A while back I posted a blog about disabilities and Spa breaks (link at end of paragraph) and spoke about how I would feel somehow out of place because of my insecurities about my disability and the extra weight I have gained. I also was concerned about accessibility and whether the masseuse would know how to deal with people that have a range of disabilities and ailments.
The only way to really find out was to book a Spa break and so that is exactly what we did.
My wife decided that the Five Lakes Hotel, Spa and golf resort owned by Crowne Plaza looked the best option for us, this is because it had accessible rooms and wasn’t too far to drive, as prolonged car journeys raise my pain levels and so I emailed the resort and was put in touch with Talia who is the manager of the Spa. After asking some questions I decided to book us in for a two night stay.
My initial purpose for booking was to give my wife/carer a well deserved break (well still with me), I was still extremely concerned about how accessible it would be and I couldn’t see how any spa treatments would appeal to me, after all I am a man and I have never had a facial treatment.
Upon arrival we parked in one of the clearly marked disabled bays and we were welcomed by two sets of large automatic doors which led us into the reception area, the feel you get as soon as you walk in (or wheel in my case) is one of luxury and top level customer service. The atrium gives the hotel an open, bright and a tranquil feeling.
Our room was one of three accessible rooms on the second floor and two lifts from the reception offer plenty of wheelchair space, a wide door to our room revealed a spacious room that allowed me to freely wheel around it unhindered.
The bathroom was roomy and the toilet has a fixed rail to one side and a drop down bar on the other side, there wasn’t unfortunately an accessible shower, but there was a shower over a bath and a tiled area at the end of the bath makes a suitable seat, the bath is shallow and has non slip stickers and a rail on the wall making it easy for me to use.
We had a look round the hotel and Spa in the afternoon that we checked in, but the car journey had left me with soaring pain levels, unfortunately the meds and the Oramorph (oral morphine) couldn’t keep the inevitable at bay and during dinner I became very unwell. We returned to our room and I was very appreciative of the amazingly comfortable bed, the hotel is proud of its “Sleep advantage programme” and our room was within a sign posted quiet zone and the upgraded bedding also makes for an amazing nights sleep and I must say that I haven’t had a sleep like that for many years.
In the morning I felt refreshed and my pain levels had returned to moderate levels, we had ordered breakfast in our room and enjoyed a full English breakfast and toast spread with jam from the famous local Wilkin and sons in Tiptree (which is my personal favourite) all whilst watching television on a large LCD TV that offers television channels, pay per view movies, radio and music videos and you can also check your bill via the TV. Breakfast was washed down with a cup of tea that my wife made using the complimentary tea that all hotels offer but this was decent tea.
After breakfast we decided to have a swim and so we headed off to the ground floor wearing our provided dressing gowns, I have to say that it did feel very alien and I felt very conscious, but it didn’t take long until we settled into the Spa mood. Access to the swimming pool is gained either down some steps and through the changing rooms or through the gym and this also has steps. The receptionist was very apologetic and explained that I would have to enter by going outside and through the fire doors, she also explained that an upcoming refurbishment will include an accessible entrance to the swimming pool.
I couldn’t use the sauna because of the Buprenorphine patch that I wear, if it gets hot it releases extra amounts of the drug which can lead to overdose, but the sauna and steam room were up some steps and so it wasn’t accessible anyway.
I don’t think I have ever been in a swimming pool that wasn’t busy and so this was a real pleasure, the on duty lifeguard asked if I needed any assistance and I explained that I was able to get in the pool and drag myself back out. I always enjoy the being in a pool, the weightlessness is very therapeutic and I enjoyed just floating around with reduced pain. The pool unlike our local pool was very clean and free of kids splashing and dive bombing and so it was no surprise that I was already planning to get back in the pool later that day.
We had a couple of hours back in the room for me to rest up before our spa treatments, I was still feeling very unsure about this side of the stay because I was hesitant to have a facial and concerned about the massage, how it would affect me and if the therapist would understand how medication affects me as well as my pain and disability.
At 2pm we went down to the first floor for our spa treatments, Talia allowed some extra time to discuss my medication and needs and I was pleasantly surprised at how she understood. I was asked if massage was part of my care plan and I laughed as explained that I don’t really have a care plan and that the hospital doesn’t really assist me with anything except for medication, I will now though be asking my consultant about massage because it is so beneficial.
Talia explained that my back was very knotted and tense and she also told me that by propelling my wheelchair my back and shoulders had suffered.
This is a situation that I have never been in before, the room was low lit and I felt more relaxed than I had in years, I chatted with Talia and felt able to share how it disability and pain affects my everyday life and I hadn’t realised how therapeutic this spa session was.
I have recently seen the pain clinic psychologist, but this spa session left me able to open up and talk about things that I don’t discuss with anyone, without a doubt massage is a therapy that heals the soul as well as the body.
I know that my meds make my mouth very dry and I never go anywhere without my bottle of water, however I hadn’t realised that my skin was also dehydrated. This was just one thing that I learnt about how my body is affected by chronic pain and years of medication, I certainly plan on taking better care of my skin from now on.
When my treatments were over I was directed towards the relaxation room, where I found Donna looking very relaxed laid on a four poster bed, the room has low lighting and is quieter than your local village library, it has three four poster beds, three settees, sun loungers and bean bags. We laid there for a while whispering to each other about our treatments for about twenty minutes before grabbing a Starbucks from the ground floor and heading back to our room.
What amazed me was how easy it felt to propell my wheelchair compared to before I had the back massage, it just goes to show how bad my back and shoulders were.
We had already planned to have dinner in our room that evening, but I just couldn’t resist going for another swim and I managed to get into the Spa pool, it does have a raised edge, but I wheeled up and transfered onto the wall around it and then lowered myself in. I didn’t see any signs of a hoist for the pool and so it really is okay if you can get out of your wheelchair onto the floor and then lower yourself in and then use your arms to get back out or you could bumshuffle down the graded steps in the shallow end. Perhaps the addition of a wheeled hoist that could be brought out for guests who use a wheelchair would be a good idea, I didn’t ask how many wheelchair users visit the Spa and how they are assisted.
We had a lovely dinner in our room that evening and it was bitter-sweet knowing that this was the end of our perfect spa break, we laid in bed planning our next stay and how we would be able to finance it.
We went downstairs for breakfast the next morning, breakfast was served until 10.00 (10.30 weekends) and so we still managed a lie in.
Breakfast is buffet style and you can choose from continental or full English and there are cereals and cut fresh fruit available.
I was somehow able to resist the full English and chose a pain-au-chocolat and a croissant, I also couldn’t resist some toast with Tiptree jam.
Packing was a sombre affair, I felt like laying on the floor and throwing a toddler fit, but I knew that wouldn’t change the inevitable.
The drive home was incredibly different from the drive two days ago, my pain levels did rise but I was so chilled out and we drove home reminiscing about our spa break. We chose to drive through the countryside rather than take the A12, the journey time is the same, but it’s so much nicer driving through the Essex countryside.
I am now officially a Spa addict and I cannot wait until the next time we check in and it will be the Crowne Plaza, Maldon.
I can honestly recommend a spa break to all you spoonies, it really is so beneficial and will have a positive effect on body and mind.
I want to personally thank Talia Coles who is manager of the Spa at the hotel, for taking the time to discuss this stay and their accessibility. I have never met anyone else who has understood how chronic pain affects you mentally and physically to this degree outside my immediate family. She has a right to be very proud of the Spa and the staff.