spinal-cord injury

Travel to Canberra: lessons learned

The journey to Voices for Justice last weekend was my first trip away (other than to my parents place) since my accident in 2010 (quite a change for someone used to yearly trips abroad). We spent two days one night in Canberra, after which I have the following observations:

  1. packing: it is staggering how much needs to be taken for an overnight trip. Aside from clothes and medical paraphernalia, we needed to transport a commode, hoist and air mattress. This requires some manual labour and jigsaw puzzle car arrangement, performed by Elly and Kristy (my carer) – a gender role reversal that I wasn’t sure whether to be grateful for or emasculated by! In any event, it was fortunate we were travelling without the boys as the middle seat was taken up with junk. In future I suspect we will need to hire equipment, the joys of further expenditure.
  2. Hotel: our accommodation was booked by a friend and careful attention was paid to ensure that the facilities were accessible. It turns out that what able-bodied people describe as accessible is not always so. The room had a disabled bathroom, but there was an inch step from the carpet to the titles. This does not sound like much, until you become a 5 foot two carer (Kristy) trying to push a commode filled with a 99 kg body. In fact, the motel was full of inclines that were difficult to negotiate and narrow corridors. At least this provides some entertainment, and the occasional ding in a wall is the price the hotel pays.
  3. Bed: a major challenge was that there was no clearance underneath the bed to take the hoist. Elly and Kristy had the precarious task of wheeling the hoist and I to the side of the bed and then tipping me in – trying to avoid squashing me in the process. Once in there was the possibility that I was going to have to stay there for the rest of the weekend, but Elly imagined a creative solution. A bit hard to describe in words, but it involved the corner of the bed, dragging me around and sitting me up. In any event, we managed to get me up.
  4. Change in chair: once up and in the commode we realised that after the bathroom I am normally returned to bed to be dressed. Since that seemed like a bad idea, we thought it might be worth experimenting whether I could be dressed in a chair. Remarkably, we learned a new skill. This proved to be extraordinarily useful. On the Tuesday morning after my return home I was dressed and ready to go to work only to have that joyous experience of wetting my pants (yes, mum, I know you taught me not to do that a long time ago). Rather than bother returning me to bed for another change we tried out our new skill – the Superman change in the chair. My wife took a photo which is embarrassingly funny enough to share:

All in all we enjoyed the trip. Going there and back in two days was too much for everyone – we shall leave longer next time. We shall also spend the money on a ritzier motel. Thanks to Kristy for tagging along, and to Micah challenge for the invite.


About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • jeremy hodson
    September 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Your an inspiration Shane, looking forward to your blog, “Shane on a plane”, trip”

    • Shane Clifton
      September 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      I actually took a one-day flight to Melbourne and back last year (so I did not have to stay overnight). Ended up causing me to be in bed for two weeks! I reckon next time will be better for sure.

  • Kristie
    September 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Why thankyou for the 2 inches added to my height 😉
    This was a valuable experience for me. You are getting bed bricks/chocks for xmas though 😛

  • Ruth Agius
    September 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Sounds like a lot of planning, creative thinking and problem solving techniques on everyone’s behalf, and last but not least, a good sense of humour, made it all work out ok! Well done to everyone!

  • Maryjo and Michael Wheeler
    September 23, 2012 at 8:08 am

    I remember traveling with my dyalisis machine, bags of solution weighing 5kg each and an IV stick……. The Wheeler family looked like a traveling circus! Mic forgot to pack his toothbrush…… Oh the irony of it all??? Mj and Mic xx

  • Kerry Sanders
    September 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Congradulations Shane and Elly YOU made it. Yes……the transport needs to be like a Semi-trailer and the equipment list is enormous. Like you Shane it is recovering from the trip which is a pain. The lessons learnt are most valuable and DO make the effort worth while. Keep Travelling. 🙂

  • Craig Benno
    October 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Shane. I’m commenting here, as I couldn’t find the comment section for your video. Bless you mate for your honesty, and I continue to pray for you all.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: