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Wheels detect pavement flaws

Gisborne-East Coast Multiple Sclerosis Society takes the opportunity provided by MS Awareness Week this week to draw attention to concerns about transport issues for members.

FIONA Ballard and Rod Holloway have become experts on pavement surfaces, courtesy of their mobility aids.

Fiona, 41, and Rod, 69, have multiple sclerosis (MS) and to help them get around they have a power chair and mobility scooter respectively.

Now as they trundle along they feel every bump in the footpath. The transition from footpath to roadway can also be a problem.

“I’ve been stuck twice. Lovely people have pulled over and helped me,” Fiona said.

“You are supposed to approach a driveway on an angle but sometimes the little wheels (at the front and back of the driving wheels) get stuck.”

Fiona likes the mid-block crossings of the central business district and would like to see more.

She has had the power chair for three months and enjoys the freedom it gives her to get out. But she has quickly learned about the types of surface that cause problems.

“Crossings need to be smooth and have no gutters or lips that wheels could get stuck on,” she said.

“Some of the ramps from the footpath to the road could be a bit wider.

“When you are in a chair you haven’t got the frontage and handlebars you have with a mobility scooter.”

It all contributed to a feeling of vulnerability.

Garden growth hanging over the footpath was also a nuisance for those using mobility aids, Fiona said.

Rod has had his mobility scooter for four and a half months. He has not ventured far from home on it but when he does, he keeps an eye out for pedestrians.

“I don’t go very far or very fast.”

The society has at least one friend in high places . . . Mayor Meng Foon is its patron. He has been informed of the problems and has asked society members to let him know the trouble spots so they can be fixed.

The Gisborne-East Coast society covers the area from East Cape to Mahia.

Field officer Christine Beard serves 29 people with MS, one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system.

On the subject of mobility aids, she thinks flags should be a compulsory accessory.

“When a mobility scooter or power chair is obscured by parked cars, drivers might not see it crossing the road until it’s too late,” she said.

“But if the scooter has flags that are visible above parked cars, drivers would have a better chance of being able to avoid hitting it.”

Fiona and Rod have had different, yet in some ways similar, experiences with MS.

Fiona was 21 when she was diagnosed but only accepted it when she could no longer hide it. She worked as a motel cleaner but had to stop that four years ago. Lately the effects of the disease have been more persistent.

She is frustrated at the time it takes her to do anything and at being exhausted by the smallest task.

Rod cut scrub on the East Coast, worked in a timber mill in Tokoroa, drove logging trucks, painted houses and ran a weed-control business.

He suspects the lead in the paint he sanded off houses and the chemicals he sprayed on weeds did his health no favours.

“I’ve had MS for about 30 years.”

“I kept falling off my motorbike. I was going down Iranui Road and ended up on the other side of the street, banging into rubbish bins outside Dunblane.

“The doctor told me, ‘You’ve had this for years but we don’t know what it is.’

“Years later, when I got really crook and went to Napier Hospital, they said I had MS. My legs had packed up . . . I woke up and thought I was dying.”

His wife Heather had got him to hospital, where he was given an injection of a steroid that sped up his recovery.

Rod’s MS frustrations are fatigue, failing memory, sight problems and the fact that he no longer drives.

He remembers the moment he gave up.

“We were coming back from Opotiki and at about Ormond my leg started jumping all over the place. I stopped at the Hika pub and got Heather to take over. I’ve never driven since.”

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by GISBORNEHERALD
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length
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