Madeleine and Roy sit on chairs and kiss wearing their wedding clothes. A British Red Cross wheelchair helped Madeleine get around at the ceremony.

Madeleine and Ray, © Emily Snoding/EJ Photography

Survived cancer. Got a wheelchair from the British Red Cross. Made it down the aisle. This is Madeleine’s real-life checklist.

One of the things you can do for your #OneKindThing is help us with our mobility aids service. Our wonderful staff and volunteers get thousands of people moving up and down the UK every day. Last year, we loaned out almost 60,000 wheelchairs.

More than just a practical thing, a wheelchair loan can truly change someone’s life. It represents independence. Hope. Recovery. One person who can vouch for that is Madeleine Wickett.

Fighting for life in hospital: ‘it was a rollercoaster’

Madeleine, 64, is from Essex. Two months after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she was rushed to hospital. She’d had a bad reaction to her treatment, and was given just hours to live.

Madeleine was put on end-of-life care but somehow, much to the amazement of the doctors and relief of her family, she started to make a slow recovery. Her 33-year-old daughter Melissa remembers this tense time.

“The doctors and nurses kept calling Mum an enigma… it was a roller coaster of emotions. We slept by Mum’s hospital bed for three solid weeks,” says Melissa.

The rocky road to recovery

As the days and weeks went by, Madeleine began to grow more lucid and was able to go back home. But her time in hospital had left her feeling weak, and she struggled to settle back into her daily routine.

“I didn’t have much strength,” remembers Madeleine. “[Melissa] literally carried me up the stairs so I could sleep in my own bed… I couldn’t get out, I couldn’t move my legs, I couldn’t even get to the front door.”

Fighting for her life through cancer and treatment reactions was an incredibly difficult time for Madeleine. Going straight back to how things used to be before a stay in hospital isn’t always possible.

It can leave some people feeling worried that they’ll never be able to settle back into their lives.

We believe that adjusting back to life at home – even just opening your own front door – shouldn’t be difficult, and perhaps we can help take some of those worries away.

The British Red Cross’ mobility service

Madeleine sits in jeans and a t-shirt in the wheelchair she borrowed from the British Red Cross.

Madeleine in her wheelchair, © Melissa Rimington

Madeleine came across an advert for a British Red Cross mobility service in her area, which loans out equipment, like wheelchairs and toilet aids, to help people cope with mobility issues after an illness or injury.

Madeleine’s daughter Melissa helped her organise the wheelchair loan, which immediately changed Madeleine’s life.

“If I hadn’t seen that advert, I don’t know what we would have done,” says Madeleine. “I was housebound before. The wheelchair helped me to get outside, in the sunlight and the fresh air.”

That wheelchair was the difference between Madeleine retreating into her home and Madeleine heading out and about. The difference between being isolated from the outside world and interacting with friends. The difference between feeling like a burden and independence.

Ringing out the wedding bells

Madeleine and her daughter Melissa stand with their heads touching.

Madeleine and Melissa, © Melissa Rimington

Recovering day by day with the help of her wheelchair, Madeleine decided that it was the perfect time to marry her partner Ray – the love of her life – after 24 years together.

The pair got married in November 2018, and although Madeleine was able to walk down the aisle without help, the Red Cross wheelchair came in handy for dress shopping – and on their special day too.

“We were really worried that Mum wasn’t going to be able to walk down the aisle,” says Melissa. “The wheelchair took a lot of pressure off. Mum wouldn’t have been able to do it without it.”

Madeleine couldn’t believe she was even at her own wedding, after everything she’d been through.

“It’s been a whirlwind year. At the wedding, I was sitting in my chair just watching everyone because it felt as if it was happening to someone else and not me.”

So, will you get involved for #OneKindThing?

We also spoke to the British Red Cross mobility aids hub manager responsible for Essex, Michael Lascelles:

“The British Red Cross believes everyone who needs a wheelchair should be able to get one that is right for them… the tireless efforts of our volunteers help to make this possible,” says Michael. “We are so proud to have been a part of Madeleine and Ray’s special day.”

We want to keep people like Madeleine moving, because coming home from hospital doesn’t have to turn someone’s life upside down.

And you can help us. Our staff and volunteers have been delivering this service since the First World War, and we’ll continue to be there for people in the future.

You could help with delivering wheelchairs and equipment, taking requests for wheelchairs from people or cleaning and maintaining the stock to make sure it’s in top shape for whoever it’s going to help next.