12 July 2010 - by ~ 0 Comments

New Wheels

Yes, change is inevitable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we always have to like it. My new power wheelchair arrived three weeks ago and I have just now begun to get all the kinks worked out. Let’s just say I haven’t really enjoyed the transition from old to brand new. I am never all too enthusiastic when it comes to change. I accept it, but I dread it. So, why change something that is still doing the job? Well, power wheelchairs take a pounding and have an average life expectancy of about five years if used and abused as often as mine.

Like automobiles, power wheelchairs require general maintenance for a few years before slipping into a downward spiral of breakdown and repair. So Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies usually follow the five-year plan for replacing these chairs. It is often more cost effective for them to purchase a brand new chair than to constantly shell out for parts and labor to keep the old one running. Funny, my old chair had a serious breakdown a week before I received the new one. How long have I had the old chair? Oh, a little over five years. Talk about accuracy!

Besides, bodies and needs will always change. For those of us with contracted, contorted, complex bodies, changing wheelchairs can be a real pain in the ass! This is where a good mobility and seating specialist comes in handy. I met Sam about twenty years and four wheelchairs ago, and he has never let me down. Sam was the guy who evaluated me for my new wheels back in February, determined the correct specifications for me, followed all of the Medicare protocols, did tons of that ridiculous government paperwork, and ordered and delivered the chair to my door. All that was actually the easy part.

Over the past three weeks, however, Sam has really been tried and forced to earn his keep by enduring hours of adjustments to the chair. When a fraction of an inch means the difference between comfort and intense pain, between function and incapacitation, Sam surely had his hands full. Due to my scoliosis, I must be positioned precisely in the chair or I will suffer from pain and discomfort in my legs, hips, back, neck, shoulders and elbows, and dangerous pressure sores will ultimately develop in some of these areas. Sam had to tinker repeatedly with the padded head, torso, and thigh supports until I was seated properly and therapeutically in the chair. But the greatest challenge was hand and wrist positioning. Sam took on the painstaking task of molding a plastic armrest to make me as independently functional as possible. No exaggeration, it only took about a hundred adjustments to finally get it right so I could manipulate the tiny, ultra-sensitive joystick to drive the chair! Plus, Sam had to be sure to get me positioned at a precise angle and particular height at my desk for me to be able to use my right hand to work the touchpad for my computer and write with a pen. Patience is definitely one of Sam’s best assets.

Well, I went from hating this wheelchair to absolutely loving it in a few short weeks. I still miss my old ride, and the change was somewhat tortuous, but it so refreshing to cruise around in a shiny new hotrod! Those of you who have done this certainly know the feeling.