On The Access Van

Carol Huebner

Independence means getting around town on your own, and this can be done without driving a car, the author learned. She then encountered some unexpected difficulties when she reached her destination–and a bonus, right across the street from her own house.

IN THE 21 years that I’ve lived in this house, I’ve never sat under my neighbor’s tree. It’s a huge oak, commanding and protective, and it grows right across the street from my driveway–but I’d never had the occasion to sit under it until recently.

I was waiting there for my first ride on the Access Services van. I’d had trouble getting approval for use of the van, primarily because they wanted me to have “more cognitive disorder.” Good grief! Like I don’t have enough problems. Eventually I was okayed, but now I had new worries: Will the van find my house? Will my scooter roll in? Will I be on time for my appointment? I was going for my annual mammogram (not much fun to look forward to) and, waiting beneath the tree, I was surprised to find so much solace in its beauty.

As it turned out, the van was late, but the driver was a competent, chatty fellow, and despite some difficulty getting my scooter up the ramp and situated where he wanted it, our trip to the medical center was an enjoyable one. When he removed the tie-downs, he wished me well. I interpreted that as a positive send-off.

At the center I had to wait in a slow line that inched forward and sideways (which my new scooter could not handle smoothly) to a counter, only to find that I was in the wrong office in the wrong building. I retrieved my paperwork and left to find the right office.

But first I thought I would use a restroom. Clever, right? Wrong. My lightweight scooter cannot back against a heavy door and hold it open. So, slamming, banging, and apologizing, I created quite a commotion before completing my mission.

Finally, now very late for my appointment, I reached the right counter. “Change your top in there,” the clerk instructed, waving me toward another area. “Put this on.” I scooted past the waiting women, noticing that some had worn the skimpy “this” opened down the front, unashamedly revealing pendulous flesh, while others had tied it at the back. What did the x-ray technician want?

The dressing room was hopeless. There was no way that my scooter could get into that tiny space; the room was just a few inches wider than a bench. Since I couldn’t pull very far into the room, I changed my top right there in the hall. By the way, I tied the gown in front, and later learned that the preference is for a rear tie. Oh, well.

Even though I was late, I still had to wait (long enough to watch a good bit of a Diana Ross movie) before the technician called my name. As my scooter twisted and turned, avoiding toes, the woman directing me kept calling out to the technician that I was on my way. Once in the x-ray room, I was pleased to see that the x-ray machine could move all the way down to accommodate me in a seated position. For years I thought that women who couldn’t stand up couldn’t have mammograms. I’m glad to be wrong about that.

A seated position certainly made the exam easier, but no more pleasant. I was relieved when it was over — and I gladly exchanged that skimpy top for my own blouse. Now it was time for my reward. I had made arrangements with a friend who would take me to a great pet store near the clinic, so once outside the building I called her to tell her that I was ready to be picked up.

Good news: she mastered collapsing my scooter just fine. Bad news: the intriguing pet store just around the corner was closed. She drove us to another store, where her wisdom about dog fleas was still of value, even if the store was ordinary. Unsure of when I’d be in a pet store again, I bought too much, almost more than my scooter’s small basket could handle.

When I finally got home, I was exhausted. A trip that had begun under the sheltering boughs of an oak tree ended in my kitchen, as I unpacked a plastic bag full of dog ointments and pills.

But I learned that Access Services will get me places. I took care of a medical necessity–although I would have hoped that a medical facility, of all places, would have been better equipped to welcome me and my scooter. I saw where the interesting pet store is, even if going in would have to wait for another time–and I bought the dog supplies I needed. Best of all though, I think, was that I discovered that spending time sitting under that oak tree is a very pleasant way to begin the day.

Carol Huebner is a frequent contributor to InsideMS. She’s been living with MS for 30 years, and retired last year from full-time work as a high school administrator.

COPYRIGHT 2000 National Multiple Sclerosis Society

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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