One of my former business partners had no kidneys, that is he had had kidneys for most of his life but they didn’t work very well, then they didn’t work at all so he had a transplant, which failed, and so he resigned himself to a life of dialysis and waiting for transplant techniques to improve (this was 25 years ago).
Along with the dialysis of the time came other complications, frequent bouts of peritonitis that would normally kill ordinary people and poor circulation, circulation so poor in fact that eventually he had to have both legs amputated, first one, then the other in a “I’ll tell you what, we’ll take the other one off as well” offer he sort of couldn’t refuse.
Through all of this he kept working even after losing both his legs and during the losing legs period he also got divorced, did I mention that he never won any raffle prizes either ?
So there he is around 1990, single, no legs, no kidneys, or as he used to say “I’m sending bits of me to heaven in advance, I hope they’re saving them somewhere” and he’s reading some random magazine on the dialysis ward one day when he reads about a specialist travel company that take dialysis patients abroad to selected holiday resorts, arrange their treatment in the resorts, and all the good stuff like that – he rang them and booked himself a fortnight in Lanzarote.
They tried to book him a twin room, him and his carer, or wife, or whatever, he insisted that there was only him, he’d manage perfectly well thank you, just get him to the hotel and tell him the address of the hospital that would be doing his thrice weekly dialysis, the travel company preferred to send him with a carer to keep him out of trouble but he was having none of it , especially as he’d have to pay for the carer to go as well, they finally booked him a single room.
It was the first time he’d been abroad, loved it, a local company brought some mobility scooters around to the hotel and he hired one, spent whole days whirring up and down various promenades with no legs on – he always hated his false legs and would hardly ever use them, it all started when they made them with the wrong sized false feet on, they were all a standard size and none of his shoes would fit the feet – it was a bad start in his relationship with his false legs, they never got on after that.
Incidentally he always used to tell people that the legs were false but the feet were his own, a fact that confused an awful lot of people especially as he wouldn’t enlighten them as to how the surgeon had managed to do that trick.
And one day during his holiday he tired of whirring up and down various promenades and asked one of the hotel receptionists what the mountain was called that was situated a couple of miles behind the hotel, she told him and then as the realisation dawned she looked horrified and urged him not to try and climb up it with no legs, he just gazed into the distance and asked which road a person would take if they wanted to go to the mountain.
The hotel manager was brought and in his best broken English explained that the mountain was typical of all the mountains in Lanzarote, it was actually a volcano and nothing grew on it, barren and rugged with just narrow footpaths and deadly steep sided slopes, not the sort of place for a man on false legs to be walking, a man on false legs should stick to the flat well paved promenades of the resort.
“Oh I won’t be walking up the mountain” said Michael, “I’m taking my mobility scooter”
And before they could stop him he packed a bottle of water and a Mars bar and off he went whirring up the road out of the resort and towards the mountain, Michael versus the Mountain, what could possibly go wrong ?
The paved road ran for a mile or so until it reached the bottom slopes at which point it changed to loose gravel and narrowed to a footpath, still the motorised scooter soldiered on and after a couple of hours he was halfway up it, the going was getting tough, large rocks littered the path which itself often simply crumbled away down precipitous drops, not a problem on two legs, a big problem on three battery driven wheels.
And then at a thousand or so feet of altitude the battery faded to nothing.
So he sat there for a while in the blazing afternoon sun waiting for some other idiot to climb the mountain and hope that he might rescue him, or have brought a phone that might work up here to ring someone who could rescue him. No-one came, no-one was that stupid on that day. I can’t help but think that some hardy mountaineer togged out in all the latest modern climbing gear might have rounded a bend in the path to see an English bloke on his holidays in a Hawaiian shirt and no legs sitting on a mobility scooter – that hardy mountaineer might have been persuaded to give up his beloved sport if mobility scooters were now starting to scale the heights these days.
Being severely sun burned by now he had a brainwave – if he could just turn the scooter around there might be a way of free-wheeling it all the way back down the mountain – if he could just turn it around.
Sitting on your arse with no legs, on a rocky path on the edge of a mountain while trying to turn a heavy mobility scooter around on its axis is not an easy task, or so he related to us later, almost an hour it takes you to turn around a mobility scooter under those circumstances but once boarded and with the brakes released the effects of gravity started to drag the carriage slowly back down the mountain, there were times when he had to get off and shove it over the worst of the rocks but by the time the sun had gone down he’d reached the made-up road and picking up speed was soon zooming down the road to the hotel, in the dark, with no lights on the scooter.
And as he found out, no brakes either, for with no power there was little braking effect and as he approached his hotel he could see some of the staff outside pointing up at the mountain to a couple of police officers who had apparently been summoned to mount a search for the idiot Englishman who’d gone for a walk up a mountain with no legs ten hours previously, “Its me, I’m baa-aaack….” he yelled as he whizzed past them looking for a soft place to fall as this mobility scooter wasn’t going to stop any time soon.
He got a big bollocking in Spanish from the police of which he understood nothing but a smile and an apology and a promise not to go for strolls on mountains seem to pacify them, indeed they shook his hand afterwards and admitted that they admired his idiocy – and one of them had reason to be called out to rescue Michael again a few days later …