Waking up at 5.00am ahead of a visit to the Dentist
It was not the dentist that had caused the sudden waking followed by the anxiety, it was the planning in my head of the inevitable journey often riddled with challenges to get to the dentist that had woke me up so early. It was around 5 years ago shortly after being made redundant from my well paid job that I decided to leave the expense of a private dentist and seek out one that would take NHS patients, how hard could it be? But adding to this the fact that I was also a wheelchair user and so needed access truly limited the choice of sites. In fact the NHS when I rang them could not tell me which dentists might be suitable they had no indicators of those that were accessible but thought it a good idea to create one in the future. So having a list of those taking on NHS patients I telephoned around, none in my local town of Shrewsbury but I found one that would take me in Ludlow – 26 miles away down the often slow A49 – which means setting aside an hour each way.
Whilst on paper it is easy to say that the Ludlow dentist is accessible and certainly the staff would back this up, but truly worth a 52 mile round trip for ease of access would be hard to agree with. There is parking yes, two spaces which on closer inspection are clearly taken up by staff in fact often another car squeezes in reducing the width to the essential ramp. And yes there is off road parking opposite (across the busy main road) for five cars but with no additional marking out as a disabled parking space I could not risk parking there because should a car park alongside me then I would not be able to get back alongside the car to get back in the car. So the best option is getting one of the on street parking spaces of which there are around 6 near to the dentist so that I can exit the car onto the narrow pavement. This parking is limited to 2 hours so often I have to be there 20-30 minutes early to hang around waiting for a driver to return to free up a space. It would be difficult to park anywhere else in the vicinity as the site of the dentist is on a hill so the on-street parking nearby is all that is really available to me.
So once parked as I did quite quickly on Thursday I have to negotiate the bumpy, narrow pavement down to the dentist, squeeze between the poorly parked car rubbing up against the hawthorn so as to avoid scratching all down the side of the car and come to the base of the ramp which leads to the entrance of the dentist. The ramp is of solid construction, wide and the surface is tarmac BUT it is clearly too steep for someone alone and requires me to muster up all of my physical arm and stomach strength to make it to top, I am often left with a feeling half way up it as to why I even tried to attempt for just at that moment it is clear that I am starting now to roll a little backwards. Having eventually made it over the 2inch lip of the front door and into the reception now very much out of breadth I say ‘I am here for my 9.40am appointment’. Am I then anxious about the dentist? No just relieved to have a little bit of a rest in the waiting room knowing that I have once again overcome the challenges of the visit and vowing once more that when I get home I will be straight back onto the NHS to ask if they have as yet compiled that list of truly accessible dentists in Shropshire? Something to campaign for you might say but sorry I do not have the time.
I cannot end this week’s blog though without reflecting on a situation that happened on Tuesday that seemed quite odd. I had arranged to meet a business advisor over in Staffordshire in a local pub which I had already checked for access so would be fine. Neither of us had met each other before so I suggested that I might be the easiest one to recognise as I use a wheelchair with bright yellow spokes. So I arrived around 30 minutes early ordered a juice and sat in a space where I could clearly see the entrance door. Shortly afterwards a woman appeared alone, with a briefcase in hand ordered a drink and sat in a nearby alcove. I instantly thought of her as the person I had come to meet but she clearly saw me and made no attempt to smile, acknowledge or question. When the time passed that we had agreed to meet and no-one had arrived I went across to the woman and asked if she was in fact here to meet me. ‘Yes’ she said with a reply of ‘I did not like to assume that anyone sitting in the room in a wheelchair might be the person I was coming along to see – felt like I might be stereotyping’ ! I wonder if next time it might be easier if I just said I would wear a red carnation.
If you would like to comment on Ann’s blog or share your own experiences, get in touch at email@example.com