We have decided to have a couple of nights away on North Stradbroke Island. For those of you not in Queensland Australia, this island is a Bay Island that we can get to on a 45 minute ferry ride. The ferry departs 4 minutes drive from where we live so is just so convenient & easy.
Easy? Did I just say easy?
Easy for an able bodied healthy person but I have had a complete wakeup call this week at just how difficult even a simple ferry trip & accommodation booking can be with a disability.
Let’s start with the ferry. We are taking our vehicle over which definitely will make it easier for us when we arrive. However the vehicle ferry is 3 storeys high & steep stairs from where the car is parked awaits passengers leading them to the licensed café. I found this out as having booked the trip on Wednesday, I woke up Thursday morning in a cold sweat realising I hadn’t asked about disability access for someone on 2 crutches. As soon as the office opened I rang the ferry office armed with a list of questions.
Is the ferry disabled friendly? No was the answer. Not the one we were booked on but I was told the other ferry has a lift. PHEW!! I quickly re booked on the other ferry.
Does the ferry have disabled toilets? No, none of them do. I felt like completely cancelling after hearing that. Having a broken leg & a stoma requires a disabled toilet. We really need a relaxing day out away from medical appointments and we have wanted to visit the Island for so long, so to make this happen I had to think over so many scenarios in my mind as quickly as possible. At this point we were only going for the day. We felt a day trip would be a good test for me post surgery but it was beginning to feel like complete torture.
I got off the phone & found Peter. Poor guy, he knew by the look on my face that I was really worried. I have no control over my stoma and while I manage it really well it is disconcerting when locked into a situation where there are little options in terms of dealing with an unexpected issue (they do happen). If I didn’t have the crutches I could manage better in this sort of situation but the 2 issues together make military precision planning necessary when venturing out.
So we discussed all possible worst case scenarios. My main issue was if I had an emergency with my stoma on the ferry it could ruin our whole day on the island as I didn’t know where the nearest disabled toilet was when I got off. Even the local council couldn’t advise me of that when I phoned for information, except to say all public toilet blocks should have a disabled toilet. Hmm…not very helpful. Also when you really need to sort out a misbehaving stoma, public disabled toilets aren’t always the cleanest or even the most practical, believe it or not.
So after focusing on what wasn’t going to work & very nearly giving up on the whole idea, my optimistic nature kicked in and I began thinking about what could work.
The outcome was that we decided if we had a base when we arrived to drive straight to, most of our concerns would be dealt with. That led to the decision to stay overnight. Of course once we started looking at accommodation every place bar one had stairs, or were just unsuitable in terms of layout. Also all accommodation on the island requires a two night minimum stay. Now that bit we are not complaining about & the more we thought about it I probably would need to crash from all the effort anyway
Finally I found somewhere that seemed suitable and I rang the reception to be greeted by the most understanding lady. What a relief! As a result we have taken the plunge and booked for 2 nights in a lovely beachfront apartment with beautiful views where our car can be parked right outside, all one level and flat.
To say I am completely relaxed about going wouldn’t be quite true. Firsts are always daunting & I am still battling a lot of pain with my leg which is exhausting. That alone makes everything feel that little bit harder and that’s without factoring my Rheumatoid Arthritis into the equation, let alone my stomas little parties.
I know so many people look forward to holidays and even live for them. My experiences with my health over the past 5 years have made me realise that for many people living with disabilities, planning holidays can be extremely difficult and can take away much of that excitement and anticipation normally felt when planning time away.
Will this little trip feel like a holiday? I’m not sure but it will definitely feel like a major achievement and that’s a good thing!
Now to organise packing…ugh….just another complexity to deal with!