Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. ... Dr Suess.
I'm under the pump with my service provider and the lack of carers at present, and this means I haven't had time to spend on my blog. Golden City Support Services has been winding down with me and their service has been increasingly bad for the past month. I've been left high and dry with no carers sent to me on numerous occasions. In the last fortnight alone I've missed out on carers for one morning shift, five lunches, two teas and one bed. Not having breakfast or lunch or even dinner is no big deal. Having to skip meals doesn't faze me in itself, but ...
A fortnight ago we had a bit of a heatwave, five days straight over 40 degrees celcius. (100 degrees plus fahrenheit.) By lunchtime on these days I'm looking forward to something to drink, but if there's no lunch shift I have to stay parched until dinner shift, or bed shift. Similarly, I'm sometimes needing to poo by mid-morning. Because I choose to live in my own home I have to battle the urge until the lunch carer arrives and can sit me on the toilet, but if there's no lunch shift I have to try to battle on until dinner shift. Occasionally I can't hold it - imagine how wonderful it feels to be a grown man sitting in your own shit for hours.
Anyway, GCSS finished up last night and now I'm with a new service provider, Bartay. They're still in the process of hiring new carers to supplement the couple who came over from GCSS with me, so things are going to continue being rough for me for a week or two. But there's light at the end of the tunnel.
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Today is another 40 degree day, the middle of another four or five day heatwave with tomorrow forecast to be hotter.
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Campbelltown, Melbourne, Victoria
I’m standing on a small ledge about two hundred feet from the ground with someone’s hands on my shoulders from behind to steady me. I’m not very happy, at all. I can’t make myself look down at all now, but I know there’s a circular swimming pool directly below me. I guess that’s to stop jumpers like me splattering blood all over everything if the elasticized rope breaks - or if the bungy guys miscalculate and give you three or four feet too much of it. I barely glanced down the first time. Now I just fix my eyes on the far horizon and start fighting off that ever-increasing vertigo thing. It’s my third jump in the last fifteen minutes and every time is worse than the time before.
I don’t like being out on this ledge very much, especially not for this long. They’ve got a video camera rigged up on the ground to shoot everyone’s jump and they radioed up to us to hang five while they do something to it. It should just be three, two, one, bungeeeeeeeeeeee, but I seem to have been out here for ages.
My brother Rick is down there somewhere looking up at me, but there’s no way he’d be up here. Heights don’t agree with him, never have, and anyway he’s not stupid enough for this. He only came to drive me the one hundred and twenty kilometres here to the bungy jumping centre. That’s one good thing about me being a mute quadriplegic - it’s brought us closer together.
The actual bungy setup is basically a two hundred-foot tower with an elevator cage that takes you to the top. Once you’re up there a couple of the bungy guys strap the rope to your ankles and con you to step off the metal ledge outside the cage.
I watched from below while the guy before me went up and he definitely didn’t look like a happy camper. When he got out on the ledge he shit himself and he froze. The bungy guys tried their best to talk him into it for about ten minutes, but they had no hope. The unhappy camper wasn’t going to jump for love nor money, so they had to give up and bring him back down. I was the next one in the cage and it stank to high heaven, because the poor bastard really had shit himself!
Something’s happening up here at last. It’s about time too. It’s not nice standing for too long on this bloody high ledge. The radio spoke behind me just now. It seems the ground crew wants them to re-synchronize the camera up here with the one down there. That’ll take a few minutes, but I don’t mind that. One of the guys is lifting me back inside the cage to sit on the metal bench again and that will give my crazy fear of heights time to settle down a bit.
I’m glad the bungy guys are still fiddling with the camera, because just thinking about that cliff climbing and parachuting was starting to set me off again. Before the first jump we told them I could stay standing OK as long as someone held on to me to keep my balance. We also said that when it was time for me to jump to just push me off. Sounds simple and worry-free, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t for the first jump. They farted around for what seemed like ages lifting me out then getting me standing straight and steady. Those extra seconds allowed time for my ‘vertigo’ to lock in hard.
We pre-arranged that all I needed to do was to shake my head and they’d call it off there and then, but that’s not an option in reality. I’ve been scared out of my brain and just about frozen with fear out there on the ledge every time so far. I feel bad now and I’m still sitting inside, so when I’m out there this time it’ll be terrible.
The other times I was screaming in my head to call it off, but I told myself that I was frozen with fear and couldn’t shake my head. That’s not true though. The truth is I’m forced to go through with it by Rick down there and mum and Younger Sister and all my other well-meaning family and friends who have ever admired me for any of my exploits as a quadriplegic. They’ve got a certain impression of me and the last thing in the world I want is to wreck that. I’m sort of expected to do this stuff, so in times of trouble my well-developed ego takes over.
The bungy guys are done with the camera and one of them is kneeling to check the rope one more time.
‘You ready, Danny?’
I’m nodding yes and praying they haven’t noticed the dry retching that I’ve been trying to suppress ever since the last jump. When you reach the end of the rope on the way down it stretches out, then it pulls you back up, then down, then up until the movement fades out. I guess because I can’t move at all my body doesn’t give and follow the changing directions smoothly. I get jerked and jolted around a bit. Except for that one time horse-riding I don’t think my body has been jolted in ten years, not even the smooth motion of walking, so my guts can be excused for heaving after the jolts today.
‘5 ……. ‘
‘4…….3 ……2 - ….’
Why don’t they just start at three and count down fast?
Down I plummet! Straight towards the beckoning blue swimming pool, then the rope stretches tight and jerks my body around and back into the air! Up, up, pause, down, down, jerk! Less after each jerky whip of my quad’s weakened body. Soon I’m just dangling above that watery blueness like a worm on a hook. But I’m not brownish-grey like a washed out worm. My face is a stop light in hell - bright red and burning hot from an eternity in Hades’ fires; and my arms and chest are from a drowned pearl diver below tropical waves - clammy wet and morgue white.
Rick is wheeling me out of the office and I’m dry-retching violently from time to time. We’ll have to wheel through a big group of new arrivals to get to the car. The third jump wasn’t good, but at least it didn’t take long. Rick was the one who said no more to the bungy guys. I pretended disappointment of course, but really I would’ve said it if he hadn’t. I’ve done three bungy jumps and that’s enough for me - forever. I figure every man and his dog does one jump, some even do two, but three is serious. And three in a row by a quad - there won’t be too many of them around, and being a bit different to the herd is what it’s all about.
We’re picking our way through the waiting group. Just a minute or so now and I’ll be in the car and I can die without everyone watching me.
‘Excuse me, Mate’ one of the group is saying to Rick ‘We got here just after his first jump. Why does he need the wheelchair?’
‘Stuffed if I know’ Rick’s answering without stopping. ‘There was nothing wrong with him before we came here. They said to do a couple more jumps to shake things back into place, but when that didn’t work they just loaned us the chair and said he’ll come good in time.’