A Wee Trip — But Not Like in the Past

John Connor avatar

by John Connor |

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I looked at the road, then west to the horizon.

It was the Trans-Canada Highway.

I was standing just outside Halifax, Nova Scotia. A 23-year-old intending to hitchhike the length of the Trans-Canadian to Vancouver. I’m English but knew this was a rite of passage for young Canadians. I was combining that with an attempt to meet all 16 of my first cousins who had spread across the country. (None of my first cousins lived in my country!)

Apps and mobile phones were science fiction then. I had a vague idea that my destination was about 4,000 miles away. Today, in seconds, an app informs me it is circa 3,614 miles. I have no memory of exactly where I started hitchhiking, I just know I did.

The first lift involved a guy who claimed to be a shoe salesman and wittered on about having sex in the back of the car we were traveling in. It didn’t faze me — I figured it was the toll I had to pay.

Later, in the Rockies, I bought a hand ax — like I didn’t already have enough to carry! I wasn’t worried about bears, but I’d lost my naivety. The trip already had been worth it.

Why this sojourn?

I seriously wondered if I could hitchhike for wheelchair pushes in a hospital.

I have a brand new stonking electric wheelchair, but unfortunately, just like its owner, it is effectively housebound at the moment. In a month’s time, the adaption work on my house should be over and we both shall be free. For the moment, I was on the fifth floor of the hospital where I’m an MS outpatient.

Hospital transport was going to take me back home.

I had some figuring to do, which was complicated by the urge to urinate! And that’s exactly what I had to figure out — how long until transport came to get me, plus the length of the journey home.

I set off to find out. It was only 5 meters from the secluded waiting room I’d been left in to the check-in desk for the clinic I’d just visited. In a self-propelled chair, this took me 10 minutes to navigate. I’m no longer exactly pacey, although three years ago, I was playing wheelchair tennis.

A two-hour wait. Plus, at least an hour in the ambulance. I wasn’t going to make it.

OK, where’s the nearest toilet?

“Down to the right. I’ll show you.” I think she was an administrator, and she bounded off ahead. “Take your time,” she said.

“I have no other option!” I had to shout, as by now, she was some 30 meters away.

In the distance, she pointed at the toilet. I think if I’d been racing I’d have beaten a snail, but it would be close.

Another ambulatory patient decided to push me.

I made it, yes, but this wasn’t a disabled toilet!

Flustered, the administrator first told me she had sciatica. Fair enough. Then, she informed me the nearest disabled toilet was on the ground floor. I realized she wanted out of this situation, but now she was just being silly.

I asked a passing nurse for the nearest disabled toilet.

She also went bounding ahead. She noticed I wasn’t keeping up, so she wheeled back and started to push me.

I was thankful that she did.

We traveled some 100 meters and onto the actual neurology ward of the hospital, where I came for MS treatments. I waved at a few familiar faces.

By the time I’d done my business and pushed my sorry arse to the nearest nurses station, rescue was nearly nigh.

There was no way I was going to attempt the trip back. I asked for transport to be informed of my new whereabouts.

The 23-year-old me could never have conceived that a trip to the toilet would be harder than crossing a continent.

Still, at least that first adventure taught me fortitude.


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Paula Johnston avatar

Paula Johnston

So, happy you have shared your stories.
I also have had trouble finding accessible toilets at hospitals. I have found more helpful staff out shopping or at restaurants. As a former nurse,I have to shake my head .
Oh how things have changed .

Cynthia MacFarlane avatar

Cynthia MacFarlane

We went to a hotel once, in the USA ...had called ahead to be sure it was accessible...yes, they had an elevator....but we were supposed to climb 4steps to get to it...which they had neglected to mention on the phone.
Had to find someplace else to stay.
Off seems that able bodied people don,t get it

Rashmi Jose avatar

Rashmi Jose

Sir, I just admire you... For the courage it takes to write this, and still having your sense of humour ....

Glenda avatar


Thanks, John for sharing! Those wee trips certainly do require a calculation of energy exertion to get to a bathroom versus what one may have to do if ignoring those signals.


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