Halloween is the time of year to share scary stories and people with disabilities and health conditions are known to have their fair share of disability-related horror stories.
Ahead of the spooky season, we share a blog post previously written by Emma Purcell on her blog Rock For Disability about her very own disability horror stories.
They include dangerous falls and crashes in her wheelchair, being trapped in hoists and lifts, dealing with cruel and untrustworthy carers and fearing the loss of love, independence and even life.
Yes, Halloween is here again, but it isn’t all about ghosts, vampires, zombies and monsters. Just trying to live a daily life as a disabled person can bring an endless number of horror stories. Therefore, I want to share with you my 10 most horrific disabled-related stories.
1. Falling over in my wheelchair
This incident has occured twice (so far) in my lifetime. The first time was when I was 12 years old and had only just begun to adjust to life as a visually impaired person.
At that point, because my vision was so poor, I was having to use my manual wheelchair and have family, friends and staff push me.
One day in school, at lunchtime, my friend was pushing me outside when two lads begun chasing us.
We tried running away from them, when suddenly my wheels went out of control, got caught in a dip between the pavement and grass and I fell forward with my head in the grass and my arm trapped.
My friend and the two boys managed to get me up and I went to the first aid room. I was quite lucky I wasn’t seriously injured and only got a graze on my face, but I was severely shaken by the ordeal. The two boys were suspended for their actions.
The second time was in 2014 when I was living at Treloar’s college. I was in my powered wheelchair heading back from the corner shop with my friend, who was also in a powered wheelchair.
We were not with carers and I was following my friend as a guide. As we turned onto the main pavement, I got caught on an uneven curb, swerved towards the main road and tipped over, hitting my head on the concrete.
Luckily, again, I wasn’t seriously injured and pedestrians and drivers came to help me. Since then, I’ve been very cautious when out in public, and 99% of the time I’m accompanied by an able-bodied person. I also mostly get them to drive my wheelchair in outdoor or unfamiliar places.
The spookiest thing is that since that event, I do dream about having similar accidents in my wheelchair.
2. Almost drowning in a swimming pool
When I was 15, I attended a summer camp for people with disabilities. During the trip, we went to a local swimming pool. I was being cared for by four 18-year-old girls throughout my stay.
While in the swimming pool, one of the girls held me as I can’t hold myself. Suddenly she got a cramp in her foot. We tried to call one of the other girls to take over while she sorted out her cramp.
However, they couldn’t hear us and, as a result, she let go of me and I fell into the water. Eventually one of the other girls noticed what was happening and came to help us.
Once I was back on the surface, I managed to compose myself and later had a good laugh about it. However, I was slightly cautious about going back into a public pool and only used the hydrotherapy pool at my school where I was taken care of by physios who are trained and have strict health and safety measures in place.
3. Having money stolen
In 2014, I started hiring my own PAs to support me with personal care, attend university and go to social events. One weekend in October, I visited a friend in Swansea and my PA at the time accompanied me.
That Sunday, when sitting in my friend’s flat chatting, my PA said she was going to pop to the shop for ice cream.
The next day, I got a phone call from my friend saying that £100 had gone missing from her account at the same time my PA had gone out.
After getting the police involved, it turned out that earlier that day my PA had watched my friend put her PIN number in while in a shop, memorised it, then used it at a cashpoint to steal £100.
She was found guilty and charged with theft. I checked my bank statements too and found that she had duplicated all the transactions I asked her to do throughout her time with me. Altogether she managed to steal nearly £500 from me.
The police tried investigating my claim, but due to the length of time, the PA couldn’t be prosecuted. Since then, I’ve lost trust in carers supporting me with payments, but I still need carers to operate my card. So I now keep a close eye on my bank statements and keep every receipt as a record.
4. Nearly dying from a blood clot
In 2016, I had just completed my final year at university. It was the week I received my grade of an upper second-class degree in journalism.
During that week, I had a meeting with healthcare professionals to review my care needs. My parents decided to come along to the meeting too.
After the meeting, mum took me to the toilet. When removing my clothing, mum noticed that my left leg was extremely swollen. I had mentioned to my carers that I had been feeling discomfort in my leg the last couple of days, but no one could apparently see any symptoms of any kind.
My mum suggested that we call the doctor immediately and I managed to get an appointment that afternoon.
The doctor said I had a blood clot, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). They immediately prescribed me with medication and asked me to have a scan and blood test.
What horrified me the most was that if my mum hadn’t noticed the symptoms, it is likely the clot could have spread to my lungs and I could’ve died.
I was in complete shock that none of my carers, who are trained in spotting signs of medical problems, thought to tell me my leg was swollen!
5. Crashing my wheelchair
As well as tipping over in my wheelchair, I have also crashed. One night at college, I was heading back to the boarding house with my friends. As I was dark, I was following the lights on my friend’s wheelchair.
Unfortunately, I mis-judged the exact direction we were heading in and crashed straight into a post at full speed. I injured my foot as it was pushed 90° right and I also broke my footplate.
I went straight to the medical centre to get my foot checked out by a nurse. Luckily, my foot was only badly bruised and not broken, but it was still bloody painful!
This is another reason why I get family, friends and carers to drive my chair for me in dark or unfamiliar places.
6. Mental breakdown and hyperventilating
For the past few years, I have gone through some horrific and appalling carers. This has led to me having mental health problems. One vivid occasion when things went horribly wrong was an evening in October 2017.
I was getting into bed and trying to direct the carer on how to put my sleep system in. She wasn’t originally from the UK and couldn’t speak very good English.
I was trying to explain that I use six bracket supports on my body. However, she kept saying that there were only five. I knew for a fact there were six, but she kept denying it and even said my mum had demonstrated five, which was incorrect. I tried suggesting that it might be misplaced and she should check around the bedroom.
But she kept arguing for 20 minutes or so. I began to get upset and broke down in tears. I then asked her to leave the room so I could calm down and recompose myself, but she refused and started doing other tasks around the room.
I continued crying and became very breathless and started hyperventilating. I just wanted to run away but was trapped on my bed.
Eventually, I had to go to bed with just five brackets, which caused significant pain in my right shoulder. The next morning, the sixth bracket was discovered under my bed.
I was so embarrassed, hurt and traumatised by the event. I asked the care company to let her go the next day and my mum took over my care permanently.
7. Being given the incorrect medication
Due to my cerebral palsy and poor vision, I cannot open or read my own medication. Therefore, I have my carers administer them for me.
Although I tell all carers exactly what meds I take, when I need them and at what dosage to give me, they have still been known to give me the wrong ones or forget certain meds.
For instance, after being diagnosed with a blood clot, I took Apexipan blood-thinning tablets. One day, I directed my carer as to what morning meds I needed, which she left out on my table for me to take at breakfast.
However, after the carer left and I begun taking the meds, I noticed the Apexipan wasn’t there even though she signed it on my med-chart. I had to buzz the 24 hour on call staff to get me the Apexipan.
On another occasion, a carer nearly gave me a night nurse capsule in the daytime rather than paracetamol. Luckily, none of my regular meds are life-saving drugs and I have enough vision to see the size and colour of each tablet.
However, it does scare me that if I lose more vision and the carers make another error, it may cause me to get ill and even end up in hospital.
8. Getting stuck in hoists and lifts
Throughout my life, I’ve encountered a few incidents where I’ve been stuck in a hoist or and lift.
The first time was when I was 10 and got stuck in a ceiling hoist at home. I got to the top and it wouldn’t go down. My mum had to pile my bed with cushions for me to land on while my eight-year-old brother tried taking the sling straps off. Thankfully, I landed safely on the cushions and no harm was done.
However, there have been much worse incidents. When living in my flat at Treloar’s, I was a few inches above the toilet when the hoist decided to stop working. I had to pee hovering over it (luckily I didn’t miss), then my carer had to un-attach the sling from the ceiling hoist and try to attach it to a portable hoist.
It was extremely painful on my legs and hips to the point where I was crying in agony. We did succeed but it was hard work and not fun at all.
In 2016, while attending The Young Company theatre group, I got stuck in a lift leaving the rehearsal room. The lift stopped a metre from the ground. As it was a windowed lift, I could still see everything that was going on.
At first we tried getting a member of staff to come help, but there weren’t many people around at 8:30pm. Eventually, four lads from my drama group had to carry me out of my wheelchair into a normal seat then lift my wheelchair out. It was a frightening task but they managed it safely.
9. Losing my independence
Since moving into my first home in July 2017, I’ve slightly lost a part of my independence as I heavily rely on my parents for support. I feel like I’ve taken a backward step in my adulthood and find it difficult to move forward.
Due to my poor care budget and the quality of care, I still need my mum to carry out a lot of the care I need. Because of this, I’m planning on moving back in with my parents next year to a new bungalow they’re renovating.
My biggest fear is something happening to my mum and her not being able to care for me and me not finding suitable carers. That may result in me being sent to a residential care home.
I appreciate the support my parents have given me, but I shouldn’t have to rely on them all my life. The social care system is failing and unfair and I’m terrified that I’m not going to get the full independence I deserve.
10. Watching friends’ health deteriorate
I have several friends with different disabilities and health conditions. I’ve watched some deteriorate rapidly and known others to sadly pass away.
It is the hardest thing to witness, knowing your nearest and dearest have a life-limiting condition, while you have your whole life ahead of you and all you want to do is appreciate all the precious time with them.
So as you can tell, I’ve encountered some rather dangerous and scary events while living with my disabilities. You could say in many of them, I had a lucky escape, but it does show that having a disability does come with many horrific memories.
Disability horror with Disability Horizons TV
If you don’t have plans for Halloween and want to hear more horror stories from disabled people, then join Zec Richardson, Dan White and Mik Scarlet, with special guest Spike Breakwell, in a Halloween special of Disability Horizons TV on Sunday 31st October 2021 at 6pm.
You can also share your own disability horror stories by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may mention them on the show.
By Emma Purcell
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