The Bleeper has enriched my life.
I am totally disabled by multiple sclerosis; by totally I mean my legs don’t work, my right arm and hand don’t work; the only things that do work for me physically are my left hand, I can move my head, I can talk and think and swallow. For many other things I need the help of someone else: feeding, washing, bathing and showering, drinking, working my computer, putting the wireless on and off, brushing my hair or teeth.
To call a nurse or carer or friend I press the bleeper pad, which is fixed high up on my nightie or shirt, by moving my chin or fingers.
After the first press a man’s voice says “Nurse call”; the second thing he says is “phone on/off”, the third thing is “space”. After that there is a list of various peoples’ phone numbers beginning with Adrian (my husband) and then my siblings, then friends, and then matters relating to turning the telly on or off and then the various channels. There is a display screen on a stand beside my bed or wheelchair which lights up each option as he talks. I now know it off by heart.
Once the bleeper hits the person or thing I want to activate I bleep it and then it will dial the number or put on what I want. This all works due to the Possum. Possum in Latin means “I am able”.
The numbers are put in by John who, I believe, covers the south-west of England; it is his voice on the Possum. If people change their numbers I phone him to register the change on the Possum.
Since I got the Possum about five years ago it has changed my life. In this nursing home I have my own telephone which my husband has installed so now I can answer a phone call, turn on the television, and ring a friend. Of course, I can’t move my wheelchair out of the way or get a DVD out and put it in the machine.
So my life has been improved but there are still many restrictions on me. Even writing this has involved Sue and she’s taking the dictation.
People are always coming up with good ideas like talking books – I can’t read because I can’t turn over the pages – or voice-recognition computer programs; the list could go on but I don’t wish to think of other “helpful” suggestions.
The bleeper has a voice so people relate to it; some knock it by mistake and immediately get an answer like “call nurse”! This can infuriate some people and so they push it again, which causes the red light above my bed to go on which means that the nurse call is activated; so then they will turn the red light off. Other people, if they knock it, will proudly wait till the man says “space” and then knock it which turns it off.
I was given a particularly sensitive bleeper as I couldn’t use my hand very effectively on it.
Once, when I had a meal, the man giving it to me took off the bleeper to avoid knocking it. I said “You will remember to put it back”- he said “Of course!” When I’d finished the meal, as he walked out we were talking and he forgot to put the bleeper back on me. Without the bleeper I felt totally terrified; on one side of me the lady had died, and on the other side there is a lady of 102 who is very deaf. Luckily the carer had left my door open and so I shouted “Help!” a number of times. As I was working out that someone would be coming with my supper in about an hour, I yelled a bit more and then gave up, feeling totally helpless. Luckily a lady at the end of my corridor, who is not deaf, sounded her buzzer and someone came down. I shouted again and they came in and gave me my bleeper. The person who had left it off came down and immediately apologised to me. I realise that the carers are very aware of how dependent we feel.
People are always saying they can’t imagine how it must feel to be me. By writing this I hope I can give them some idea of my predicament.