I’m sorry, but we need the notice so that we can ensure that a member of staff with the right insurance is available,” the official wouldn’t budge.

“We’ll find another option,” Joe looked down at Mary before turning and directing her out of the station.

“Now what?” Mary said once outside, the wind already picking up.

Across the road a bus pulled up.

“Bus then, I guess,” Mary started to move towards it.

As she approached the driver opened the doors, and shouted to her, “No room for a wheelchair, love, we’ve got a pram.”

“Then tell the mother to move, it’s a wheelchair space, not a pram space,” Mary stuck her foot in the doorway to prevent the automatic doors from closing.

“Not my job,” the bus driver muttered, even though it legally was.

“I’ll move,” the mother shouted down the bus, clearly more aware of the law than the driver was.

After much fussing with luggage and prams and the uncooperative bus driver, Mary could finally settle in the wheelchair space as they made their way out of the city.

“Where we headed?” she asked Joe.

“Heathrow airport,” a stranger interjected.

“They gonna try and fly in this?” Mary replied incredulously.

“Nah, but they can shelter enough of us in the airport itself, there’s hotels and all that. It’s still gonna get battered by this storm, but the worst of it is meant to be up in Scotland so we’ll cope.”

“Thanks,” Mary said, turning to Joe, “Can you ring round the hotels and make sure they have an accessible room ready for us? I really ought to get a hotel room in this state.”

“Sure,” Joe nodded, looking at the empty bars on his phone, “but there’s no signal. I’ll go to the top deck.” With that Joe shuffled away through the crowd in the vain hope of getting a signal. Mary was suddenly overcome by a wave of exhaustion, and within minutes was fast asleep.

Several hours had passed when Mary woke up suddenly, feeling a small but intense cramp across her abdomen and back. It disappeared almost as soon as it had arrived and Mary thought nothing of it until, as she was drifting back to sleep, it returned.

“Joe,” Mary hissed, “Joseph.” She shook him gently, as having given up on obtaining a phone signal, he had settled on the seat beside her and fallen asleep.

“Hmmm what?” a very drowsy Joe opened his eyes.

“I think I’m in labour,” Mary whispered.

“Huh?”

“I’m giving birth,” Mary hissed.

“Oh, OK,” there was a pause as Joe came to his senses, then, “What? Now? You’re in labour right now?”

“Yes I’m in labour right now,” Mary returned sharply, much louder than she intended.

“We’re only a couple of hours from Heathrow, love,” the bus driver shouted back, “it’d be sooner but this damn traffic is holding us up.”

“I’ll try and hold it then,” she quipped back.

The next two hours were the longest of Mary’s life. The light of dawn illuminated a grey and gloomy sky hanging above a seemingly endless convoy of cars, trucks, and buses. Each pain became a little more intense and were already becoming more frequent. Mary tried not to wake the other passengers up, but wasn’t succeeding. Eventually Heathrow could be seen in the distance, and another half an hour later the bus arrived at its destination.

The driver ensured that Mary was the first off the bus, followed closely by Joe who carried all their luggage while his wife clutched her belly. They pushed through the crowd, quite literally treading on toes and disrupting queues, but no one seemed to mind thanks to the magic of a wheelchair.

“Which hotel did you book?” Mary asked.

“Signals down, I couldn’t get a hold of any of them,” he replied.

“Wonderful,” Mary said.

“Look, I’m sure they’ll be understanding of our situation,” Joe answered, heading towards the nearest one. They pushed past the queue at the reception desk, Joe interrupting another customer mid-speech.

“My wife needs an accessible room and she needs one now, she’s in labour,” the words fell out in a rush.

“All our accessible rooms are already full sir, but we do have some other rooms available,” the receptionist replied calmly.

“Will it fit a wheelchair?” he asked.

“No, I said all our accessible rooms are already full, sir-“

“Then you’re no help to us,” Joe hastily turned on his heel and headed to the next hotel, followed by Mary.

He repeated the process only to get the same response, and went from hotel to hotel to hotel, all of them informing him that accessible rooms were apparently rarer than an endangered species. Even seeing Mary’s increasing distress as labour progressed didn’t help. Utterly exhausted, afraid, and in pain, Mary broke down in tears in the midst of the airport.

“I don’t want to have my baby with everyone looking at me,” she stuttered between tears. Joe also began to cry, frustrated by the unwillingness to help others in need displayed by everyone they had come across.

“I know, I know, but I don’t know how to fix this,” he replied.

A woman wearing an air hostess uniform approached them, her heels audibly clicking on the tiles despite the noise in the airport.

“There is somewhere private you can go,” she said, “if you need it.”

“Yes, yes, please, anything,” Mary wiped the tears mingled with sweat from her face.

“This way, and I will fetch a doctor once you’re settled,” the air hostess guided them through what seemed like miles of crowded airport, stopping every few minutes as a contraction took hold of Mary. Finally, the air hostess opened the door of the room she had in mind. It was a disabled toilet, although in fairness there was an adult-sized changing table attached to one wall, which the air hostess was already pulling down.

“I know it’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing,” she said.

“What’s your name?” Joe asked, receiving a steely glare from Mary.

“Star,” she replied, before dashing off to find a doctor.

Slowly and carefully, Joe helped Mary climb on the table, putting a bag beneath her head as a pillow. A few minutes later there was a tap on the door and a doctor appeared, followed by a nurse, both in bloodied scrubs having clearly been put to work at least once already. Mary couldn’t have cared less, simply being relieved to have a private place to give birth, albeit a humble bathroom. Another contraction detonated through her body, causing Mary to grit her teeth in an effort not to scream.

***

Two hours later an exhausted and sweat-covered Mary was handed her little boy, who’s first cry could be heard from outside of the room. Mary’s head flopped back onto her pillow as she held her little boy, tears of relief now adorning her cheeks as Joe kissed her forehead gently. Time passed at an unknown pace until a knock was heard on the door. Mary cast Joe a puzzled glance as he crossed the room. He answered to find three boys stood outside, one holding a pile of clean, fluffy towels, one holding some bottles of water, and the other holding a tiny baby-gro.

“We thought these might help,” the boy holding the towels offered, “these are spares in the staff laundry room.”

“And these were from the pharmacy,” the boy with the water added.

“And this was my first baby-gro which my mum kept as a memento, but she said you can have it now,” the third added.

“Wow, boys, this is wonderful. Your mothers must be very proud of you,” Joe accepted each of the gifts and added them to the pile of luggage in the corner of the room, except for the baby-gro. Instead he gently lifted the baby from Mary’s arms where the nurse had left him after his first bath. He stirred slightly in his sleep as Joe gently unravelled the many towels from the baby, before dressing him even more carefully in the baby-gro, which fit perfectly.

“Can we see the baby?” One of the boys said expectantly, as they were waiting by the door.

“Of course,” Joe said.

Mary watched, smiling, as Joe carefully set the baby down in her wheelchair before going back to open the door properly. The boys stumbled in excitedly and rushed to the side of the wheelchair, where they spoke only in loud whispers.

“What’s his name?” one of the boys asked.

From the changing table where she still lay, tired but content to watch the world go by, Mary replied.

“Joshua,” she said.

THE END.

I hope you enjoyed this year’s Christmas special which was inspired by some ideas put forward by fans of Diary of a Disabled Person. I certainly enjoyed writing it.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, and I will be back next week with the New Year special.

Until then, Merry Christmas!