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The kindness of strangers

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    The kindness of strangers

    Forgive a personal tale.

    I learned a lot last Friday.

    When I was first diagnosed, I remember being amazed by the kindness and empathy – in addition to their professional skill – of all the medics I came into contact with: consultants, specialist nurses, OTs, PTs and so on. As time has gone on, I’ve rather got used to it. Perhaps taken it for granted, though it’s no less appreciated.

    Friends and colleagues are very supportive too, of course. But having lived a rather self-contained, self-sufficient life, I don’t have much contact with people I don’t know.

    Many months ago I signed up to attend a seminar in London put on by our publishers, Wiley, at the BMA headquarters in Tavistock Square. At the time I didn’t consider the logistics of getting there. I suppose I thought I’d just catch a train, then a tube to the nearest station and walk the last bit.

    Of course, when the time came, I realised that was impossible. So Plan-B was to use taxis. I also decided to treat myself to a first class ticket on the assumption first class would be at the front of the train and therefore nearest the exit at Paddington. Not far to walk I thought, so I won’t take my walker on crowded London streets but rely on my stick. Bad decision!

    To start with, first class ended up at the rear of the train, furthest from the barrier. The hike along the platform past ten carriages was exhausting enough. And then I discovered that the taxi rank was no longer where I remembered it, but several hundred yards and an escalator away.

    As I was leaning against a pillar in the middle of the concourse, hardly able to stand by this time, a young woman stopped and asked: “Are you OK, would you like some help?” I explained I wanted to get to the taxis. She gave me her arm to lean on and, very slowly, we walked to the escalator and then the last bit to the taxi rank. I was apologising all the time for being so slow and worrying I was making her late. She brushed it off and waited to see me safely in a cab. I never got her name.

    I made it to the seminar, only about 15 minutes late and slowly recovered during the morning session. At lunchtime, in the buffet queue, one of the chefs realised there was no way I could hold a plate of food and walk, so he carried my plate to an empty table and got me settled with cutlery and a drink. Within moments a woman, a complete stranger, asked if she could sit with me. We had a terrific conversation over lunch and she helped me to the lift back to the seminar.

    Things got better. On the way home, I took the advice of the outbound taxi driver and asked to be dropped at a completely different entrance rather than the cab rank, which made it only a short hobble to the train.

    So, what did I learn? That I’ll never take a tube again. That my mobility is now seriously compromised. That perhaps I should stop saying: “No thanks, I’m fine” when people offer help.

    Perhaps an old Doug can learn new tricks!
    Diagnosed April 2017

    Hi Doug,

    Please dont apologise for a personal tale. This is such a lovely, heartwarming post. Well done for travelling on your own.

    The kindness of people never ceases to amaze me. Like you I have been treated with sensitivity and respect by everyone in the medical profession, since I have been diagnosed. As we all like to be independent it is sometimes frustrating to need help and support but to know it is there is important.

    We have just been to Spain.. I feel vulnerable travelling because I am out of my comfort zone. It is far harder, however for my husband however who has to manage everything ( wheelchair, Walker, bags, boarding passes , passport s etc ) I just scoot around the airport, feeling excited!!! We had so many offers from people of help, with bags and to carry things. The special assistance at both ends were fantastic, helping him and taking me to my seat in an aisle wheelchair. In the UK they kept checking I wasnt cold. We had arranged for a WAV taxi in Spain and the driver helped with everything as they did on our return to the UK.

    One reads such awful things in the news but the huge majority of people are so kind and helpful and I guess we should accept help. When we got home a neighbour , who we had never met before, came out and carried our cases into the house.

    Enjoy your new tricks.
    Love Debbie x


      Thanks for sharing Doug and Debbie.

      And yes, as you both say, we should accept help and being so damned stubborn (says #1 culprit)

      Love Ellie.
      ​Diagnosed 03/2007. Sporadic Definite ALS/MND Spinal (hand) Onset.
      Eye gaze user - No functional limbs - No speech - Feeding tube - Overnight NIV.


        Hi doug,

        I have been surprised how many people want to try and help me, they obviously don't know me otherwise they wouldn't.

        Always try to be polite and use them if you can. People like to help and it makes them feel better.

        It is sometimes hard for me to thank people as many of us can't talk, but a smile and thumbs up normally works.

        Encourage people to help and they won't be so worried about asking others again.

        Love Terry
        TB once said that "The forum is still the best source for friendship and information."

        It will only remain so if new people post and keep us updated on things that work or don't work and tips.

        Please post on old threads that are of use so that others see them and feel free to start new subjects and threads.


          Hi Doug,

          My experience has been that most people are happy to help, but I think they are worried that they will be seen as interfering. I am not afraid to ask for help and, so far, have not been refused.

          I am still getting used to having to ensure that I can get where I need to be, in my wheelchair. I am also trying to overcome my fear of going anywhere alone because of feeling so vulnerable.

          Trying to keep positive, but not always managing.