Imagine not being able to enjoy the simple things in life, such as walking the dogs, strolling through a park or woodland, walking to the pub on a summer’s evening?
This is what Mike faces. Spinal injuries mean his mobility is limited. The NHS have provided him with a wheelchair, for which he is very grateful, but it is designed for indoor use only. He can work using it (he is the main provider of IT support for the cancer systems at the Calderdale and Huddersfield foundation trust) and he can shop using it, but there is so much more Mike wants to do. He tries using it outside but no suspension means it’s a bone-shaking ride and it has zero ability to manage everyday obstacles such as kerbs or broken tarmac. Even drop kerbs are a challenge unless they are totally level with the road surface.
So we are trying to raise funds to get Mike a decent outdoor wheelchair so he can have a decent quality of life doing all the things we take for granted. We are hoping to raise enough for a Four X DL from Mybilty. This fantastic chair will provide Mike with a chance to carry on living in the wild way he did before his illness! Because Mike used to hike 40 miles without a thought. Now 40 metres is a challenge that tires him out and that he can't manage without falling. His spinal cord is damaged from being compressed in two different places in his neck - carbon fibre cages were put in the top and bottom of his neck to ease the compression but the damage is permanent. He currently has a third area of his neck where the cord is being touched by bone and disc - the shaking from his current wheelchair means he is in danger of the cord being compressed again. Constant pain down the left side of his body means walking is extremely difficult and tiring - only very short distances are possible. At the moment, more surgery is not an option as the risks outweigh the benefits. A C4 skip laminectomy has been proposed by Leeds neurosurgeons but while this will create space for his spinal cord in this area, it will not make any difference to his current symptoms.
Mike has had a complex spinal condition for many years but recently the impact on his quality of life has become unbearable. He has a congenital narrowing of the spinal canal, several herniated spinal discs with annular tears, degenerative disc disease, progressive cervical and lumber myelopathy, partial cervical myelomalacia, spinal canal stenosis, retrolisthesis of C3 vertebra on C4, facet joint degenerative changes at multiple levels, ligamental thickening at multiple levels plus osteophytes, again at multiple levels, causing foraminal stenosis and canal stenosis.
As a consequence of this he has had three spinal operations, the first in 1999 for a significant disc prolapse at L4/5 with major root compression, followed by a L3/4 discectomy in 2012. In 2015 his cervical problems were discovered leading to major complex surgery on his neck. The first surgeon he saw for his cervical condition stated that ‘an anterior approach would be technically difficult if not impossible to achieve and a posterior approach may be associated with worsening of instability’. However, without an operation on his cervical damage he was told he would be dead within 18 months. A successful non-adjacent, multi-level anterior decompression and fusion was carried out on C3/4 and C6/7 with carbon fibre cages being used to stabilise these areas of his spine.He was told that, given the marked signal changes in his spinal cord visible on the MRI scan, the operation would not improve symptoms or pain level but would slow progression of his condition. Currently, the disc at C4/5 is catching up against his spinal cord plus the nerves are impinged as they exit this area to the left of his body, and he also has impingement on both the left and right at C6/7. At the moment there are no further surgeries that can be done (risk of surgery outweighs any benefit that could be provided).
Mike is in constant pain, which ranges from the permanent sensation of being tickled under his foot, to cramping in his left thigh, to feeling as if his left kneecap is being pushed off from the inside, to burning and buzzing sensations down his left side, to numbness and weakness in his left leg and arm. His left arm is heavy and his right hand has a severe shake. He is ataxic and at high risk of falls – around the house where he stubbornly mobilises without aids he falls an average twice an hour.
Despite this, he still works for the NHS, managing computer systems for different departments of the Calderdale Royal Hospital and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, including oncology. It has been known for him to stumble his way into Macmillan to fix their systems and have patients on chemotherapy drips offer him a seat! The NHS provided him with a wheelchair that is suitable for indoor use which, coupled with a wheelchair accessible vehicle bought with personal funds, has made working slightly easier.
This GreenCare EP1C wheelchair is great for the hospital, supermarkets and shopping centres and smooth, well-maintained pavements. However, it is not designed for outdoor use which means that getting out and about for pleasure is hard-work for Mike. A trip to the pub with friends becomes a logistical nightmare – where are the dropped kerbs, why do pubs have so many steps, why are pavements full of cracks and holes? Walking the dogs is not an option. Mike used to hike up to 25 miles and has been known to do the Lyke Wake walk (42 miles). He now struggles to walk 10 metres. Walking is exhausting for him. But he would love to still be able to get out and about. He wants to walk the dogs. He wants to be able to walk in the countryside. He wants to walk up Mam Tor as he used to do without thinking about it. But to do this means an off-road, 4-wheel drive wheelchair. However, the costs are prohibitive. This is where Mike would love your help.
For more details on the chair Mike is longing for, see: http://www.mybility.co.uk/wheelchair/dl/