HAVING watched Wales this Week on HTV on Monday night, I was hit by the no nonsense common sense approach of TREAT Trust Wales charity founder Melanie Davies.
I must confess I hadn't paid much attention to the charity TREAT Trust Wales before, but was urged to watch the programme by my mother – and I'm so glad I did as it made me realise how relevant the charity is to me.
Founder Melanie Davies became paralyzed from the chest down following a motorbike accident when she was aged 15 and despite some challenging times, she has not only transformed her life, but also found the passion and drive to set up TREAT Trust Wales.
The aim of the charity is to build a world class rehabilitation centre of excellence in the grounds of Morriston Hospital, Swansea, to help people with disabilities lead more active lives.
The centre will include an easily accessible, disabled friendly gym, a heated ramp accessible pool along with alternative therapies which will include music and art therapy. Many charities, such as those who deal with people living with strokes, heart conditions, diabetes, cancer and cerebral palsy and so on, will benefit from being able to use the centre
As someone who has cerebral palsy, such a facility on my door step would be nothing short of a God send for me. As a child I received weekly first-class physiotherapy from the NHS but at the age of 18 all this help stops and you are left to your own devices and it is often hard to find a suitable swimming pool to maintain a vital level of fitness.
Unless you have experience of having mobility problems, whatever form they may take, you will never fully understand the frustration of not being able to just go to a swimming pool or gym hassle free.
For years I went swimming every Sunday (well most Sundays!) at the old Swansea Leisure Centre, where a club was run by the Red Cross for people with wide ranging disabilities. The pool was accessible to all as it had no dreaded steps, meaning that people could either walk into the water or could be assisted in via a wheelchair.
When the centre closed in 2003 my weekly swimming sessions ended, as there was no other obvious alternative. Even though I am now a member of the DW Gym in Llanelli, which has a pool which is manageable for me; it is still not totally disabled friendly.
My disability means that my muscles tighten up and contract which can on times be painful, which in turn means I lose confidence when walking and with a lack of confidence comes more muscle contraction, which is pretty annoying.
When I'm in the pool, apart from the first five minutes when my muscles go into contractual overdrive, I am totally relaxed and pain free. The only other time my legs feel totally relaxed is after a few pints and ironic as it may sound I actually walk straighter after having a few beers, but like anybody else, less straight after a few more. It's all about finding a happy balance!
It is not just gaining access to the pool that can be a problem but also the changing room area. Why do leisure centres feel the need to put fancy tiles on the floor? The changing rooms may look all modern but with wet feet on the tiled floor my balance goes from 60-0% in 0.5 seconds.
I used to use the multi-gym in my younger days but it is fair to say I was never going to become a gym monkey, and most of the equipment is hard for me to manoeuvre on and off – I would feel like I had done a full session just trying to get on the equipment.
All this is why it is vitally important that the charity's world class rehabilitation centre is built and given the full support of the Welsh government, the people of Swansea and the rest of Wales.
Sometimes it takes a person like Melanie Davies with her 'can do, will do' attitude and first-hand experience of what such a centre would need to ensure a dream becomes a reality.
During the programme Melanie struck me as a person that not many people would have the nerve to say no to and I hope the people of Swansea will start to realise the benefit that such a centre could have on the community.
To my mind it is not just about the here and now, none of us can predict what is going to happen in the future; a world class rehabilitation centre could help save the NHS money in the long-term.
Having logged on to the charity's website I saw that Melanie has written a book entitled 'Never Say Die' which tells of her life experiences. With the royalties from book sales going to the charity, this again displays an unselfish determination to make sure the centre becomes a reality.
Needless to say I will be buying the book as we are all in need of some inspiration from time to time and I hope that in the near future Melanie will have cause to write another inspiring chapter about the opening of the rehabilitation centre.
For more information about the charity log on to their website at: http://www.treattrust.org.uk/