I was working at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1980, saving money for a heavy goods license and I noticed I was getting clumsy, the odd tripping up out in the street, nothing too bad.
So I decided on a get fit routine. I’d read that the army put there soldiers through a tough regime during the World War I, as many were very unfit when they were conscripted. So I started running on the beach with a small rucksack carrying half dozen magazines and purchased a Bullworker. A piece of equipment with a handle at each end of a tube that had a centre spring that could be pulled or pushed together. A sure way of increasing muscle density I thought.
I moved down to London to find driving work. I stopped in Luton for eighteen months working for a scrap dealer.. I was finding lifting heavy gear was difficult. During time off I was still trying to fit in some sort of workout.
I moved to Hackney East London and worked for a driving agency before obtaining permanent work with a steel galvanizing company delivering to engineering works and construction sites.Then I started a life insurance policy, which entailed a medical, As soon as I walked into the city medical centre the doctor asked me if I had trouble with my legs. On his suggestion I saw my GP who referred me to The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.
Tests followed along with physiotherapy sessions, the diagnosis became more involved. I was still working and my firm was very good, the transport manager noticed an improvement in my walking.
By the time 1991 arrived I had a definitive test for dry eyes, the doctor put a small shard of blotted paper in the corner of my eye. They didn't water.
The medical condition I had was Allgrove disease or Triple A Syndrome. This entailed Adrenal gland deficiency. For which I take steroids, Hydrocortisone tablets forever. Achalasia is connected to the neuromuscular problem I started to experience ten years earlier. Alacrima is the dry eyes component for which I use eye drops forever. Triple A syndrome/ Allgrove disease requires a constant supply of steroid, along with the carrying of a blue card announcing this fact. As soon as I step out of bed the neuromuscular element affecting mobility and dexterity with stiffness . I move around my flat with a tubular walking support, an indoor version of the rolator that I use on the street.
I worked a further sixteen years with this very rare (less than a 100 worldwide cases in the early nineties) and complex disease.
In 2006 I medically retired from truck driving. By this point I had down sized to a smaller vehicle and walked with a stick, Since leaving work I have spent four years at Art School, still using public transport and managing to get about admittedly very slowly. I walk with a three wheel support buggy and my voice “affected by the Achalasia “can vary considerably.
From January 2007 I have been attending Ability Bow Gymnasium. My physiotherapist referred me. I do a full workout in a wide variety of machines. I also do stretches to try and alleviate the progression of the condition. Fifteen minutes sessions on the rest of the gym apparatus sustains my present mobility. A step forward from using a bull worker in a compact bedsit and running past Blackpool tower at low tide.
A hard fact is that the equipment at the Ability Bow keeps everything working. As I walk and use public transport equipment including the leg press, bicycle and cross trainer are critical.
My legs below the knee have muscle wastage and so do my hands. Concentrating on this avenue of mobility is part of the regular program. The final machine that completes my workout is the treadmill. The cross trainer has a rhythm similar to cross country skiing, whereas the treadmill is the nearest to my actual walking. In the controlled environment of the gymnasium I am able to concentrate on the leg and foot articulation. A regular workout maintains strength (or what’s left), muscle stretching and joint movement.I live on a week to week basis as there is no long term diagnosis for Triple A Syndrome.
So with rubbish legs, a feeding tube where I take in 200ml of High Protein supplement via a big plastic syringe, and old ladies passing as I walk down the street, at least I am still upright and have not dropped dead.
Tomorrow I spend a day at college an last week I visited a photographic exhibition at the Greenwich naval museum. This entailed taking the No.8 bus to Holborn and then changing onto the No.188 to North Greenwich. Next time I might take the river bus service.
Apropos this and trips to the shops, Ability Bow remains the catalyst. Ability Bow, as it has been over the last five years, is very important for negotiating a busy city.
I am still here, let’s hope Ability Bow is able to stay here too .