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Confidence and reassurance

by Rachel Shepherd

Inspired by her seven-year-old daughter Francesca, a special needs child, Algarve resident Rachel Shepherd has set up a website to promote businesses and amenities in the region that provide facilities for disabled visitors and residents. This is the last in a series of monthly articles by Rachel.

Lights and laughter, tears and sadness, the contrast of imagining a life you wish you could have when faced with the reality of the life you are stuck with – born into and made worse by wrong decisions.

The busy city streets, awash with carefree revellers, flash by as you head towards a night spent on a sweaty hospital bed, surrounded by bleeping, maddening machines and faced with endless invasive tests.

I remember when I was immersed in the fast paced social scene, glammed up for the city bars, drinking far too much and having too much of a good time.

I was probably one of those people walking past a hospital one hot summer, laughing with friends and not giving a second thought to the people who lay ill inside, tortured by the mirthful sounds of the street washing through the open windows. Blissfully ignorant we were – we are!

It’s bewildering to think how life goes on, how such high spirited glee can exist so close to those unfortunate souls, victims of fate and ill health residing within our hospitals desperate for escape and normality.

For some, unfortunately, there is no escape, for myself I was lucky to recover from my ill health. On leaving hospital, I was institutionalised and missed the reassuring bleeps of the hospital machines.

It took a long time for me to recover my confidence and feel able to travel. Having suffered with heart failure and tachycardias in the past at times, I have lacked the confidence to feel able to leave the house never mind get on an aircraft.

It helped that I was aware of what services were available in Portugal and how I could access them. Parents can feel very anxious when travelling with a poorly/disabled child.

After meeting lots of mums and dads in hospital, an overriding concern for their child is health care facilities and knowing that if their child had an asthma attack or similar that their needs could be met.

I think because going abroad means a different language, perhaps a poorer country, often people may feel that they would not be able to get the same level of care that they receive in the UK….it can be very daunting travelling when you have ill health, from insurance cover to whether you can get the right drugs while abroad or where to go in a medical emergency.

I hope in time that Somewhere Special can grow to enable the whole of Portugal to be covered and other European countries to give everyone the peace of mind and confidence to go on holiday. 

For a listing on Somewhere Special, please contact Rachel on or if you would like Somewhere Special to help improve your business for disabled users please contact us.