Remember your first car? Of course you do! You'd been dreaming about it ever since you got your drivers license. In all likelihood, it was an older machine whose best days were behind it. To you, it represented nothing short of freedom and independence. You would lavish great attention on it, tinkering with it and making sure it had a good wax job. Remembering it, you probably thought "They don't build them like that anymore."
I had similar feelings when I received my first power wheelchair. For the first two months after
my accident, the only "mobility" I had was when they moved my bed from one room to another. The first time they let me sit up in a wheelchair, it was for 45 minutes. I asked them to park me at the end of the hallway in front of a window, where I could see the buildings of downtown Dallas. The warm sunlight had me feeling very snug, and the session ended all too soon. Gradually, I progressed to a manual wheelchair -- a definitive step up -- as long as there was someone willing to push you. As sometimes will happen in hospitals, your charge would take you down the hall only to get interrupted. Off they would scurry to take care of some immediate crisis, telling you they would "be right back." The definition of that time frame is definitely in the mind of the beholder!
That is when I began to dream of a power wheelchair – one that would allow me the freedom and independence to go anywhere I wanted.
Eight months later, my dream came true. The chair was truly remarkable, once I learned how to control it without maiming someone or destroying something. And, like a new car, it had its issues. Three weeks outside the 1-year warranty, a controller and actuator went out on it, and the cost to replace both was $3,200. After much wrangling with a local supplier and the manufacturer, the more expensive of the two components was covered. One other time, I had just gotten in the chair as we were headed to dinner. As soon as the power was turned on, the chair begins tilting backward, then forward, unrelentingly. Not even turning it off stopped the problem! We corrected the problem by disconnecting the battery. That was better however than the time it completely died just short of entering a Macy's Department store in December, allowing for some very interesting people watching – and only 5 feet from warmth!
As of the writing of this article, I am going on year six years and four pressure sores with "my ride," but they tell me I am getting to the end of the line. Parts for this particular chair are no longer available from the manufacturer. None of that matters to me. Like your first car, you're reluctant to give it up because of all the memories – a family trip when it was 1, my daughter's innumerable basketball games, graduation dinners, our children's weddings, special anniversary dinners, and on it goes.
They tell me the new chair will make pressure sores a thing of the past, (which I am not banking on) and that it will help prevent further scoliosis. (Which I think means to roll up in a fetal position and mourn the loss of your chair) They also tell me that unlike the model T Ford, I can have it in colors other than black. Well, that all sounds fine and well, but I am already waxing nostalgic for my old chair. At least now, you'll know what happened if the next time you see me, I am in some fire engine red/sky-blue/fiery orange chair. Meanwhile, to my trusted steed I say, "Thanks for the memories."
Slice of Life series articles are those that share the special experiences of those living in a wheelchair in a way that is witty, informational, poignant and even inspirational. Do you have a story? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.