I know, right?
The stroppiest parent on her list, and she looked down her nose at me and shook her head in dismay. ‘You silly, silly, woman.’ She said.
No shit! I’m not joking, from her mouth to my ears and my brain popped.
Let me go back to the beginning.
My boy is now 9 and a huge fan of anything Dance related. (It’s in the blood, I was a dancer before I got married, had my boy, and life changed dramatically.)
In particular his favourite dancer was Michael Flatley, (Irish tap dancer, river dance fame) and he watched every single video, (please remember this was only 1999. We still couldn’t afford the internet, it had only been around for 8 years at this point and was wildly expensive to run. DVD’s were of the same ilk, too expensive and not widely available yet.) I know, I know, I’m a dinosaur! Get over it! I remember life before the Internet ruled the world. Go me!
Anyway, I digress.
The boy’s eyes were glued to the tv screen whenever that man danced. He had learnt every beat, every step, every note of every show Michael Flatley had ever appeared in. He was obsessed with how fast his feet could move, how graceful he was when he danced, how utterly beautiful the art of dance was to him. He loved it.
Then one day he came to me and said, ‘Mum? Can I learn to tap dance like Michael Flatley?’
I was gobsmacked. What did I say? His feet don’t move, his ankles are frozen, he can’t feel his legs and his toes have never even so much as wiggled. He wanted to learn how to dance.
It’s strange, the biggest concern I had was none of the above, I could see ways around all of that with the right teacher. My main concern was, would banging his feet on the floor send shockwaves up his spine and cause any damage to his biff.cyst in his back.
(Biff. cyst – My terminology, spinabifida – biff. easier to say, something he too approves of even in today’s madly pc world. Cyst. – His spinabifida cyst at the base of his spine where all his nerve endings are knotted up and entangled and encased in a thin egg shaped sack. My nightmare.)
We had an appointment coming up with his physiotherapist, so I told him I would check with her whether it could cause any problems and if she said no then I would look into finding him a dance teacher who could teach him.
The following week he and I went along to his physio appointment. He was a very strong young man, his upper body was already lean and mildly muscular due to using crutches all day every day. He hated the wheelchair with a passion and refused to use it.
As usual, the physio was running late by an hour, so we sat and he chatted and he told the man sat next to him about his new dream of becoming a dancer like Michael Flatley. The man looked across at me with a hugely shocked expression on his face and I shrugged and said, ‘It costs nothing to dream. We all have them, this one is his.’ The man shook his hand and said he hoped he got his dream. As he left for his appointment I saw him turn and look back at him. There was a look in his eyes… I don’t know, he just looked stunned I suppose. I think he may remember the boy for a long time to come.
Eventually we were called for his appointment. He grabbed his crutches and swung himself upright and off he went. It really was a sight to see, he could move faster on those things than we could run. His feet were still mainly flat on the floor in those days and although his gait was absolutely awful to watch (from a medical professionals point of view) he got around easily.
She sat on a chair and appraised his gait as he went barrelling up to her. ‘Young man, you need to slow down, you need to place your feet on the floor and take steps, you musn’t swing through like that!’ (I couldn’t stand the snotty bitch, she was always on a downer with him.) I bit my tongue, she was just doing her job, it’s what she got paid to do after all.
He nodded and said he would try and for a whole five minutes he did, as the physio session progressed he forgot himself and chose the easy way of using his crutches to swing through and get to where he wanted to be, faster and without all the fuss. He was 9, life was on full speed ahead, he didn’t do slow.
After 20 minutes of leg exercises and stretches the session was over. I asked her the question. ‘Ms J. The boy wants to learn how to tap dance, in your professional opinion, do you think it could cause problems with his back, for example, banging his feet on the floor, reverberations up and through the spine? Would it cause health issues?’
She looked at me and laughed. ‘Oh dear, I should remember you have a wicked sense of humour! You almost had me there, I actually thought you meant it!’ She continued to chuckle as she turned away from me to schedule the boy’s next appointment.
‘I did.’ I said quietly. (This was her only warning she was on thin ice)
She turned back to me with a quizzical expression on her face, ‘you did what dear?’ she asked.
‘I did mean it. The question is not a joke. I want to know.’ I was still calm.
The boy was sitting listening avidly to the conversation, his dream was being discussed. Yes!
‘Let me just… you want to know if… okay, you want to know if he can learn to dance? That is what you asked me isn’t it?’ She said, her tone incredulous, her expression scornful.
I waited a beat. I gathered my thoughts, and I replied, ‘No, that isn’t what I asked you, don’t worry I’ll repeat it for you so you can get it this time. I want to know if banging his feet on the floor while learning to dance could cause him any problems with his spine? A simple yes or no will suffice.’
She shook her head and laughed in my face, she was either very brave or very stupid I’m not sure which but she had the might of the zero tolerance policy for abusive language or behaviour towards any medical professional (which I heartily agree with) behind her. Apparently that policy only flows one way. It’s alright for them to be abusive towards us when they feel like it but we can’t return the favour. Well, we’re not supposed to.
The boy looked at me and he was obviously confused by her reaction. ‘Why is Ms J laughing Mum?’ he asked.
I never got chance to answer. She jumped in.
I’m laughing because it is the silliest question I think I have ever been asked young man. You can’t dance! You’re disabled! Wheelchair sport is your future not dancing! I will put you in touch with the Boccia club in your area.’
My reply was succinct to the point and left no room for misunderstanding.
‘Fuck you lady. You just stepped over your professional boundaries and into my territory. You are just his physio, nothing more, he owns his own life, he will decide where his future lies. You have no fucking say in it.’
And then it went BOOM!
Her voice rose at least 4 octaves, as she all but screamed in my face.
‘How dare you use that language with me! How dare you! You… (a finger was thrust in my face) You are in denial of your child’s condition …’
‘Remove your finger from the end of my nose, this conversation is over, your aggression has been noted and I will be reporting you for your unprofessional attitude and behaviour when I leave here. Don’t fucking mess with me Ms J you will lose. You ever, ever speak to my son again the way you just did, and I will see to it you don’t have a patient list. Do I make myself clear?’
I was fucking bouncing!
There are rules set in place to protect people in the work place. But where are the rules that govern their behaviour toward their patients? Who the hell is this woman that she thinks she can decide my son’s future for him and because she has said it, it will be so?
She could call me any name that she liked, meh… I’ve heard much worse and from much better than she. But she could not upset my son. No.
‘Go ahead! Report me! You are an idiot if you think he will ever be able to dance! AN IDIOT! I should be phoning social services and informing them that you have become unhinged!’ She shook her head as she stared at me. ‘You silly, silly woman!’
‘Do your fucking worst woman, you’re no threat to me, you’re a tiny, tiny cog in a great big lumbering machine that never looks past its set boundaries to what can be achieved with a little bit of bravery and the ability to teach a child, in order to recognise our successes we first have to understand what it is to fail and then get up and try again.’
I gathered my boy, who was very upset, and we left her department.
I went home, I wrote a letter to her manager and I picked up the phone book and began looking for dancing schools. The boy would have the last laugh and he would dance while he was doing it!
I refer to my son throughout as the boy, I can’t and won’t use his name, it makes it all too real for me and prevents me from writing these recollections. Please just roll with it. Ta x