Life’s a beach?

Katrina Dorrian by Katrina Dorrian Additional Needs

Katrina Dorrian

Katrina Dorrian

Hi! I'm Katrina, I have 8yr old triplets; one who has spina bifida, hydrocephalus and epilepsy. I also have MS, so we've a busy (but happy) house!

Life’s a beach?

We are very fortunate to live in an absolutely beautiful part of the world where we have access to all sorts of “beauty spots”, including a lot of beaches.

Since we are in Northern Ireland, it certainly doesn’t offer a lot of sunshine (slight understatement) although that doesn’t stop me feeling it is stunning.

There’s a particular country park within about 15 minutes of our house that I like best because it has access to both coastal and forest walks.

Unfortunately...as most wheelchair users will know all too well, sand and wheels just do not mix.

If you don’t have a wheelchair in your life, think if you have ever tried pushing a pram along the beach?! It is tough going, especially on the softer sands.

Our triplets are now six and we often go to one of our local beaches on weekends to spend some time together outdoors.

Jacob’s wheelchair is such an important part of his life because he wouldn’t be able to get round without it.

Obviously no parent wants their child to have to use a wheelchair but it is also something that allows him independence he’d otherwise not have.

The flip side of it is when we all head to the beach and his wheelchair becomes a hindrance instead of a help.

I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS) so I’m not really physically strong enough to be a lot of help to my poor husband.

There have been some pretty dodgy moments where we’ve genuinely thought “yip, we’re going to have to abandon the chair”.

Imagine having to ring an OT to explain your child’s SUPER expensive wheelchair is literally lost to the sea?!

Through a lot of trial and error we’ve worked out the best places to take him so that we can get down close to the water without risking wheelchair abandonment.

Having said that, he does suffer from impulsivity issues and has tried to wheel himself right into the sea so that his chair, which he calls “Dolphy” (he has dolphins on his wheels) can “have a swim”.

MS aside, there have been some pretty impressive reaction times to grab him before the chair AND Jacob are lost at sea!

Dolphy has had a gentler approach to swimming by having a bath (in several sections) when we get home to wash sand off all the important mechanisms.

Ideally, there’d be a lot more wheelchair accessible beaches around.

We are incredibly lucky though that we have a beach very close to our house that offers free hire of a beach wheelchair courtesy of the “Mae Murray Foundation”.

We were the first people to ever try it way back in summer 2019 and it is just brilliant.

We got to take Jacob down to the water and let him see his chair getting wet, which he thought was hilarious, and then go a walk across the softer sands.

It really was a magical day, such a simple thing has become one of my fondest family memories.

The whole experience has taught me that yes, disability can present you with a variety of difficulties that can range from mildly irritating to down right infuriating.

Before I had the triplets, I was a learning disability nurse so I’d been taught how to assess, plan, implement and evaluate interventions that were caused by health challenges.

This has set me up well for managing similar things with our son, although it’s much harder to do that when you are heavily emotionally invested and are literally living it 24/7.

Over the years I have learnt that there is definitely a degree of positive risk taking.

Are beaches “easy” places for us to visit? Absolutely not. In saying that, does it enrich our family time together? Absolutely.

So if you can, take the risk.

As long as it’s not dangerous, you will either succeed and have a brilliant time, or you’ll have (hopefully…) funny memories to look back on!

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