Mary Laver, a former RAF servicewoman, campaigner, and friend, has severe rheumatoid arthritis.
She can’t stand, she can’t move her arms, she hasn’t fed herself in over fifteen years.
Mary relies on a team of carers to help her complete everyday tasks, like eating, drinking, and going to the toilet, but the coalition Government is trying to take that care away.
David Cameron’s government have tried to close the Independent Living Fund, that Mary and 20,000 disabled people in the UK rely on to pay for vital care.
Mary doesn’t see herself as disabled. A former driver in the RAF, an Olympic torch bearer, a Games Maker, she travelled from John O’Groats to Lands End in her power chair to raise money for Help For Heroes.
“I’m a person in a wheelchair,” she said yesterday at an emergency meeting at the House of Commons, showing the film to MPs, journalists and campaigners.
In the film, Mary talks with pride about carrying the Olympic Torch through the the streets, accompanied by her doctor.
“It’s a very special experience and I wanted to share it with somebody. The person I wanted to share it with had died, and I thought, who’s the one person who has walked my walk with me over the last 25 years? My doctor.”
Mary relies on 18 hours of care a day, and since losing the use of her hands and arms, relies on her carers to feed her, make a cup of coffee, help her to go to the toilet – the simple everyday tasks that we take for granted.
“It’s really quite disabling because you can replace your legs with wheels, but when your arms start to bend and your hands start to go, you really are incapacitated.
“You can’t feed yourself. Other people have got to take over the functions of your hands and arms.”
With the impending cuts to the ILF, Mary would have an hour of care twice a day, and would spend her days and afternoons alone in her chair, alone, trapped in a body that is wasting away. Her slender frame has plummeted to 6 stone with worry over recent weeks.
Mary doesn’t have to use her imagination to tell us what a life without the ILF would be like – but her memory. Before the ILF, she had spent two years in her bed, alone, with minimal care.
“The ILF literally gave me my life back. Without it, I’d spent two years in my bed, watching the seasons change. Then the ILF funding came along, saying you don’t have to live like this.
“I can do things that other people take for granted, things you would class as normal.
“Because I can’t use my hands, I can’t have a cup of coffee. But for now I’ve got someone here to do that for me.”
ILF users worry that without the ILF, councils won’t be able to afford night care.
“To me, night care is vital. Once I’m in bed I can’t move, so if there was an emergency, or I need a wee, I just couldn’t do anything about it. I feel very vulnerable at night.”
Desperate not to deteriorate any further, she talks harrowingly of the pond at the end of her garden:
“It’s the only way I could take my own life. It’s quite deep… It wouldn’t take long.”
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