Monday, 29 June 2015

Pregnant in a wheelchair

Pregnant and in a wheelchair. 
Your dream of being a mother can be a reality despite being  a wheelchair user. Pregnancy might be a little tougher on your body than on an able bodied woman but it could be well worth it in the end – to hold your little bundle of joy.


If you cannot conceive yourself, trying IVF is an option or perhaps go the surrogacy route. There is loads of research and information out there on both options. Adoption is also another route to have a child, the child might not be a biological child of yours but that child will still be all yours to bring up and love.

Before trying to conceive always visit your healthcare professional about medications you might be on, and see a disability specialist.

What to expect when pregnant

Mothers to be in wheelchairs can face different conditions due to their physical disabilities. These include; urinary tract and kidney infections, trouble determining when labour has begun, low blood pressure and pressure sores.

Breathing might become a problem due to the fact that women in wheelchairs can already have reduced pulmonary functions.

You may experience difficulty in your ability to perform daily activities such as dressing, transferring, bathing or driving due to baby bump growing. A pregnant women might need to use a larger wheelchair during the later stages of pregnancy because a small wheelchair can lead to nasty pressure sores and just plain discomfort.

A pregnancy support belt can help support the back and abdominal muscles. Adapt your household with the needed adjustments to help caring for your baby less hassle free such as the height adjustment diaper changing tables and cribs in the easily accessible nursery room.

It is a good idea to find the right specialized obstetrician for you and your growing baby, with knowledge on both pregnancy and disability.


Make sure that there is a roll in shower at the hospital, a shower seat and anything else that you will find comforting or might need for when you are in hospital.

If a woman has multiple sclerosis being in hot environments can bring on uncomfortable effects, a fan in the hospital room can help to ease this.

The two options for giving birth are either a caesarean or natural birth. A caesarean is more than the likely the option most people see as the only to give birth to your bundle of joy but it can be done naturally if the circumstances are 

Having a physiotherapist visit you during labour and after birth can aid in the level of comfort. Perhaps staying in hospital for a few days longer than an able bodied woman would for added support can help a great deal.
Jen Goodwin. 

Uplifting story of wheelchair mothers

Jen Goodwin was left paralysed in a horrific experience but went on to give birth to a healthy baby boy this month! Read her inspiring story here

‘Paralyzed and Pregnant’ is a series on Michelle Cartson bound to a wheelchair after an accident. She went on to have a healthy boy in 2005. Watch the series on her experience through pregnancy and her happy life with her son.

An informative guide to disability and pregnancy

For details on pregnancy for women with disabilities, not just exclusive to pregnancy for wheelchair users, but also for women with other physical disabilities as well as mental disabilities, click here.

‘’The life of a mother is the life of a child – you are two blossoms on a single branch.’’
                         ~ Karen Maezen Miller

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Africa’s wonderful Big 5 – The Lion

A lion and his mane.
The King of the Beasts – the lion is the second biggest cat after the tiger. They are one of Africa’s magnificent Big 5, and intimidating, ferocious big cats. Lions are famously known for roaming the plains of Africa in their prides.

They are golden in colour and big in size. The males are called lions and have thick manes to protect their necks during battles. The darker a lions mane, the older the lion. They can be up to twice the size of their female counterparts. Lionesses are the females and are the hunters of the pride, leaving the defending up to the males.

Lioness saying hello.

They live in either the savannahs, grasslands, dense bush areas or woodlands in Africa. 

Being very social cats, they live in prides of up to 30 lions. A pride usually has 3 males and a dozen females that are related, together with their offspring.


Being the social big cats they are, they enjoy showing affectionate with touching, head rubbing, licking and playing with one another. However when it comes to food, the claws come out!

They are the laziest of all big cats, spending 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping and lounging around. The rest of the hours of the day are dedicated towards hunting, mating and protecting the territory.

However not all King of the plains, live in prides. Young males leave the pride and spend a few years living as bachelors before they become strong enough to take over a pride of their very own.

Group of lionesses from a pride.


Females are the prime hunters and will hunt together. They split into groups, one group does the chasing and the other ambushes the target. The females do 90% of the hunting for the food but the males eat first.

Lions feast on large animals such as wildebeest, buffaloes, zebras, rhinos, bucks, hippos, giraffes and even young elephants. They also enjoy munching on smaller animals such as mice, lizards, tortoises and warthogs.


A lion and lioness mate for just 60 seconds or less, but it happens every 15 – 20 minutes for up to five days!
It's 2 cubs!

A lioness gives birth to a litter of one to five cubs after a pregnancy of about 110 every two years. Lionesses baby sit one another’s cubs, and if cubs are neglected a lioness will adopt them.

If a new males joins the pride, he kills all the cubs. Nature can be so cruel and this is one of those moments.

Did you know?

A lion’s eyesight is 5 times better than people, and they are 6 times as sensitive to light, than us humans. 

A ferocious lion roar can be heard up to 8 kilometres away (5 miles) and they roar to communicate with one another. A lion's roar is the loudest roar of all big cats.  

Lions have the ability to survive for 4 days without water.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Africa’s wonderful Big 5 – The African Leopard

The leopard. 
The leopard is one of the hardest animals to spot on a safari in Africa! They are one of the 3 big cats found in South Africa. Being solitary and secretive big cats they generally go out of their way to avoid one another as well as people.

Leopards are smaller than Africa’s lions and cheetahs, with short legs and a long body with a large skull. Their pale yellow to deep gold fur is marked with rosettes, making them well camouflaged in an African setting. The rosettes are circular in East African leopards but square in Southern African leopards, and are called rosettes because they are similar to the shape of roses.

They can run in bursts up to 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph), and climb a tree as high as 15 metres (50 feet). These strikingly beautiful cats can leap 6 metres (20 feet) forward and jump 3 metres (10 feet) up.


Leopards live in the thick forests of West Africa to the plateaus of Ethiopia, but they prefer thick bush and grassland with trees. They can adapt to life in woodlands, mountain coastal scrub or semi desert areas. These cats are found throughout the savannah's of South Africa. They call various types of landscapes home but as long as they are near some water and trees. Leopards live in more places than any other big cat although they are the rarest of the cats to see.


When they are not in hunting mode, they walk through herds of antelopes with their tail over their back to reveal a white underside, which gives the signal that they are not out to capture food.

Leopards do not roar, but make a somewhat distinctive deep and raspy sound to warn off other leopards in the area or to communicate with a potential mate. Just like your pet cat, they purr when happy and growl when angry.


They eat fish, reptiles, birds and mammals such as wild hares, warthogs, monkeys, baboons, zebras and bucks such as impala's and antelopes. 

Leopards are mostly nocturnal, preferring to hunt at night and rest during the day in branches of trees. They are opportunistic hunters and will stalk their prey from trees or in long grass. After capturing their prey they will usually haul them up into the safety of a trees branches out of grasp from being stolen by scavengers.

A cute leopard cub.

A female leopard is called a leopardess much like a female lion is call a lioness. Female leopards can give birth at any time of the year after carrying their cubs up to 106 days. They will usually have 2 greyish in colour cubs with barely noticeable spots. Cubs are born blind then begin to see from 10 days old, and their eyes remain a bright blue for a few months after they are born. 

Her cubs will live with her for about 2 years before setting off on their own. Leopardesses will hide her cubs in safe locations and move them from one safe haven to another until they are old enough to play in the open and learn to hunt.

Did you know?

Leopards are not only strong climbers but they are also superb swimmers.
A leopard can hear up to 5 times better than a human.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Sara is no different to able-bodied people

Sara at the start of her
safari adventure.
I met Sara on the unforgettable Epic safari tour last month. Read about the amazing experience here.

She has been married to her husband of 14 years, fun loving Andrew and they both decided they wanted to experience an African adventure. To me, Sara is a young spirited, friendly and caring women with a sparkle in her eyes. She reminds me of what a British granny would be like, who loves a good cuppa tea.

Sara described Andrew, as her constant rock and support and the one who has encouraged her to travel. She lovingly told me how without him, her life would not be so adventurous.

Since April 1991 Sara has been right leg amputee. She was experiencing extreme pain in her left leg that led to a hospital trip. After an x-ray was done, blood clots showed up as the reason for the gruelling pain. However even though it was her left leg that was infected with the blood clots, she was soon   booked in for an amputation of her right leg, as that was the leg slowly being poisoned.

She told me that at first she didn't experience many emotions as she was just happy that the pain was gone, as well as being dosed up on morphine. A couple days after the operation the shock hit her of what she had lost, describing ‘’the shock as horrendous.’’ She had to undergo another further 2 operations because of complications.

I asked Sara how her life changed after the operation, she explained that, ‘’life changed dramatically.’’ Sara was in the hospital for a dreary 11 weeks, apart from regular physiotherapy not much was going on. Her first trip out was also the first time it hit her that she wasn't going to be able bodied like before. At the festival she described, that people treated her as though she had lost her brain and not her leg. Many times people would speak to her carer instead of her. This understandably made Sara feel frustrated and she admitted a little angry.

Sara and a cheetah.
The day she left hospital she defines as the day she woke up to the fact that life would be totally changed. She was now reliant on other people to take her to places. Her daughter Jo, who had luckily finished University at the time, was able to move in and help her out. Sara says that without her help and love, she would have not got through it.

The love and support from family and friends got her through the emotional time of coming to terms with her limb loss. Sara’s employers also offered her immense support; during her 9 months off of work, her employers kept in touch and visited. Her first day back on the job she was welcomed back to work with pretty flowers and a welcome back banner. She described the staff that she worked with as all very supportive, and tells me how they jokingly told her, that if she wasn't nice to them they would take away her walking sticks away and abandon her 5 floors up! ‘’They were a load of jokers but it was the best way of dealing with the situation,’’ she positively explained.

She says that she didn't have to make any special adjustments to her new life. After being back at work for a few months she was promoted and given a company car that had been adapted just for her! Her new job also brought exciting perks of travelling around the UK and Europe.

Sara shares her advice as, ‘’anyone who suffers a similar fate has to accept that life will be different but when one door shut another opens. There are so many opportunities for disabled people to join in these days. Sport can be rewarding and travel is so very easy with all the companies geared up to dealing with disabilities. At the end of the day we are no different to able bodied people.’’

Sara and Andrew in Cape Town.

‘’Don’t be afraid, just go out there and live life to the full.’’ – Sara Marshall

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Africa’s wonderful Big 5 – The Cape Buffalo

The Cape buffalo is also known as the African buffalo and is not closely related to the Water buffalo found in Asia. They are regarded as extremely dangerous animals when they have been wounded or provoked and will fight to stay alive. 

These buffaloes are believed to kill more people than any other wild animal found in Africa, and even remember those who have tried to hurt them before. As the saying goes, ‘an elephant forgets but a buffalo never forgives.’

They are impressive creatures with the characteristic feature being their horns that are fused together at the base. Their horns are used as deadly weapons to defend themselves and their herd members against threats; people and animals alike.

The only natural predators out to get buffaloes are the lions and the great Nile crocs. However buffalo young are easy prey for leopards and hyenas. If a predator doesn’t get these magnificent beasts, they can live up to 25 years old.


These buffalos are never far from water, living in grassland, swamps, savannahs and lowland floodplains. They are said to never be further than 20 km (12 miles) from a source of water. They lie under trees to cool down when the African sun gets a little too hot and are also known to emerge themselves to refresh in water.


Cape Buffalos are very social animals and live within herds of usually at least a dozen and sometimes up to a 1 000 or more buffaloes. They either live together with a mix of both males and female with their buffalo calves, or may live in divided gender herds. Old bulls will often leave the herd and form smaller groups called bachelor herds.


They are herbivores and prefer to eat long grass while making way for other grazers. If they can’t find any long grass, buffaloes also enjoying snacking off trees and shrubs. They need to drink at least once a day and this is why they are never far away from water.


These beasts mate between March and May, usually giving birth to one calve after carrying them for 9 to 11 months. The calf is completely dependent on their mother and suckle up to one year. The mother will tend to her calve showing love, protecting over the little one and even playing with them.

Did you know?

Cape Buffaloes are fast runners and can easily run up to almost 60 kilometres an hour (37 miles).

They are four times stronger than the Ox, so forget the saying ‘strong as an Ox’.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

What service animal would you have?

What is a service animal?

Service animals are wonderful animals that have been trained to help people with disabilities live as best a life as they possibly can. These animals are able to get tasks done that assist people in their daily dose of life.

A service animal helps those with disabilities other than blindness or deafness, guide dogs and hearing dogs are in charge of helping those who cannot see or hear.

A service dog is taught how to help ease a physical disability; they are trained to pull wheelchairs or assist a person in maintain their balance. Other common tasks service dogs perform include retrieving dropped objects that are out of reach, closing or opening doors, finding other people, or turning a light switch on or off. 

What jobs do service animals do?

Seizure response dogs

Seizure response dogs lend a helping paw to people who suffer from seizures, by activating life-saving alert alarms, they can even roll a person into the recovery position, or get the required medication to the owner to end the seizure. They are able to offer some physical stability to someone who needs a little support.

Psychiatric service animals

Also known as emotionally supportive animals, you could end up with one of a range of animals, from dogs and cats to horses and parrots. These helpful animals assist people who are experiencing emotional dilemmas or tough mental conditions. These creatures of comfort provide a stable and relaxing presence for those in need of some unconditional love. 

A person needs to have a prescription from a licensed therapist to get one of these specially trained animals. People who suffer from bipolar disorders, have hallucinations, severe anxiety Post Traumatic Stress disorder or highly disturbing behavioural personality disorders stand a chance to be given an incredibly helpful psychiatric service animal.

Therapy animals

Therapy animals offer therapeutic like support. They can be found in places such as senior homes, rehabilitation centres, hospitals, nursing homes or even schools. These animals provide some form of comfort and happiness to children and adults alike. They can help people who are facing medical challenges or need some extra guided therapy. 

Mobility assistance animals

These animals help people who have physical disabilities and are usually confined to getting around in a wheelchair. Specially trained dogs are able to push wheelchairs, open doors and bring the phone to their owners. Helpful capuchin monkeys not only assist people who are paralysed to perform everyday tasks such as turning on lights, and picking up items handing them over, but also make for great companions.

What different service animals are there?

There are so many wonderful animals out there that can be of a big help to people with various physical disabilities, medical challenges, emotional troubles or psychiatric disorders.

Dogs are the most common to aid people in need of some assistance but cats, parrots, ferrets, rats, guinea pigs, alpacas, pigs and even iguanas can also help those that need some support when dealing with emotional or medical problems. Trained monkeys and dogs are great buddies to have around for people who are in wheelchairs.

An incredible selection of both common and the more unusual exotic animals are out there, trained and ready to lend out a helpful paw to people who need them.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Africa's wonderful Big 5 - The African Elephant

The gentle giant, the Elephant is one of Africa’s Big 5; the five animals that everyone comes to Africa seeking to see on a safari. These glorious creatures include the African elephants, Cape buffaloes, Lions, Leopards and Rhinoceroses. They are so called the Big 5 because in the past they were listed to be the most dangerous animals to hunt by foot.

Elephants are well known to be the largest land mammals to walk the planet. African elephants are slightly larger than the Asian version, also having larger ears.

These majestic animals can live a lengthy life of 70 years in the wild savannah's of Africa. A similarity they have to us mere mortals is in the way that they prefer one tusk over another, making them right or left tusked.

They have been documented to be able to feel emotions such as anger, joy and even the worst sentiment of all, sorrow.


They can be seen throughout the savannah's in sub-Saharan Africa, through to the rain forests of central and West Africa. There are elephants in the northern most part of the continent, in Mali’s Sahel Desert.


Groups are matriarchal being led by the oldest female who with an impressive memory like an elephant, holds the knowledge to pass onto generations and is in charge of the group’s survival. The females known as cows live together with their youngsters while the adult males (bulls) prefer to roam the plains unaccompanied.

They like to have showers using their impressive trunks to suck up water and spray it all over themselves, afterwards they might throw some sand over their skin which acts as sunblock against the harsh African sun.

It has been discovered that elephants can communicate by making a rumble that is able to travel far over the ground. The other elephants receive these messages through their feet and trunks.

They are loving and social animals which develop close bonds for one another within the family. Elephants show affection by wrapping their trunks together which is their version of a hug. They have a meaningful greeting ceremony, when an elephant buddy has returned from being away for a long time, they show their joy by trumpeting, flapping their ears and giving hugs.


They munch up to 136 kg’s (300 lbs) in a day! They enjoy the delicacies of roots, grasses, fruit and bark, as well as eating off of shrubs and trees. Elephants have been known to be mischievous and eat the crops that have been grown by farmers such as bananas and sugar-cane.


Elephants mate mostly during the raining season.

Female elephants carry their babies for almost 22 months which is a longer pregnancy than any other mammal. They will usually give birth to one calf every two to four years. A baby elephant is born weighing almost 91 kg’s (200 lbs) and stand at about 1 meter tall (3 feet).
When an elephant calf is born their trunk has no muscle tone so they suckle using their mouth. It takes the baby a few months to gain full control of their trunk and their legs. Baby elephants are known to be cute and clumsy.

                            “If you do not have a memory like an elephant, leave impressions like one.” 
                                  ― Unknown

Did you know?

Elephants do not have great eyesight but they have an amazing sense of smell. They use their trunks, which have over 100 000 individual different muscles, to smell, breathe, trumpet, and drink. At the end of their impressive trunks there are two finger-like features they use by pinching the opposing ends together to grab small objects.

They are the only mammals that can’t jump, but they can swim using their trunk as a snorkel in deep water.

Their feet come equipped with soft padding which helps to hold their weight and prevent them from slipping. It is because of this padding that elephants are discreet walkers.


Monday, 1 June 2015

My experience of an unforgettable safari adventure

It all began with a drive from the city of Johannesburg to the world renowned Kruger National Park, where wild African animals roam and flora is diverse. This prestige national park covers a staggering 2 million hectares of land to explore.  

George with the Epic truck. 
Alfie shared his vast knowledge of not only the wildlife but also of the land with its plants and trees. We saw so many animals on the many game drives we went on, from herds of graceful impalas to the majestic elephants with their flapping ears. Crocodiles basking in the sun to hippos floundering in the shallows of the water. Tall yet gentle giraffes to different kinds of beautiful birds.

All of Africa’s Big 5 were spotted! Even one of the Little 5 was seen, the Buffalo Weaver bird.

A giraffe!
A family of three from Canada joined in the adventure; Bruce with a smile that lit up a room along with his wife Lynne and their son George. A lovely British couple, Andrew and Sara came along describing the trip as a ‘’truly amazing adventure of a life time”. Stephen, an Aussie full of jokes who has been on an Epic safari trip before had decided to come back for another wild adventure. He brought along two wonderful carers, also from down under in Australia, Michael and Cameron. Fabienne and Herve’, a French couple but now living in the countryside of Spain, joined the mix of people and we set out for a wild expedition.

Some of the group hanging out.
We gathered for delightful meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner when Alfie and Charles had cooked up a storm and even catered for my mostly vegan ways. Everyone in the group got along and I loved the fact that there was a mix of nationalities and different accents.


Skukuza is the main and most popular camp in the Kruger National Park where warthog families were seen munching on the grass and birds seen flying by. This is the largest of all camps in the park and is set on the banks of the striking Sabie River. As the sun rose the first day in the scenic province Mmpulanga we set off for our first game drive of many.

Satara rest camp.

Satara could be described as having an enchanting charm. This is the third largest rest camp in the reserve and the bungalows are set in a series of circles. A lovely swimming pool area is here along with a grocery store and various small stores if you are in the mood for a scrumptious cappuccino or perhaps a tasty pizza.

I went along with George looking for hyenas’ under the cover of the African night sky, the spotted hyenas’ were found patrolling the outside of the fence on the look-out for food. 

During the mysterious night time when the stars are out, the hyena’s cackle and the lions roar, fruit bats can be seen zipping past and adorable African wild cats come out to play. 

In the African sun magnificent birds fly around, small lizards scuttle by and butterflies flutter through the camp.

Private Game Reserve

Me (Keira) stroking Ntombi.
This rustic private game reserve is found in the picturesque land of Limpopo. A tame cheetah by the name of Ntombi, named after the Queen of near-by Swaziland, is Queen of the bush camp which we called home for 3 nights.

Game drives twice a day, after the sun rises and not long before the sun sets, where we had close meetings with wild animals. An elephant even put her trunk in the open safari vehicle to say a friendly hello. A game walk or wheel was enjoyed having Ntombi accompany us along with the game rangers to protect us.

We visited the wild dog Dongo, as well as the small leopard, and a serval cat along with her neighbour, which is a caracal cat, in their own safe and personal enclosures.

The charging elephant!

We spotted a leopard hanging out in a tree with all four paws swinging off the branch.  

A male elephant, known as a bull, was not happy to see us and wanted to charge at the truck. It was a truly exhilarating rush and experience!

The feeding area in the private game reserve, where the left overs of food are thrown out, attracts different animals at night time. Four elephants came through the bush, one of them even let out a back end blast!

Sarah feeding Jessica the hippo. 
We fed a very special 16 year old hippo called Jessica, who lives in her own section of a river but is free to roam and be with the wild hippos. She sleeps on the veranda and watches TV in the house. All the lucky ladies in the group got to plant a big kiss on Jessica.

We saw so many adorable baby animals - monkeys, elephants, giraffe, hippo, buffalo and more.

Lynne told me that the trip was ‘’fantastic and were treated like ordinary tourists, did everything and saw everything that able bodied tourists do thanks to Alfies' planning. It was as though the wheelchairs and disabilities didn't exist. Best trip ever.’’

To me this was a trip that touched my heart in a profound way. An experience I will never forget. People that are forever now etched in my memory. A truly Epic journey.

African sunset.