Vetlife Financial Support service provides aid to veterinary surgeons in need of assistance. Here, a beneficiary of Financial Support shares how a special one-off gift from Vetlife has transformed their life.
I had to put into writing to you, just what your recent gift of an E-Bike has meant to me.
I was firstly really amazed at the generosity of the charity committee to allocate me funds towards this purchase – something I had seen as a luxury item and not a necessity and for which I had been prepared to try and set aside the money over the next couple of years to pay for one through my own income. You brought forward this time expectation from 2 years to 2 months – and for that alone I am so grateful.
But it goes much further than that. Just for some background – I spent my entire childhood, right up to my late teens cycling. I virtually lived on my bike, and loved it. As soon as I left school, life became more and more demanding and my cycling time fizzled out to nothing. Then, when M.E. / Fibromyalgia and a prolapsed lumbar spinal injury happened, I really felt as if all exercise, not just cycling, was beyond my capability and pain threshold. Swimming was a good therapy, being non-weight bearing, but my poor stamina and depleted strength meant I could only swim extremely slowly and have to rest often and this was not conducive to swimming in a gym pool with a lot of other people all vying for pool space at the same time. Being so overweight from a sedentary lifestyle and emotional eating through depression also rendered me with a serious weight problem, which with depression and anxiety issues, made getting out in public in a swimsuit a source of great unease every time. Some folk can be very unkind. Also Gym membership was getting dearer and dearer and then Lockdown saw the public use of the gym all but end for 2 years.
So I tried to start walking to lose weight and try and build some muscle up in my lower body. In order to be able to do this, I need to use crutches to take the majority of weight off my spine and hips. This was great to begin with. Getting out in Lockdown and walking locally really helped my mental health and very slowly I started seeing results in weight loss and using the crutches was an upper body work out in itself, never mind the walking benefits on my legs. However, this came with a price. Continual use of the crutches caused chronic damage to my wrists which bore all the pressure of my weight. Even specially designed ergonomic grips for prolonged use worsened my grip until I came to the point that both my carpal tunnels were badly damaged and I lost all dexterity, strength and sensation from both hands, making the smallest task frustratingly difficult. Neurological tests showed I needed surgical intervention in both hands to rectify this. Lockdown meant that routine surgery was very delayed in the hospitals, so for the best part of the next 18 months I was out of action again and the weight started coming back on again. Fortunately, surgery and steroid injections into my joints have brought function and sensation back into my hands again, but they are chronically weakened and use of the crutches for anything more than short bursts causes deep chronic discomfort.
As I couldn’t walk more than several hundred yards without the crutches, my partner bought me my first bike in over 30 years, from a redundancy payment. I was really excited to try this to get stronger, but my ability was very poor. However, I kept at it and started to show signs of greater leg strength and stamina improvement. Getting out again was an amazing feeling but I was not able to feel confident riding on the roads and the nature of where I live means that steep hills surround anywhere I try to ride to. So I was limited to two or three off-road, gentle routes close to home. My strength was coming slowly back again after several months, but at a cost. Cycling a manual bike was massively impacting my pain level and need for ever increasing analgesic doses just to be able to get on and ride. My Practice Pharmacist had to intervene and restrict my need for opiates as I was at my maximum allowed dose and still not getting the pain relief I needed. Also, the post-exercise exertional malaise was getting worse meaning that every ride saw me needing days to recover and be able to get moving again. The leg and back effort was just too much, so I was desperate to try and find an answer. Hence the e-bike idea.
Your gift has transformed all of the above.
The first time I rode this bike, I couldn’t believe how it made me feel. You do still have to pedal to get motor assistance, but as soon as the motor kicked in, it suddenly felt, for the very first time, like I was able to move properly again and for the very first time; it felt as though I possessed the ability and energy levels I had before I became unwell. You have given me my mobility back. I hadn’t felt this freedom since I was a kid and the joy had me in tears of happiness as I rode. It has made 95% of the hills and climbs I couldn’t manage, accessible. I still have to dismount and push up the very steepest gradients, but as my legs are fresh and warmed up from gentle pedalling, this is not as severe as it was with the manual bike, which was making me constantly exhausted. The bike still gives me an intense work-out, but all the weight is comfortably off my spine and my legs can find their natural cadence, up to their own ability limits, and this is kept constant with the aid of the motor back-up. Also, having the accessibility to instantly boost power and speed has made me feel more confident riding on the roads, in traffic.
I had felt that the only option open to me was to end up in a mobility scooter, as all exercise forms seemed to have more deleterious effects than positive. I do still need a lot of pain relief to move my muscles, but I have been able to cut back on the dangerously high amount I was needing. But even more than the impact it has had on my physical well-being, what it has done for my mental health, I almost cannot put into words. My mood has lifted so much. I get up and have excitement in where I may ride to that day. I wake in pain but know that the gentle, supported movement that the bike allows for will help reduce the intensity of the discomfort. I am feeling the benefit of weight loss again for the first time in months. Being out in the sunshine, surrounded by nature has lifted my spirits immeasurably. I am happy and smiling again. It is only now I realize just how low I had been feeling. I love the bike and how it has opened up a window I thought was shut forever in my life. For the first time, you have given me a tool which I believe will help lessen the impact of my chronic condition. This means the world to me.
Saying ‘Thank You’ seems wholly a understatement, but it is all I can say.
Learn more about Financial Support here.